Note that the site is in archived, read-only mode. You can browse and read, but posting is disabled.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

Note that the site is in archived, read-only mode. You can browse and read, but posting is disabled.


+2 votes
Also what place if any, do you think violence has in anarchism? Why (not)?
What's wrong with having a "cause" like animal rights, feminism, ecological movement, etc. Attached to your personal ideology of anarchism? How is it considered un anarchistic to champion causes other than plain anti authority?
I definitely plan on answering this question as soon as I have the time.
Your question is confusing. The issue of violence is not specific to post-left discourse. Most post-left anarchists avoid moral terminology like right and wrong, so I for one would not declare you to be "wrong" for espousing a particular cause. But I might advise you to stick with it for as long as it amused you, and to avoid notions of sacrifice and superiority.
Yosemite:  i think you answered the question the poster was trying to ask, even if it wasn't clear to them (hell, we've all been there.)
Copy-paste it so i can upvote it.  Please.

3 Answers

+4 votes
I haven't come across any convincing criticisms of post-leftism, so I'll leave that to someone else.  Most criticisms I've encountered are similar to those expressed in the question details, and originate in mischaracterizations of post-leftism (unintentional or otherwise).

There's nothing wrong with individuals focusing their attention, energy or criticisms on specific struggles, and against specific examples of hierarchal authority, in fact it's an important part of living as you - everybody cares about different things because of their individual experiences and desires.  I don't know anyone who considers it 'un-anarchistic' to focus on the things they want to focus on.  Many post-leftists (ugh, I really dislike using that as an identifier) however are suspicious or cautious of 'causes', partly because demanding self-sacrifice or some shade of martyrdom is a common pattern of behaviour for activists who 'champion causes', or at least because self-sacrifice is at the core of the culture of movements and causes, it's part of their basic vocabulary - "for the cause!".  Reified causes, anything that proclaims 'for the sake of (something abstract)!', are spooks.

Post-leftists don't have a problem with anarchists engaging in specific struggles 'other than plain anti-authority', it would be silly if they did have a problem with that - hierarchy and authority exist as a network of interpolated systems of power, not some giant monolithic swirling ball of shit, and practically the individual can't attack that network everywhere at once.

It seems that you're alluding to the reputation that post-leftists have for holding controversial views on 'identity politics'. What I'll say about that is this: 'causes' have a tendency of creating essentialist mythologies that are used to silence criticism (eg. you're a victim blamer if you criticise the essentialism inherent in casting men in the role of abusers and women in the role of victims), which is something that makes me think less of anarchists who participate in it - in my view being less critical of this kind of behavior when it's being practised by someone who's 'on our side' makes you a shitty anarchist.  Consistent anarchists don't pick and chose which hierarchies or moral authorities they object to.

With regards to violence, that question has already been discussed a fair bit on this site.  Personally, I think the use of violence is a decision for the individual, and in light of the circumstances they are in.

Further edit:
One other thing about movements and causes that post-leftists often take issue with is that they usually appeal to 'rights' (like the example you gave - animal rights), and many post-leftists hold frameworks and ideologies of 'rights' in low regard.

Turned into an answer for clodbuster ;)
by (6.3k points)
For a long time I wasn't even aware of the post-left strain of anarchism. Most contact with other anarchists or readings of it pretty much turned me off precisely due to leftism and leftists; the fetishizing, the system-building, joylessness.

Anyway, thanks for answering.
From what I can tell, this is probably the best of the lot. It still suffers from caricature and evasion...

made into a comment (since it is just a link)
–8 votes
Ok, so people have been bugging me to answer this, cuz I said I would, but I'm really strapped for time, so I'll give the most basic answer I can.

I've been thinking about this post for a while, and tried outlining a response several times, but I finally realized that it was all for nothing, and there's no reason to take this critique nearly so seriously because:

There is almost nothing to criticise about post-leftism, because in trying not to be an ideology (and failing) it just becomes a very weak ideology. Most of post-leftism is just a superficial response to a straw man idea of leftism which hasn't even been relevant in any serious way since like the 60's, making post-leftism an empty critique of an outdated concept that never even really existed. A more accurate title would be "Incorrect Solution to Invented Problem Anarchy".

The only ideological foundation that post-leftism really has is egoism, which includes the rejection of ideology, rights, identity, and all that other stuff that has been so useful in politics, though post-leftists claim it hasn't been, because apparently you either smash the state or you don't, they have no idea of process, goal, or structure. Oh, and everyone ELSE are the ones who are guilty of binary thinking, apparently.

Oh, and egoism is just stupid. It's essentially the idea that everyone is his own god, and if everyone just does whatever, everything will work out in the end. This is hardly even worth addressing because it's just so impractical that the only people who could even begin to take this seriously as total extremists. But overall, egoism is capitalism of the personality, and eventually it leads to capitalism of the society, and capitalism of the economy.

The rejection of ideology makes no practical sense. Again, it's just an incorrect solution to an invented problem. Without ideology, it's impossible to think productively about anything. Post-leftists will argue that if you accept their ridiculously narrow definition of ideology, then they are right, but that's just using their own ideas to verify their own ideas. They might as well be inventing words and inventing defintions for those words, and then arguing with everyone else using those words.

If you disagree with this critique, clearly you don't understand the concept of guhflump, which states that it is epistemologically impossible to disagree with me and be right, because there is no truth except the truth I've created for myself, which is more valid than your truth because I know that I've created it for myself (there's a short intro to Nietzsche for you, on the house).

Stay tuned for downvotes. I'm guessing I'll break my record of -5. By my calculations, I always get 2 or 3 downvotes no matter what I post, because some people just don't like me, then I usually get another 1 or 2 downvotes if I mention post-leftism or Stirner in any way that suggests they aren't absolute truth, and then I usually get another 1 or 2 depending on the actual context and content of the post.
by (-10 points)
How are you defining "ideology"? Why are the ideas of "rights" and "identity" useful for "politics" (another contentious term if I'm not mistaken)?

You haven't really explained anything about your critique other than saying that post-leftists are wrong and their issues with leftism are totally invented.

1.the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group.

2. such a body of doctrine, myth, etc., with reference to some political and social plan, as that of fascism, along with the devices for putting it into operation.

I refer to definition 2.

For information about the usefulness of rights and identity, I suggest that you google every major socio-political movement since the beginning of time. Rights are important because they give people a picture of the freedoms they have. For example, people have the right not to be murderered. Most anarchists today go by the harm principle, which some seem to think is somehow superior to rights, but really its just a system of rights with different wording. Identity is important because a person's idea of who they are affects their perception, and others' perceptions of their position in society. This isn't often a good thing, but it can't be ignored, because some people are more oppressed than others, and have different types of oppression to face than others. As I said, it's ridiculous to think about people being seperate from society. A lot of post-leftists seem to reject the idea of identity because "everyone is oppressed equally" or some crap like that, which I think is a position often used by middle class jokers to qualify themselves as "real" anarchists while undermining the more oppressed, like women and the working class. Oh, and they also believe that identity politics can perpetuate a victim mentality, which is unproductive bigoted crap.

I think that's the gist. I wrote it totally freeform, stream of consciousness style, so sorry if it's hard to read.
helping you reach your predicted downvote personal best because, as Rice Boy said, you don't actually really say anything in all those words, and what you did say doesn't show any actual understanding of the post-left critique, or the fact that it is more of a critique than an ideology. P-L@ can include a lot more than egoism - many green anarchists borrow from or are influenced by P-L@, as are lots of I@-types, anarchists-without-adjectives, and nihilists (and probably others).

In particular, your caricature of P-L@ as related to identity is laughably simplistic. I don't know any post-left types who I would take seriously that argue that "everyone is oppressed equally" or anything remotely like that. There is a critique of identity politics as the elevation of particular identites and related oppression to the exclusion or marginalization (see what I did there?) of overarching anarchist critiques. Too often folks who focus on identity politics end up making alliances and coalitions with (and being coopted or recuperated by) people who are enemies of anarchists in the name of expediency, convenience, or short-term goals.

Also, your take on rights is just, yech. "Rights are important because they give people a picture of the freedom they have"? What do you mean by that? Rights are a legal concept, enforced by the state and dependent on its existence and protection. Why do people have the right not to be murdered? Who says that is the case? Does my right to not be murdered prevent me from being murdered? If not, who prevents it and upon what or whose authority?
If by egoism you mean Stirner's egoism, then claiming egoism will lead to capitalism is a false reading of Stirner. First i will quote Wikipedia for what capitalism is:
"Capitalism is an economic system in which trade, industry, and the means of production are largely or entirely privately owned and operated for profit.Central characteristics of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets and wage labour."

Now i will quote from Stirner's The Ego and Its Own (Cambridge version, can be found here:

"...teaches me to respect the laws, to refrain from injury to state property (that is, private property), to reverence divine and earthly highness, etc...." page 199.

Stirner is clearly an anti-State thinker, and he sees private property as state property, so how could he support an economic system that is based on private property?

"The position of affairs is different in the egoistic sense. I do not step shyly back from your property, but look upon it always as my property, in which I need to 'respect' nothing. Pray do the like with what you call my property! With this view we shall most easily come to an understanding with
each other." page 220.
Sounds like a communal living.

"Proudhon might spare his prolix pathos if he said: 'There are some things that belong only to a few, and to which we others will from now on lay claim or - siege. Let us take them, because one comes to property by taking, and the property of which for the present we are still deprived came to the proprietors likewise only by taking. It can be utilized better if it is in the hands of us all
than if the few control it. Let us therefore associate ourselves for the purpose of this robbery (vol).' - Instead of this, he tries to get us to believe that society is the original possessor and the sole proprietor, of imprescriptible right; against it the so-called proprietors have become thieves (La propriete c'est Ie vol); if it now deprives of his property the present proprietor, it robs him of nothing, as it is only availing itself of its imprescriptible right. - So far one comes with the spook of
society as a moral person. On the contrary, what man can obtain belongs to him: the world belongs to me. Do you say anything else by your opposite proposition? 'The world belongs to all?' All are I
and again I, etc. But you make out of the 'all' a spook, and make it sacred, so that then the 'all' become the individual's fearful master. Then the ghost of 'right' places itself on their side." page 222.

I think this paragraph summarizes Stirner's thinking very well.

"Private property lives by grace of the law. Only in the law has it its warrant - for possession is not yet property, it becomes 'mine' only by assent of the law; it is not a fact, not un foit as Proudhon
thinks, but a fiction, a thought. This is legal property, legitimate property, guaranteed property. It is mine not through me but through the - law. " page 223
"If men reach the point of losing respect for property, every one will have property, as all slaves become free men as soon as they no longer respect the master as master. Unions will then, in this matter too, multiply the individual's means and secure his assailed property." page 229.

Can you imagine a capitalist society that its individuals do not respect for property? I think union here can be understood as a some form of communal living, but not based on a sacred as "People".

"Communism rightly revolts against the pressure that I exp.erience from individual proprietors; but stili more horrible is the might that it puts in the hands of the coliectivity." page 228.
Again, problem is making collectivity new tyrant.

And Stirner does not claim everything will work out in the end:
"It will be asked, but how then will it be when the have-nots take heart? Of what sort is the settlement to be? One might as well ask that I cast a child's nativity. vVhat a slave will do as soon as he has broken his fetters, one must - await." page 231.

"Thus these goings-on are a fight for dear lift, and, in gradation upward, for more or less of a 'good living' .
And yet, at the same time, their whole round of toil and care brings in for most only 'bitter life' and 'bitter poverty'. All the bitter painstaking for this!
Restless acquisition does not let us take breath, take a calm enjoyment we do not get the comfort of our possessions." page 238
Just the opposite of capitalist claim.

"Finally, as regards competition once more, it has a continued existence by this very means, that all do not attend to their affair and come to an understanding with each other about it. Bread e.g. is a need of all the inhabitants of a city; therefore they might easily agree on setting up a public bakery. Instead of this, they leave the furnishing of the needful to the competing bakers. Just so meat to the butchers, wine to wine-dealers, etc.

Abolishing competition is not equivalent to favoring the guild. The difference is this: In the guild baking, etc., is the affair of the guild-brothers; in competition, the affair of chance competitors; in the union, of those who require baked goods, and therefore my affair, yours, the affair of neither the guildic nor the concessionary baker, but the affair of the united.

If I do not trouble myself about my affair, I must be content with what it pleases others to vouchsafe me. To have bread is my affair, my wish and desire, and yet people leave that to the bakers and hope at most to obtain through their wrangling, their getting ahead of each other, their rivalry —in short, their competition — an advantage which one could not count on in the case of the guild-brothers who were lodged entirely and alone in the proprietorship of the baking franchise. — What every one requires, every one should also take a hand in procuring and producing; it is his affair, his property, not the property of the guildic or concessionary master." page 244.

As you can see he is against competition, and favours direct control of production means.

I think it is pretty obvious that Stirner is not a capitalist. I agree the terminology he uses can lead to this assumption. Maybe Stirner uses this terminology in purpose, to subvert it, like Saul Newman says.
@Metalist- I appreciate your attempt here to demonstrate to lantz that egoism =/= capitalism, but to be honest I think you are speaking to someone with their mind already made up about quite a few things.
lantz, thanks for finally answering this question.
on the other hand, you continue to caveat every response with "i'm too busy to do this, but...", which makes it hard to take any of your writing seriously. (as has been said before, if you're too busy to do justice to your points, then come back when you're not.)
fwiw, i did not downvote this answer, though i certainly understand why others did.
(aside from your inappropriate conflation of egoism with post-left thinking) i think there is something to what you point out regarding the binariness of egoism... if i were to argue in defense of this, it would be along the lines of what binary thinking is good for, which is clear distinctions. one of the alarms that goes off in my head about your posts/leftism, is the ease with which the anarchist ideas and values that are important to me are subsumed/coopted. egoism provides a vocabulary to make clear when that is happening or has happened. my history with leftism makes that more important to me than it might be to other people, who come from more individualistic tendencies (like ancaps, for example).  
we are all products of our own histories.

it's too bad that you dismiss so easily the downvotes some of your answers get. there are people whose ideas are unpopular who still get upvotes because their answers are thought out. but if you're content to be george bush ("they bomb us 'cause they hate us"), then that's your prerogative of course.
tl/dr: how do we learn from exposure to people who are different from us?
dot:  but if you're content to be george bush ("they bomb us 'cause they hate us"), then that's your prerogative of course.

excellent analogy! despite all the words lantz tosses around, their perspective comes across as completely reductionary.
funky@, how do *you* learn from exposure to people who are different?

(for example, i learn partly by keeping my distance--so that i'm not too invested in the outcome--and watching what other people do.)
often, simple observation. sometimes, interactive discussion. i think i often get the most out of such interactions when we are able to present each other with specific scenarios, and describe how we would each think/behave/respond in such situations.

because i have always been around people that seem very different from myself (and often from each other), i guess i see everyone as different. until such time as i can clearly identify the areas we have in common. shit, my oldest and dearest friend is now a reagan republican. i learned from him what it means to be a closed-minded ideologue.  ;-)
Quick response: Thank you ingrate, for saying exactly the same thing I already said, but as a criticism. As I said, post-leftism doesn't have any substance, it's just a bad critique slapped onto worse ideals.

Metalist, it's not a false reading, it's just a reading you don't agree with. None of those quotes you gave addressed the inherently capitalistic selfish nature of egoism. Sure, you can tell everyone that they don't own property for a while, but when your entire system is based on them doing what they want, sooner or later the ownership of property is going to be enforced again. That's how it got started in the first place. Stirner can give all sorts of opinions about that stuff, but his philosophy is bad, and so his opinions mean nothing. Oh, yeah, and his saying, "But... guys... we'll all be happier if we don't compete" means nothing, because as I said, why take that seriously when his philosophy doesn't. I'm not the one being close-minded here, in the rest of the thinking world Stirner has been relegated to the closet where all the other mediocre philosophers belong, post-leftists are just clinging desperately to his philosophy because it allows them to believe that their selfish ideas of anarchism are legitimate.

Dot, your responses are usually the most thoughtful, so I'll give you a little more response in return. I have never gotten more than one upvote, no matter how uncontroversial or obvious my answer is, the voting system on this website is entirely based on reputation and groupthink (which you wouldn't expect, given this site's so obviously infallible individualistic tendencies, but surprise surprise), and I really don't give a damn about it.

Finally, I realize that egoism and post-leftism are not synonymous, but if I left egoism out, there would literally be nothing to critique. Egoism, the rejection of ideology, and the rejection of identity are the only real ideological components to post-leftism, the rest is just criticism of the left, which doesn't have any real substance to be criticized in itself.

For example, post-leftists say "leftists tend to organize, and we don't like that kind of organization". Ok, that's fine, lots of leftists don't either, but organization is not a core theoretical tenant of leftist thought, it's superficial politics. There is no real substance here. Essentially, without any of those ideological components, egoism, etc, post-leftists would just be non-organizational leftists.

Finally, as for your comment about your own values being subsumed and coopted, I can understand that, I have that same issue sometimes. For example, a lot of leftists, especially the non-anarchist Communists, focus so heavily on Marxist materialism that they have absolutely no tolerance for any other kind of social theory.

However, the left is an EXTREMELY broad group, with a myriad of groups that don't always agree with each other (another reason why the post-left criticism falls flat). I wouldn't say that the solution is just to go "screw it, you're all dumb, and I'm gonna go sit in a corner by myself somewhere and live my own lifestyle", I think the solution is to find other people who have the same ideas, which you will always be able to do. And of course, it's important to discuss your ideas with people who don't agree as well, otherwise your ideas aren't going to go anywhere. We are all products of our own histories, but that doesn't mean that we all can't agree and disagree with each other and still belong to the same overall group (i.e., anarchism, communism, whatever).

And besides, I would hardly consider a school that is based on the rejection of pretty much all other schools of anarchist thought (and not really much of anything else) to be the pinnacle of tolerance.
I had copied and pasted Lantz's rambling non sequiturs and mischaracterizations in the foolish hope that this actual response might be worth tackling point by tedious and distracting point. Sadly, even when Lantz has more of his precious time to write something drawn out and possibly on topic, it seems he just can't help himself. Insults like "trash," "stupid," and "unproductive" litter his prose throughout. In order for insults to be effective, there needs to be something true and accurate about them. Lantz's intention to insult is reduced by the paucity of his prose, and all that's left are dismissals devoid of any relevance. They are the the equivalent of ad hominems, only tossed at ideas rather than persons. Red (and I do mean red) herrings.

So here's my latest challenge to you Lantz: please read these short intros and find the parts that make the unsubstantial house of cards of post-left @ fall to pieces. Please try to stick to actual ideas rather than making up quotes that nobody but your imaginary playmates use.

The final challenge is to explain to all of us stupid egoist nihilist individualist crypto-capitalists:
what benefits accrue to anarchists by remaining inside, tolerating, and continuing to prop up the wholesale chicanery of the Left (that gruel of social democracy, Stalinism, identity police, liberalism, vulgar Marxism, and anti-imperialism -- among other facets)?
i'm not sure why you think another go round will get us anywhere new.
I thought that another round of misrepresentations and empty caricature was worth another round of corrective texts...
But you're right: there's no point.
+3 votes
Not to distract from everyone ganging up on Lantz, but, here are a couple (w/ the caveat that I'm for the most part pretty interested in post-left ideas, more than other types of anarchist thought anyway -- so I'm obviously not inclined to be so harsh) ...

-post-left writers tend to be possibly too interested in critiquing leftism. this might be unnecessary or even a misguided project especially in the us, since there just isn't much in the way of leftist movements. it sometimes also happens that this type of discourse can be slightly imprecise and anachronistic in its critiques.

-there is a tendency to assimilate post-structuralist ideas in a way that can be a lil superficial

-often post-left thought can lapse into a kinda vulgar genre of 'political theory' that mostly entails strategic lore

-the idea of there being a specific identifiable strain of "post-left anarchism" might contribute to making it into a brand but it's a weird category since it can include ideas transposed from a few different contexts that may even be hard to reconcile
by (8.0k points)
edited by
i am particularly addressing your first bullet. i think you have a definite point in there, though i'm not sure i'd put it quite the same way.

when i first was exposed more seriously to a post-left critique maybe 13-14 years ago, i found there was much that resonated with me. but i also found that most of the folks that expressed their critique seemed borderline obsessed with dissing the left and leftists. perhaps a milder version of bob black's obsession with dissing murray bookchin. while most - if not all - of the critique was solid in my mind, it seemed to go beyond that in a way that i found periodically annoying.  it also seemed like a waste of time and energy to me. but also more often than not i found it funny, so it just became a bit of a joke to me.

i myself have plenty of experience (in a previous life) in leftist activism, and my frustrations with what i was seeing (authoritarian/hierarchical thinking, hyper organization and control, cult of personality, strictly statist/legalist tactics, etc... and then came ANSWER!) - combined with what little history i have a grasp of - are part of what ultimately led me to my current worldview.
asker, can you say more about your final point, specifically about the different contexts that might be hard to reconcile?
seems there's more to be said for most of your points, actually :)
I don't really know what post-structuralism is, and wikipedia didn't help. Can you talk more about that?
flip, do not look at the links metalist posted. just watch this instead....

dot, I feel interested in this still, so I think I will try and re-write as a more elaborate/polemical answer later on, when I am not swamped with other stuff