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.


+3 votes
I had this idea about culture as a means to make government irrelevant. In any attempt to abolish government from a radical perspective, its always a political campaign about how the government is undesirable/all of the negative aspects of it or of any social issue at hand which always leads to a riot/protest/what have you. Statists, conservatives,  or the patriotic always get high-strung and pissy whenever there is an immediate and explicit change in the system and go on an immediate counter-attack.

But, instead, why don't we instead try to develop a culture that supports/validates anarchic beliefs and fundamentals where a main function of this culture would be to make govt irrelevant? It wouldn't be an explicit revolution or direct attack on the state, but rather and ideological and cultural revolution within individuals.

So, in summary, what would your opinions be on the development and spread of an anarchic culture? Criticisms? And what tactics do you think should be incorporated to assist in its growth to make it popular, innovative, strong, and alluring?


edited to fix tags
by (150 points)
edited by
do you mean developing a culture totally independent of the government? I'm confused about your question. It's already the case in society that the Government itself isn't very visible in our lives, this is the night watchman libertarian idea of government that in some ways has become true. In my view the workplace is more of a pervasive authoritarian structure, a long with the beliefs we tend to have about other humans and "how things need to be" that originally came from the elite and government but are transmitted widely through television and other forms of media
Perhaps I should explain what I meant a bit more. Because of a lack of a better word, I meant the word "culture" to be synonymous with a fad, or trend, or fascination with the basic philosophical tenets of anarchism (sorry for my lack of clarity)--with concepts such as self-liberation or the lack of reliance of government, authority, oppressors, etc. The main inspiration I got this idea from (which I never said was original) the book called "The Motivation Manifesto. 9 Declarations to Claim Your Personal Power" by Brendon Burchard where, even though the word "anarchism" or any relating words aren't explicitly mentioned, this book denotes the basics of anarchism and how it applies to the individual and how one may live a more liberated life while having any excess or coercive/oppressive forms of authority irrelevant. And I thought "What if there was a trend about this philosophy or liberated view on life and help other people view the state/government as irrelevant?" And that inquiry led to this post. And so my question is what are your opinions on developing a trend like this? And how do you think we can make this trend attractive and have a strong presence in people? And what criticisms do you have on this?

I posted this same idea on tumblr and someone related this idea to what the Black Panthers were doing, where they, in order to make their ideals known and gain support, they organized school lunches, teach-ins, legal support w/o help of the local authorities, and neighborhood watches. So I guess there's a real-world example we could work with/relate this idea to.

1 Answer

+3 votes
I like your question, and I really hope that it stirs up conversation into interesting directions.

The immediate problem that comes to my mind with having an anarchist culture is that it requires positive values. By which I mean things such as "mutual aid," "solidarity," "free association," etc. These are Anarchist values, and as such are a response to capitalist values. Often they are the opposite, and the opposite always contains the thing it means to oppose. So if we are to try to adopt our own values in the form of a culture, we are accidentally reproducing capitalism.

It's fashionable among post-left types these days to emphasize that anarchism has to be a negative project if we don't want to fall into this trap. That means that everything we do and value has to be for the sake of negating the present social order. Then, if that happens, we should scrap all of it and let the new social relations dictate values and forms-of-life, in ways that we could never begin to imagine from our current viewpoint. "One must burn the black flag after one burns all the nations flags."

But this train of thought is unsatisfactory to me. For one, most insurrectionary types and nihilists don't believe there will ever be a 'total anarchist triumph!' So holding off on creating a culture until then, and focusing only on negation and destruction seems like a trap that isolates anarchists and our ideas. For one, Anarchist values as stated above are popular. Mutual aid, free association, and autonomy are things that most people are down with. Projects that try to do what you are saying: Really Really Free Markets, Free Schools, and even Food Not Bombs tend to attract people who are dissatisfied with capitalism.

Anarchists usually organize themselves along these values, even if its just in the form of a collective house. Even the nihilists. It's useful for us. We like it.

I think that the only real problem with above-stated projects is that there is a misunderstanding on the part of the people who tend to do them. They think they are prefiguring another world. But that doesn't mean the projects themselves are useless! Anarchists into more fashionable ideas focus on this downfall, while discarding the real potential that these projects have. I think this is carry-over from an insurrectionary purism that rippled through the anarchist mileu in the late-00s/early-10s.  

I also think that the reason nobody talks about these types of ideas (building a culture, etc) is that most big-time anarchist thinkers who everyone respects already live where there's a bunch of anarchists (the Bay, PNW, New York, Montreal, etc). They aren't alone in their ideas, and so they turn inward and, in my opinion, grow stagnant.

If we want to spread anarchy, then I think these types of projects are worthwhile. And creating an anarchist culture is worthwhile too. It just has to dance around the trap of prefiguration.
by (4.0k points)
flip- i totally agree with you. The idea of just destroying the existing social structures is pretty useless to me, this is something i've thought about in the context of my own life and is never feasible. It feels like I have to do something somewhat pro-active or else life is just kind of depressing.

However, the other issue I have is the exclusive nature of already existing anarchist scenes, i feel that as much as people try to avoid the trappings of ideology they end up doing it just feels like this is an inherent problem with identifying oneself as an "anarchist". This is reflected also in the fact that so few anarchists aren't white middle class people. I really like the idea of promoting anarchy without anarchism.
Flip, can you elaborate this: "Often they are the opposite, and the opposite always contains the thing it means to oppose."
ricksantorum666: regarding already existing anarchist scenes, that's a tough one. anarchist thought and practice thrives, and perpetuates throughout time, based on anarchists being in close proximity. but i think that you're right that we fall into ideology and, imo, groupthink.  I'm not exactly sure how to promote anarchy without anarchism. Anarchists have been saying that kind of thing for awhile now, but it seems like the ideological framework is unfortunately necessary.

Metalist: When we organize in a way that is anti-authority, we are basing our organizing-method on what we want to be opposite of authority. Now, if  authority never existed in the first place, I guarantee you our method of organizing would be VERY different than the anti-authority one. In the scenario where authority never existed, we aren't tainted by it, and therefore don't base our organizing on trying to be opposite to it. Does that make more sense?
Yes it makes more sense now but word "contain" has led me a different conclusion. By this logic, anti-authority organization is actually authoritarian  because it contains what it opposes: authority. And maybe when we try to be anti-authority, try to act in an anti-authoritarian way, we are actually creating a new authority that governs and limits our actions and desires. I guess this is anarchism as a paradigm or grand narrative, i do not know which word suits best.
well, i understand that we need shorthand words to talk about things, but wouldn't unmediated life by itself require the scrapping of the ideological framework?
Metalist: While anti-authoritarian organizing is opposite to authoritarian, and thus is shaped by the existence of authoritarianism, it seems fine to me. If we don't like authority, and we can't get rid of it by snapping our fingers, then naturally we're going to try to take it down, and in the meantime uproot it from our lives in any way we can, right? The alternative is to ignore authoritarianism in our lives, which is a ridiculous thing to do because we don't like it, and don't want to act that way or let others treat us thus.

ricksantorum666: The scrapping of the ideological framework would be done from the viewpoint of our current ideological framework, no? Honestly I'm confusing myself at this point :-p.
i guess so....i've been thinking about this a fair amount today and the solution has to be to do both. With the ideological framework, as in promoting anarchy with intellectual ideas, concepts, and the verbal rejection of authority, and without any "isms" by figuring out ways to relate to eachother as equals on the day-to-day level without domination and exploitation
more or less the first comment i made about "anarchy without anarchism" is a reflection of my own cluelessness about what to do in my own region. I certainly don't want to be a billboard for a cause like with my previous leftist organizing, i don't want to be on the street with a "petition for anarchy" or anything stupid like that, lol. Also I have other issues with starting an anarchist group, in part because it will mostly attract anarcho-capitalists in my area, also because I'm not confident that this approach will go anywhere. The other anarchist i know lives a town over and he's equally as clueless....even though he does host a regular really free market