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Anarchism and society
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This article discusses the anarchist critiques of society and proposed solutions from the anarchist perspective.
Conceptions of an anarchist society
Many political philosophers justify support of the state as a means of regulating violence, so that the destruction caused by human conflict is minimized and fair relationships are established. Anarchists argue that pursuit of these ends do not justify the establishment of a state, and in fact many argue that the state is incompatible with those goals. In fact, anarchists argue that the state helps to create a monopoly on violence, and uses force and violence to expand and protects the elite's interests. Anarchists also argue that security of communities would be much more effective by having methods that everyone can have access, control over, and input into, as opposed to statist institutions that are controlled by a small minority, and lead to a population's alienation regarding their public lives. Much effort has been dedicated to explaining how anarchist societies would promote these values.
In general anarchists agree on these points when it comes to a future society:
- Anarchists (aside from anarcho-capitalists) generally agree that an anarchist economy would lack markets and wage-labor systems. Production would be generally self-managed by and for the workers and the communities it would affect, and thus need the products it produced. Workers councils, assemblies, and larger organs of worker control could link up to form organizations that could settle broader issues on a regional, national, and even international level. Such examples of this type of structure, (and one that has existed with hundreds of thousands of people, and with great success), include the Israeli Kibbutz self-managed farms, and the worker and farmer collectives during the Spanish Revolution. Some anarchists propose gift economies, which would make the materials and intellectual property of various technologies open to the people, and would thus lead to more people being able to work on various projects and industries. The free-software movement is often looked upon as an example of the gift economy in action using anarchist principles. Others, mostly green anarchists and primitivists, want a return to more pre-agricultural world or living. Participatory economics (also called "Parecon") proposes that a system of "credits" be given for work, but still proposes self-management and worker control over production.
- Community and neighborhood decisions would be carried out by those in the communities that were being effected by the decisions' outcome. Organs of direct democracy and community control would be established to discuss problems and come up with solutions. Community councils and general assemblies would also be able to plan various things, propose projects, and rotate various jobs that needed to be done. An excellent example of a working system of community assemblies are the community general assemblies occurring in Argentina in the present day. Groups of neighbors meet weekly, (sometimes bi-weekly), then meet with other neighborhoods, then with other assemblies on a regional level. Like economic self-management, anarchists propose that these local councils could link up with other communities in various sets of federations, and networks.
- As with large scale examples of production, (the economy), and communities, ('politics'), many critics of anarchism contend that whole masses of society would not be able to reach consensus on various issues, and such a system would be impossible. However, anarchists generally propose systems of delegates for transcribing information in large federations and networks, and for dealing with issues on an international level. Anarchist proposals of delegates are not "elected representatives", and are not even really "representatives". Delegate structures proposed by anarchists are ways in which various "gofers" simply transcribe information that has been decided upon by various communities. Delegates are generally selected, (as opposed to asking for the job), and instantly recallable if they step out of bounds, (i.e., begin acting like government representatives, and not community delegates). In this way, large groups can come to agreements and understandings, and complicated issues can be brought to the table. An example of this type of structure can be seen in the union formation of groups like the Industrial Workers of the World, (or IWW), and spokescouncils. Spokescouncils generally involve various huge activist groups, with various collectives and affinity groups choosing a delegate to dictate what the large group has decided by consensus. Such models have helped to organize tens of thousands around various issues. Zapatista communities also have a similar structure, with communities holding assemblies, and then selecting delegates that meet to discuss issues that affect cross-communities.
- Crime, and various other social problems within various communities will have to be settled by and in their set communities, and not through hierarchal and outside institutions like the police or the state. Community based systems of mediation and courts could be established to deal with conflicts within communities. Volunteer systems of community self-policing, and security have also been proposed as possible alternatives of police, with work being done through rotation, and watched over by the community. Such a system can be seen in the Zapatista communities with the creation of the Indigenous Community Police (ICP), which exist as a volunteer group of people from the community who do security work. Zapatistas note that crime has gone down, organized crime has almost disappeared, and police corruption is non-existent. Anarchists also point to various examples of working anarchist societies in which the non-hierarchal organization of the community lead to a large disappearance of crime. Non capitalist Anarchists also contend a society that lacks private property and the organs of capitalism and state force would make property crime non-existent. Since theft is defined as wrongful appropriation, the definition of "wrongful" to be all appropriation would replace the definition that "wrongful" is only that appropriation usurping the even greater appropriation of property. On the question of how to prevent property crime - and thus supposedly protecting property and stopping the violence that disregards the original property norms - noncapitalist Anarchists subversively reply that property is itself the aggression and the property crime, which itself often times perpetrated by force. Anarchists then contend that social crimes, (rape, murder, incest), will have to be confronted by changing the format of society, helping victims, and finding ways of preventing repeat offenders.
- Anarchists generally agree that any sort of production in an anarchist society must be done ecologically, and sustainably. Anarcho-primitivists contend that large scale industrial production is largely environmentally destructive, and must be abolished. Likewise, anarcho-syndicalists state that industrial production is abusive on workers, leads to massive alienation, and only helps to create massive amounts of products to feed markets. To counter this, anarchists generally propose community based production and self-management over industries in order to cut down on surplus production, and also create better distribution. Anarcho-primitivists however, state that agriculture and domestication of plants and animals leads to the creation of private property, (largely over the earth), earth destruction, and propose systems of permaculture, and returning to pre-industrial sustenance.
- Anarchists propose that with the destruction of the state, violence from statist forces will generally come from counter-revolutionaries, or those that want a return to hierarchal structures. Marxist-Leninists are critical of anarchists on this issue, and argue without a strong centralized group, or vanguard, a revolutionary society will not be able to defend itself. Although some anarchists are pacifists, many anarchists propose self-defense against counter-revolutionary forces through the construction of popular militias. Such examples of such militias can be found larger during the anarchist revolutions and movements in the Spanish and Russian Revolution.
Anarchists generally want society to continue to be organized around various communities. However, unlike capitalist or state-socialist communities which are organized by the government or by business, anarchists want society to be organized and managed by and for the people that live within them.
Schools, social centers, parks, fire-stations, etc. are all seen as things that are needed to be turned over and run by the people through systems of direct democracy and self-management. Anarchists point to the fact that many areas of our lives are already communal and anarchistic; a barn raising, community building, sharing recipes, group childcare, city parks, etc.
Wikipedia has anarchist elements, because here, ordinary individuals are trusted, consensus is achieved, property is difficult to enforce, and people are unable to do physical violence to each other. Community college also demonstrates a contrast between anarchy and the state. It is a government institution, but is so much more orderly than high school not because of government/teacher intervention, but instead the near complete consensus of the students to consent to college. It is orderly, so it gives free reign to both the students in classes with permissive teachers, but the order also gives authoritarian teachers little resistance to their campaign of institutionalization and subjugation of the class-state to the selfsame teacher's domination. The armed society also enforces its own laws. Although the government makes the laws that one must follow to get the government to decide to issue the various gun licenses, the laws are enforced by the ordinary people themselves, essentially without any further titles, formal restrictions, arbitrary rules, centralization, convoluted intrigues, or hypocrisy.
The roads are hardly anarchist because the USA's "Intervention" to "Spread of Democracy" and "Open New Markets" subsidizes oil to create a car based, sprawling civilization. The traffic laws are obviously government created. But they are self enforcing: it is dangerous to violate the government's laws not only because of police action, but also because of traffic accidents. When traffic laws are disregarded, they are disregarded by the consensus of everyone breaking the law at once, continuously, the police are largely powerless and the police accept and try to manage the effectively anarchist traffic laws so created. The speed limit on the highway is decided by the ordinary motorists themselves, essentially without any formal structures, or any anomie not inherent to cars.
Many of these places are areas that we set aside within our communities in which land and things are held in common by those within the communities. Anarchists simply want to expand this communal space, and complete community self-management towards all walks of public life. Anarchists also want to expand the communal space which exists within our cities and public areas, not only to remove capitalist institutions that are not needed, but also to allow for public spaces to have more opportunities for sustainability. Such aims of community self-sustainability is not that hard to grasp. In the 1940's during the II World War, victory gardens spread across the United States, and in some areas like San Francisco, the city became 40% sustained by its own production. With removal of unwanted capitalist infrastructure, anarchists contend that urban spaces and community can under go organic recreations into self-sustaining centers for better human development.
Green anarchists, and primitivists take these ideas even further, and contend that groups of hundreds make up the desired group size, and communities of people can begin to build and live directly off the land without having to cultivate or domesticate plants and animals. They contend that this style of community will lead to more leisure time and less work, and will allow for increased freedom of movement and pursuit of enjoyment, such as seen in various indigenous communities. See also primitive communism.
Social services that are needed in societies that are specialized, (such as teaching and medicine), would be carried out by those interested in those set "jobs". Anarchists also propose that with production, (anarchist economics), being shared, rotated, and self-managed, people will have more time and access to engage in working in more complicated tasks and jobs that would benefit themselves and their communities directly. Indeed, if the modern medical field was treated like the free software movement, more people would have access to work on cures for diseases, and other problems that threaten society.
Like production and community affairs, anarchists often point out the success of the postal system, which despite being hierarchically organized with a boss, has no central postal leader, simply various autonomous postal outposts. Federations and networks of doctors, schools, and other community institutions could follow this method as well, and apply anarchist principles to its organizational structure. An example of this in action is the 19th century Modern School movement, which was an anarchist-run school for working-class children (author Jack London taught there). The 'Modern' Modern School movement is alive and well, with Free Schools popping up across the globe offering free classes based upon anarchist principles.
As stated before, anarchists see assemblies and councils of neighborhoods coming together as the possible anarchist organs for community organization. These councils would decide day to day issues, resolve problems, begin work on roads and projects, and work to further advance the community. Anarchists point to the success of the community council system in Chiapas Mexico, under the Zapatista autonomous communities. Further examples of the neighborhood council system can be seen in the ongoing popular uprising in Argentina, where neighborhood councils meet weekly, and then in larger councils with other groups to discuss various issues.
In regards to solving issues of crime and settling disputes, anarchists generally are in favor of councils, courts, and assemblies of community mediation and discourse. In a society lacking private property, anarchists assume that social crimes will be the problems to focus on, (i.e. rape, murder, etc). Anarchists are generally skeptical of the prison system, which they see as simply authoritarian, and not working to fix problems within society, and only manifesting new ones.
See also: prison abolition
For most anarchists, marriage and sex are private matters to be resolved between consenting adults. In their opinion, authorities like governments and clergy have no business meddling with private affairs of individuals who do not voluntarily desire to follow their commands — at which point they are no longer authorities and have no power to command those who dissent, only the opportunity to advise those who consent.
Others, however, believe that the concept of marriage is a fundamentally coercive institution, pointing to the wealth of assumptions about what gender pairings can be acceptable partners, the number of people that can be involved in a relationship, and the proper roles for members of a relationship to have. They argue that marriage is ultimately a heteronormative concept, and that it is a particularly subtle form of control.
Some anarchists in Spain viewed love as a dangerous concept and advocated "change of commune" for those experiencing "the sickness of love." This, however, is a small minority view. Many anarchists, including Emma Goldman, believe that love between people is at the core a powerful and benign force, though possibly corrupted by institutions or traditions. Others may see love as a myth, arguing that all relationships are based on economic self and class interest. Even arguing that love is a coercive ideological construct that is a romanticisation of the Stockholm syndrome, where people sympathise with their captors.
Anarchist opposition to sexuality
Note: The content of this section is disputed.
Some anarchists may be antisexualists, arguing that they make no distinction between consent and coercion (or is at least very difficult to do so). They would see all sex as a means of having power over another person, citing rape as one possible example of how sex is used to control someone. Others, such as those who practice Abrahamic religions, (like Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Rastafarianism) may object to certain sexual and reproductive practices like Fetishism, BDSM, Orgies, Sex magic, Tribadism, abortion, contraception and homosexuality on religious grounds.
Some Christian anarchists may have a similar view, rejecting certain sexual practices on religious grounds. It's worth noting that historically (up until the C17th) the Christian ideal wasn't marriage, but celibacy. Many of the early Christians were celibate and a number of Christain anarchists may continue this tradition.
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