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+2 votes
I've heard this statement so many times when discussing Anarchist ideas and principles, as well as how an Anarchist world could be achieved, I was just wondering, what response would you give?
by (740 points)
I'd say that it does happen, it has happened, it will various ways to varying degrees. If pressed further, I give examples (historical, personal, observational, theoretical) if I perceive the person has an authentic interest in exploring/sharing ideas and experiences.

If I'm told that it will never happen that the entire earth's population of people will live in complete anarchy simultaneously, I say that I don't know about that with any certainty one way or the other. But that unknowing doesn't stop me from trying to live anarchy as fully as I can at any given moment, nor will it prevent me from seeking out others who feel the same way. As long as I have this strong, internal desire, it's more real to me than just a "nice idea".

Anarcho-Goth, I like your question as it's something I've faced and likely will face even more as I've become more outspoken about my views.

I'm wondering what your response has been to people, and what challenges the dialogue has presented to you...and of what use you think it is to you to find new or different responses. This is stuff I struggle with on a fairly regular basis, and I'm interested in hearing other peoples' experiences and observations. I'd appreciate whatever you'd like to offer.

edited to add....

I'd be glad to hear anyone else's responses as well.
I usual find myself responding with historical examples, such as the Spanish revolutionary period and also make reference to the Ukrainian free territory. I sometimes try and use modern examples such as free town Christania and I also appeal to psychological and evolutionary concepts like Altruism and demonstrate how such behaviour can be understood as being an example of mutual aid. I might also use examples of small scale cultures that show distinct egalitarianism and anti-hierarchical tendencies. I suppose ultimately though it depends who I'm talking to and what their background and understanding is.
I suppose I'm just trying to construct better more convincing arguments, and trying to learn from others who may have encountered such responses themselves.
Thanks for the reply, AG.

Yeah, I've often found myself wanting to construct more convincing arguments too. More recently, I've been primarily concerned with being as clear as I can - and then, if I feel I've done that, I try to determine if the person is really interested in exploring ideas or if they want to argue for hierarchy. Then, I'm either in an interesting, dynamic conversation....or, the whole discussion is over quickly. Both of those situations are desirable to me. But the convincing part I'm trying to give up on completely. I've become exhausted mentally and emotionally going that route too many times for my own sanity! :)

2 Answers

+1 vote
I usually respond that humans lived in a state of anarchy for the vast majority of human existence on earth.
by (4.0k points)
flip, what is the most common reaction/response?
This is a common primitive anarchist assumption, but it's not true. Humans have likely always had band/tribe level societies, and the primates we evolved from probably had some kind of hierarchy as well. Chimpanzees, for the most part, don't live in anarchy, because the biggest, strongest chimps enforce their will over the rest.

That isn't to say that there haven't been some tribes with anarchist tendencies, but we shouldn't overidealize the people of the past (though we shouldn't regard them as "primitive" either)
lantz: "we shouldn't overidealize the people of the past"

Sometimes, I prefer to overidealize the acorn woodpecker. ;)

Although, I must admit I don't know much about what "we" "should" (or "shouldn't") do.
Lantz returns, with nary a response to any of the other previous comments or questions directed at him.
Anarchy, in flip's sense, clearly refers to a minimal definition of "living without the state," and it is 100% accurate. The first recognizable states came into existence as a way to manage the cities that arose around large-scale irrigation and building projects. Haven't they taught you that in your college yet?
I think its interesting how many non-agricultural groups, do and have existed with little or no permanent hierarchy, beyond the parent/child, carer/cared for relationship. Whilst I don't think such situations are universal, by any means, their can be a link drawn between the establishment of agriculture and the development of a sedentary lifestyle, and the increase in hierarchical relations and the establishment of the state and ruling class.
Whilst it is not helpful to "overidealize" the 'people of the past'(whatever that means, some of these groups are still very much alive) I think a lot can be learned from groups who, through various means have resisted or rejected, hierarchy and the state.
AmorFati – It depends on how argumentative of a person they are. Either they are confused and stop talking because it’s just been revealed that you think that people had it better off back then than they do now, or it turns into that exact pro vs. anti tech/civ conversation.

Lantz – I admit my response is problematic, but not for the reasons you say. For one, you can’t compare ‘primitive society vs. modern’ without reducing extremely diverse situations and environments on the side of the former.

The other weird element is something that we are both party to: adding our values to try to describe their experiences. Words like ‘hierarchy’ and ‘anarchy’ are inadequate and show how little we understand what life was like for them. We may observe something and think “that’s anarchy” or “that’s hierarchy” but really it’s probably something we will never know.

Same thing with the “Alpha” phenomenon. You’re looking at their world their our worlds’ lens.
Lawrence, the only comments I have time to make right now are those I can make on my phone in the middle of doing other things.

If you only define anarchy as the absence of a formal centralized state, then you might as well give up on anarchy now, because your version of anarchy is trash, and could easily include the warlords of somalia and any other form of tribal dictatorship.

Anarcho-goth, the Agricultural Revolution is linked with a sedentary lifestyle, but one is not a requirement for the other, and band/tribal societies existed long before then, in which a chieftain would have authority of his tribe, or in the case of family bands, the elders would often have authority.

Flip, you've made some decent points here, but this is getting into post-modernism and all that, and I don't have time to even begin to reply to it. I will say that on the other side of the argument, treating cultures as if they can't be compared to each other in any way or classified in any way is unproductive as well.
Lantz, I feel a little left out being that you didn't comment on the acorn woodpeckers...non-hierarchical little bunch that they are...not to mention the fact that a man named Lantz made the woodpecker (Woody) famous.
flip, thanks for responding. My experience has been similar. It's interesting to note how binary the responses can be: either 'better' yesteryear or 'better' today; either civ or anti civ.

Also, in response to lantz you touch upon an important point in that 'pre- and relatively un-domesticated peoples simply can't be reducible even for some shared and common patterns. Whereas, it seems the whole thrust of civilization, particularly modern civ, is precisely the opposite; homogeneity under a world-state...a social-democratic state, of course.
Lantz, every time you come up with an excuse for not answering questions and challenged directed specifically at you, it makes you sound rather less than interesting.

You have continually made derogatory comments that are devoid of substance (see my list on another thread, plus this: "your version of anarchy is trash," "a chieftain would have authority of his [sic] tribe," "post-modernism and all that," "treating cultures as if they can't be compared to each other in any way or classified in any way is unproductive as well.") as well as taking dismissive potshots at what you presume are other people's ideas and opinions. Then, when one or more of us challenges you directly, you beg off, saying you don't have time.

What that means is that you haven't thought through your ideas and opinions, or are relying on those of other people. You have continued to showcase your monumental ignorance attached to your arrogance, which, I admit is a heady brew; unfortunately, this is not the sort of forum where it plays well. Most of the folks who have tried to engage with you in varying degrees of good faith are clearly more intelligent and articulate than you, which is a very good reason for you to excuse yourself from the discussion.

But by all means, stick around; I am amused by scolding and schooling you. It almost feels like I'm duty bound to unsettle you.
flip, another response I encounter is a sort of silence (like you said) mixed with eye-rolling and/or a smirk of condescension.
As I said such cases are not universal, but there are several interesting examples of societies that are non-sedentary, and are distinctly egalitarian and even anti-hierarchical, an example could be the Mbuti. I think Flip's was a valid point, when looking at other cultures and even more so when looking at what we understand as past cultures, we are looking at them through our modern or 'post modern' understanding. Words like authority and hierarchy are imbued with our modern understanding of them, this is not to say that many tribal, small scale or non-agricultural, non-sedentary people are not or were not hierarchical, merely to say that those concepts are a facet of our understanding of our own society. Avoiding imposing ones own societal schema's and understanding onto the structures of another society is immensely difficult, which is why so called 'anti-civ' versus 'pro-civ' arguments are filled with potholes. The fact is that both those terms and understandings are flawed and largely dated, and whilst you may think it unproductive to avoid comparing cultures, it is something that is necessary to actually understand another culture in its own language. I think its just as unproductive to try and compare and classify cultures.
Lawrence, your ideas are trash (seriously, these kinds of statements are SO cathartic. Once I stopped caring about formality, discussion got a lot more fun). They have no basis to even argue against. I'm basically blowing my words into the wind, and thus I'm not motivated to flunk all my classes to bend over backwards trying to accomodate all of your irrelevant, superficial criticisms. But you continue with your "I must be right because my ideas say I'm right, and my being right says my ideas are right" nonsense, I'll stick with science and unmuddled common thinking, free from the restrictive chains of philosophical circular thinking.
Seriously bro, you need to step back and learn what a discussion is and how to argue. You make no sense because your statements are devoid of substance. "Your ideas are trash" is an empty insult. Pointing out your lack of substance is not irrelevant or superficial -- unless you have idiosyncratic definitions of those terms. I'm not asking you to flunk any of your precious classes; what I said is that using your studies as an excuse for not responding to any of the actual, real, and substantial criticisms I and others have brought up is a deflection. I don't care about your studies, but if you don't have time to respond to other people's objections, you should probably not write stupid things that are bound to be challenged.

There's no circular reasoning on my end. If you can show me even a single example of that, I'll give you a sincere and open apology.
I tried typing out meticulously worded and carefully thought out discussions. People just jumped on whatever superficial phrases they could to avoid responding to any of my actual points, leaving me wasting a lot of energy for no reason. So I just decided to accept the fact that on this website, the inflammatory statements I make are the only ones that are ever going to actually be read.

As for circular reasoning, I can't remember whose argument it was, but the old "You can't possibly be representing this person's thought, because you didn't pick the aspects of that person's thought that I agree with" argument and its variations are pretty irritating. As is the old "you don't know anything because this philosophy says that you can't possibly know that. I know this because this same philosophy says so" argument is tiring as well.
I can't help wondering why you bother at all, why bother making apparently inflammatory statements on a website you seem convinced is frequented by fools and arrogant faux intellectuals? Interaction with this site and those who frequent it is entirely voluntary, nothing will happen to you if you do not respond or correspond with any of the strangers on this site. What will happen however is that if you make statements that are not grounded in any kind of fact or are not supported by reasoned arguments you will lose any credibility with those who do frequent this site, likewise if you make arguments based upon poorly thought through ideas people will challenge and question them, but again, why do you even bother and why do you even care, if this site is frequented by such peoples as seem to irritate you so much?
+1 vote
I often say a bit of what flip and baa both said, and that even if the ideal anarchist future (not that there is one ideal here, but I would be trying not to digress too much) is never forthcoming, that should not stop or hold me back as an anarchist from attacking those things that Ihate and that inhibit my freedom or that of people and things that I love or care about.

If we only wait to act until victory is certain, we'll be waiting a long time.
by (22.1k points)
If we wait until victory is certain, it will never arrive. We will never achieve a better world if we resign ourselves to its impossibility. If we aren't going to fight we might as well give up now.