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Forum Post: Why are power structures always afraid of anarchist ideas?

Posted 8 years ago on May 20, 2012, 12:49 a.m. EST by francismjenkins (3713)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

The obvious, they really view these ideas as a threat to their survival. The not so obvious (but similar theme), anarchism isn't like liberal or progressive movements from the past. Those movements, while they did much good, never really questioned the underlying power structure, they just wanted more from it. Anarchism questions the validity of every aspect of every power structure (that's just what anarchism is). What should be most flattering is .... the established system is too scared to genuinely interact with anarchism. Rather, they fight it by trying to make people so frightened of it, they never discover what it really means (and what it doesn't mean).



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[-] 2 points by airplaneradio (50) 8 years ago

Vacuums always get removed. Everytime "anarchy" happens, somebody fills in the void. Even when they swoon over the French Commune, they knew it was gone as soon as it started. From someone who used to consider the merits of anarchy, just realize that THIS, right here, is anarchy. If anything truly can go, then this is what we have. In a sense, the way anarchists talk about anarchy (as if it had rules) is mind-blowingly false. Why purport principles if that is against the very essence of what anarchy is all about?

[-] 0 points by JoeWinters (47) 8 years ago

You're wrong. Anarchy has one mother rule, i.e. there can be no hierarchy for anarchy to exist.

In other words, anarchy is not the absence of rules, but the very special case in which the mother rule above is followed.

Now, that rule is actually extremely hard to follow. Hierarchies easily creep in. Very easily indeed. We could say hierarchies are extremely natural, but anarchies are not. Everywhere you look in nature, elements tend to fall in hierarchical dispositions. Grains of sands on a beach are probably the more anarchic natural phenomenon we can think of.

You have to remember, anarchy is not the opposite of organization or the opposite of rules, it's the opposite of hierarchy. If you take a moment to study dodecaphonic music which uses an anarchic process to distribute the pitches, you'll realize the process is extremely organized and follows rigid rules. That organization and those rules are there to make sure there is no hierarchy. Without rules for pitches, the usual result (in 99.999%) of cases would be a hierarchic structure. In other words, it would be extremely difficult to improvise truly dodecaphonic music (anarchic music if you will - at least pitch wise) because following the strict rules in real time is very hard. Pitch wise, improvised music is always hierarchical.

So, to make sure the mother rule above is followed, you can set up all kinds of smaller rules. For example, the idea of using direct democracy to make sure everyone has a chance to get involved is a rule that is used to support the mother rule of no hierarchies.

[-] 2 points by airplaneradio (50) 8 years ago

Good defense. But do you think this is feasible? Even you say yourself that hierarchies tend to be more natural than anarchy.People can defend the objectivity of anarchy in the hallway all day but it still appears very much against the interest of masses.

[-] 0 points by ClaraSprings (91) 8 years ago

Anarchy, feasible in practice to run a country? No, of course not. OWS has shown that it barely works to run a campsite. It doesn't work in practice, only on paper. Look at the GAs OWS is running. The direct democracy they use is not democratic in truth and does not eliminate leaders (hence hierarchy).

You see, not everyone can make it to a GA on a daily basis. This means the most fervent activists who go to all the GAs actually become the leaders, the representatives of such a system if you will. The key difference with the current government is that they are not elected and don't have a term and their names are not known. They can stay as long as they want, or as long as they come. I find this unhealthy to say the least.

So, you can have a system in which you vote for the person who will represent you during decisional meetings, or you can have a system where whoever can make it most often to such decisional meetings becomes your representative. Can you spend most of your days dealing with politics? Probably not. I have other stuff I like to do in life. So, I prefer to elect who represents me than to let the most active activist do it.

It would only work if we were all obliged to directly participate in direct democracy. But then, you'd have the nonsensical conspiracy theorists putting their word in decisions concerning the economy. We don't want that now do we!

[-] 0 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Right, but this is NOT a truly anarchist system. GA's do function well, at least sufficiently well. But a truly anarchist system would rotate citizens in and out of representative roles. Anarchism doesn't deny the need for organization, nor does it necessarily say that every mundane decision should be vetted through some sort of extensive direct democracy process. However, it wouldn't only be the "representatives" who rotate in and out of administrative positions, there would be something like a general assembly providing guidance to those representatives (and participation in these assemblies would also be rotational).

This is approximately how it would work if, as a society, we decided to give anarchism a try. In the context of a protest movement, to critique OWS because they didn't magically emerge with a perfectly cohesive structure from the moment of inception, is just an absurd expectation.

[-] 1 points by ClaraSprings (91) 8 years ago

A truly anarchic system would only work if every citizen participated equally and the only way to achieve this is to force everyone to give up parts of their lives for politics.

A society cannot be run with anarchy in practice. It if could, it would have happened by now.

Anarchy is a political system that benefits from being based on a lot of theory and very little practice. The kinks in a system are only seen through practice and that is why capitalism, communism, socialism, etc.. look bad to anarchists. Anarchism looks great for them because it has never been tested for real.

[-] 0 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Yet, the idea of forcing anyone to do anything, is completely inconsistent with anarchism (and if there's any dogmatic line in the sand; that would be it) .... so what you're saying, simply cannot be true. If you want to say it's an unproven theory, fine (I might agree with you), but to say your intuition tells you X can only work under Y conditions, when we have no data to support this idea, is like saying quantum physics can't be true because it's not completely intuitive. I would not consider this to be a statement with scientific value.

We'd say that every citizen should participate, but in a rotational way. In other words, we're not suggesting that every person could or should devote their entire lives to politics. It may be sufficient to have people participate very infrequently (sort of how jury duty works). I would agree with some of your presumptions insofar as it's perfectly conceivable that not everyone will want to participate, just as some people never show up for jury duty. But this doesn't negate the value or potential benefits of participatory democracy.

We're not playing an all or nothing game, and part of this is exploring what's possible, pushing the boundaries, and trying to maximize citizen participation. It's not necessary to think that if absolutely everyone doesn't participate, then it can't work.

[-] -1 points by ClaraSprings (91) 8 years ago

Yet, the idea of forcing anyone to do anything, is completely inconsistent with anarchism (and if there's any dogmatic line in the sand; that would be it) .... so what you're saying, simply cannot be true.

Indeed. Practically speaking, anarchy is not possible. There will always be hierarchies that form whether we want them to or not. And, even if anarchy did form it would only last a very short time before an inevitable hierarchy would creep in. When anarchists say that direct democracy creates anarchy they are wrong. It only creates the theoretical possibility of anarchy, in practice, the ones who are more implicated in the GAs have the power.

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

This is a crystal ball statement. I mean, you're projecting into the future a scenario that you lack the ability to predict (because, in fact, crystal balls that can see the future, do not exist). You have no empirical basis for the proposition that pure anarchy is impossible (not that I'm trying to sell some sort of blueprint for the future, I'm just saying, you're making a claim that cannot be supported by evidence, and is not self-evident).

You're treating this as if it's something akin to a law of thermodynamics, or one of Newton's laws of motion, but unfortunately, you have no evidence (whereas we have plenty of evidence supporting the laws of physics).

I think you maybe want to say, since hierarchical structures have always emerged, they always will emerge ad infinitum into the future. I would say this is sort of a Humean fallacy (assuming the uniformity of nature), but you don't even reach a Humean fallacy (in this context) without showing that hierarchical structure is indeed a law of nature (in the context of human social organization).

I'll say it again, this is a scientific claim, which requires scientific evidence to establish (and no such evidence exists).

[-] -1 points by ClaraSprings (91) 8 years ago

Pure anarchy means keeping something in prefect balance. Because of the law of entropy, that is nearly impossible unless you constantly apply an artificial force to keep it so. As soon as 1 person in the 300 million people that form US has even the slightest advantage over the others for whatever reason, then hierarchy is born. Practically, anarchy tends infinitely towards the impossible.

The problem is that you look at anarchies and hierarchies as two possibilities with the same rate of occurrence. This is false. Anarchy is a very special situation where everything is perfectly equal. Hierarchies are any situation where at least one thing is not equal with the rest. Anarchies are extremely rare, pure anarchies are near impossible. All forms of anarchies are fleeting and last a short time.

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Okay, I see the problem, we're completely talking past each other, but your statement reduces to something like this. If we don't have absolute anarchy, then we don't have absolute anarchy. I mean, okay (obviously that's true), but you're treating anarchy in a way no serious anarchist treats it, so let's be fair, you're not describing anarchist thought as it actually exists. You're creating an "absolute" definition for the term, and that simply does not reflect contemporary anarchism.

There's really no reason to think hierarchical structures are necessary, or form something akin to a natural law (at least not in the macro sense). In other words, you could have a very anarchist macro structure, while still having hierarchical relationships between individuals, and even at the small group level. Will some groups be more enlightened than others? Sure, you could have a society with a mix of different things, and at the same time, without any hierarchical structure beyond the small group level. The inverse is also true, but it's not incredibly difficult to support the idea that some types of power relationships were perhaps selected for (but even that's a very debatable question, with tons of nuance). Again, I'm not endorsing any sort of blueprint for anything, I'm just enumerating logical possibilities. If you want to define anarchism in an absurdly absolute way, I would say you're calling apples oranges, you might say the opposite, and I'm not sure how we resolve this sort of impasse?

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

I'm not sure I see this rule as a dogmatic precept of anarchism, or at least, it's not universally agreed upon by all anarchists. The real underlying idea of anarchism is about power and dominion, and hierarchical structure is more properly seen as "secondary" to power relationships.

Conceivably, you could have something with at least some attributes of hierarchical structure, but without the power aspect (and this wouldn't necessarily be inconsistent with anarchism).

[-] 2 points by MsStacy (1035) 8 years ago

Are they afraid or simply convinced that anarchism simply won't work? Now governments react out of habit, but democracy was considered at the time the republic was set up.

I'm not saying we went the right way, but you're making an error to assume that current governments are afraid of anarchism, when there is another explanation. Biggest problem with any direct democracy is the lack of an informed active electorate.

[-] 0 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Biggest problem with any direct democracy is the lack of an informed active electorate.

You're kidding right? I mean, this is the exact opposite of the truth. Direct democracy can only exist if there's robust citizen participation. In other words, where you don't have an informed electorate, it cannot be called direct democracy.

What we have now is an uninformed electorate, and indeed, not only do we lack participatory democracy, we don't even have a real representative democracy (just an illusory veil of democracy). Governments virtually always try to define themselves as a democracy, but they almost never are.

[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 8 years ago

You assume that people will actually begin to participate and become informed if you make this a direct democracy. I think it's a flawed assumption.

[-] 2 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Okay, fair critique, but I think you need to include the fact that we do acknowledge this cannot be a top down-imposed process, but rather, a bottom up process. In other words, informing people is itself a goal of OWS, and indeed, an informed citizenry is a prerequisite to participatory democracy.

So there's no necessary assumption here. If OWS grows, then just by caveat of that growth, people become more informed, and it only grows if more people become willing to engage in the process. Thus, it is an internally consistent idea.

[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 8 years ago

All dependent on the growth of OWS. Is it attracting new members at a rate that exceeds those drifting away?

[-] 2 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

And I think that's happening.

[-] -3 points by VQkag (930) 8 years ago

Growth can ebb and flow. In the end you are correct it must grow. As it does more people will be more informed. We have to achieve that critically necessary goal. I believe it will take years. We must be patient. Stay with us. Bring more people in. support OWS.

[-] 2 points by TitusMoans (2451) from Boulder City, NV 8 years ago

All your points are valid, but what may terrify them most is that anarchists may someday actually succeed in spreading the basic precept of anarchy: power structures are superfluous though detrimental to a just society.

[-] 1 points by brightonsage (4494) 8 years ago

After reading the whole thread I give it a medal for the best one I have seen thus far and I have been here for nearly the whole ride.

I decided not to get involved in the argument, even though I was very tempted time after time only to see my argument better stated almost immediately.

Here is what I think I learned. Very smart, articulate people have presented the cases for and against anarchy more effectively than you are likely to hear among the general public. That is true both for pure anarchy and for mixed systems of hierarchy and anarchy.

And the result is that neither side has been successful convincing all or even most of the other side to their position. Actually I don't recall a single mind being changed. If that is true, I believe it is probably representative of the outcome in American society and perhaps global society, as well, if some one should finance a major PR campaign to inform/change the minds of the general public.

I don't have numbers but I think it is far more than generous to conclude that if society were presented with the arguments (and we know that a very large portion of society never listens to any argument that doesn't involve, sex, food, movie stars or sports), that more than half would be persuaded to change their position to an opposite position.

So, if half would listen, and they won't, and half of those would change to the opposite position and they won't, you must conclude that less than 25% and more than zero would adopt a position that is radically different from their current one.

If that is true, persuasion in more than an academic sense, must occur, in the marketplace of ideas, as they say. A small minority of people at most would try a new system and another small minority would watch them try to bootstrap up trial cases and if they appeared to work. they would consider joining. Getting half or more of 300 million people to start from scratch with anarchy would be far less likely than selling shares in the Tooth Fairy for same valuation as Face Book.

I listened to the whole thing and guess what, I am a more sympathetic ear than most, because I was "involved" with people who were as sincere anarchists, or autarchists, in the 1960's as are the current crop.

It should be noted that there were a bunch of anarchist communes started across the country in the mid 19th and early in the 20th century. If they had been successful shouldn't they have grown into the system we live under today? I am still unconvinced but listening.

The Harmony Society started by Johann Georg Rapp in Harmony, Pennsylvania, in 1804 and dissolving around 1905 in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, was one of the longest-running financially successful communes in American history.

Brook Farm in Massachusetts existed from 1841 to 1847. Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of the commune's founders, fictionalized his experience in the novel The Blithedale Romance (1852).

Fruitlands was a commune founded in 1843 by Amos Bronson Alcott in Harvard, Massachusetts. The tempo of life in this Transcendentalist community is recorded by Alcott's daughter, Louisa May Alcott, in her piece "Transcendental Wild Oats."

The Oneida Community was a commune that lasted from 1848 to 1881 in Oneida, New York. Although this utopian experiment is better known today for its manufacture of Oneida silverware, it was one of the longest- running communes in American history.

The commune Modern Times was formed in 1851 in Long Island.

The Amana Colonies were communal settlements in Iowa which lasted from 1855 to 1932.

The anarchist Home Colony was formed in 1895 across the Puget Sound from Tacoma, Washington on Key Peninsula, and lasted until 1919.

The Twin Oaks Community is a commune that was founded in 1967; it continues to thrive.

Ganas is an on-going commune in the New Brighton neighborhood of Staten Island, New York.

The Latin Settlements by German freethinkers mostly in rural, south central Texas in the mid-19th century.

The Cecilia Community in Brazil, an anarchist community founded by Italian immigrants around the turn of the century in the southern region of Brazil.

The Brotherhood of the Spirit/Renaissance Community, created by Michael Metelica in 1968 and lasting until 1988, was the largest commune in the northeast United States.

Jesus People USA (JPUSA), started in 1972 and based in Chicago, Illiois' Uptown area, is perhaps the largest urban commune in the United States, and is still strongly flavored by its hippie / 60s roots.

[-] 1 points by amanofnoimportance (82) from Orlando, FL 8 years ago

Because people can get weary trying to protect everything they have.

[-] 1 points by zoom6000 (430) from St Petersburg, FL 8 years ago

Because they own this country we are nothing but commoner

[-] 1 points by dan1984 (108) from Cumberland, MD 8 years ago

I agree. Fear is the biggest weapon they have against the people. The cops that they use to brutalize us do nothing but piss us off. Fear was and always will be their biggest weapon. I'll borrow one from one of the 1% here: "There is nothing to fear but fear itself." Winston Churchill

[-] 1 points by VQkag (930) 8 years ago

That quote was FDR.

[-] 1 points by dan1984 (108) from Cumberland, MD 8 years ago

Ooops... I stand corrected. thanks.

[-] 1 points by VQkag (930) 8 years ago

y'welcome. I agree fear mongering is the preferred tool of the 1%. And most effective. We must stay strong. educate more people of this fact. and maintain the pressure and agitation.

[-] 1 points by darrenlobo (204) 8 years ago

Actually, the "liberal or progressive movements from the past" did question "the underlying power structure" & decided they wanted more of it. That's why they expanded the power of the govt & with it the power of the 1%. Some people never learn.

Moving on to anarchy, while it is true that it is about removing the political hierarchy it doesn't mean eliminating all of hierarchies. Society needs institutions to order it. Anarchism is about replacing the coercive, governmental institutions with private, voluntarily joined & financed ones. The major problem with govt is that it can force itself on us because we can't, legally at least, stop funding it. Under anarchism hierarchies would exist because people choose to follow them for the good they do. The hierarchies that don't serve people would "go out of business".

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Roughly speaking (although I'd take issue with the idea that anarchy endorses hierarchical structures). It's not that anarchy opposes organization (this, as you imply, is simply not true), but there are "other forms" of structure (hierarchical structure is not the only game in town).

[-] 1 points by darrenlobo (204) 8 years ago

I know that anarchism endorses organization. Spontaneous Order ( http://www.thefreemanonline.org/features/spontaneous-order/ ) is a big part of the equation.

[-] 0 points by ClaraSprings (91) 8 years ago

It's a dichotomy: anarchy vs hierarchy. Anything that is not an anarchy is a hierarchy by definition. However, hierarchies can be organized in many various ways, the obvious pyramid is not the only way. An anarchy, by definition is a lack of hierarchy and can only be setup in one way; no hierarchy.

What darrenlobo describes above is not anarchy, but a poly-pyramidal hierarchic scheme.

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Well, we might analogize anarchism to fractal geometry, and some aspects of emergence in nature. Fractal geometry is the math that quantifies the "roughness" we see in nature (versus calculus, algebra, and trig, which deals with smooth curves, straight lines, perfect triangles, circles, etc.). So there is a sort of quantifiable aspect to this idea (albeit fractal mathematics, for the most part, didn't exist when many of the more prominent anarchist thinkers were alive).

BTW, fractal math isn't as difficult as many people think. Quick example, you can put a Cartesian grid over something like a shore line (which is rough, with gagged edges, not the sort of thing you can really quantify with conventional mathematics). Then it's simply a matter of taking ratios of logarithms.

Experiments using fractal math to quantify the tree distribution in a forest has produced remarkable results. They have been able to illustrate how patterns exist in seemingly random configurations.

Ironically enough, Austrian economics (which btw I'm no proponent of) claims, essentially (although without using these words, because the science didn't exist when this theory was authored) that economic systems are emergent systems, and thus cannot be quantified (of course, we now know that even if they can be considered emergent systems, we should be able to quantify it, although, I obviously concede that human intelligence and psychology is a very difficult component to quantify, although it's not inconceivable that we'll one day be able to do a decent job of quantifying it).

[-] 0 points by ClaraSprings (91) 8 years ago

Bad analogy. I don't see what fractals have to do with anarchy. Anarchy is a very special case, unlike hierarchy. It's like the number 0 compared to all other numbers. There are many different types of hierarchies, but only on way to achieve anarchy and that's to eliminate all hierarchy.

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Have you ever studied fractal mathematics? I'm not trying to disparage, but I see nothing wrong with the analogy. Look at emergent patterns in nature. For instance, the branched reticulate vascular network of dicots is very similar to the vascular system we see in our own lungs. In other words, organic (emergent) systems take on similar patterns because of form and function. We have no better process to inform our views of how efficient organic structures can emerge (spontaneously) ... than biological evolution.

In some cases there's a direct evolutionary relationship, but in other cases, analogous structures can evolve where there's no common origin (the organism just adapted itself in similar ways to similar environmental influences, because it simply suited survival more effectively).

This, it seems to me, is a perfect analogy. The threshold idea of anarchism is that power structures/relationships are less than ideal (and this can be treated as an axiomatic philosophical premise). In other words, if something can be accomplished in a collaborative/participatory way (versus some top down authority exercising dominion over others), then that's the approach we should prefer. This doesn't mean that some hierarchical structures aren't useful, maybe they are, but unless they're vetted by this process (and forced to justify themselves), then we'll never know the extent to which we can improve our society.

[-] 0 points by ClaraSprings (91) 8 years ago

Fractals are more akin to hierarchy then anarchy. The shape keeps repeating at different levels of gradation. Your example of dicots again resembles hierarchy.

Tree patterns, which fractals essentially are, are often used to represent hierarchies. We can think of family trees and also tree hierarchies in computer programing.

If anything, I would say the structure of the rhizome resembles anarchy more than hierarchy. But still, I find the analogy quite weak.

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

I think now you're just calling anything with a hint of organization, hierarchical (which is a very common misconstruction of anarchism).

Biological evolution cannot be called hierarchical, unless you're ponying a god theory. So it doesn't really get anymore anarchist than evolution.

When anarchists talk about hierarchical structure, they're talking about top down structure, the logical implication being, the top down structure was "imposed" (and by imposed we mean purposely and consciously imposed). So how you're equating spontaneous emergence with hierarchical structure, I have no idea.

[-] 0 points by ClaraSprings (91) 8 years ago

Practically speaking it does not matter whether a top down structure was imposed or came about naturally. The result is a top down structure. If you setup a system and call it anarchy, then let it develop naturally and it ends up being an hierarchy, then sorry, it's not an anarchy anymore. What you call it does not matter, what matters is the practical reality of the structure.

An hierarchy is not only top down. Bottom up is also hierarchy. And there are many other more complex possibilities.

Evolution could easily be considered hierarchic. It depends what parameter you are evaluating. If I look at complexity, then I would say that evolution is hierarchic as it tends to lead towards more and more complexity. It's bottom up.

[-] 2 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Maybe so, but in order for a structure to be called "top down" ... it (at minimum) needs a top (and where is the "top" of nature)? A top down government is pretty simple to describe, but a good enough analogy. You have a President at the top, people report to him, he delegates some stuff to others, there's a congress he has to work with, people who work for those congressmen and women, and on and on it goes.

Who is the president or the king of nature? Unless you want to reach for religious mythology, there is no such thing (at least not that we're aware of). I don't think I'm asking anyone to adopt a radical or controversial concept, nature is the result of spontaneous emergence, and that is not (under any reasonable definition of the world) hierarchical.

[-] -1 points by ClaraSprings (91) 8 years ago

Hierarchy does not equal top down, and this is your mistake. Top down is only one way to organize hierarchy. Hierarchy simply means that elements in a structure are not on the same plane. bottom up is also hierarchy. 20 sticks of different sizes could be analyzed as a hierarchy of sizes, the sticks would not have to be organized in order, i.e bottom up or top bottom. They could be organized however you want.

In the case of evolution, there is a hierarchy in terms of complexity. A bacteria is not as complex as a human and there are many levels of complexity in between. The parameter of complexity is organized bottom to top. That is the more something evolves, the more it tends to become complex. If complexity in evolution was anarchic, all living creatures would be on the same plane of complexity. There would be no change in complexity with evolution, i.e. through time.

Hierarchy is not only a boss/employee, it's any relationship where a given parameter is not equal. You could have musics organized with different levels of volume. This would be hierarchic. Some with higher volumes than others.

dodecaphonic music is anarchic while tonal music is hierarchic.

In astronomy, the spheres are organized in hierarchic manner. The sun revolves around the galaxy's center, the earth around the sun, and the moon around the earth. There are also satellites around the earth. If this were anarchic, then everything would be on the same plane of importance, i.e. everything would revolve around each other on the same level.

You have a very limited notion of what hierarchy means. Read up on the definition and how it's used throughout various fields.

Learn about taxonomy in biology and look at how it's organized in a hierarchy. Humans and dogs are vertebraes, but humans are primates, not dogs.

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Again, this is a terminology issue.

A hierarchy (Greek: hierarchia (ἱεραρχία), from hierarches, "leader of sacred rites") is an arrangement of items (objects, names, values, categories, etc.) in which the items are represented as being "above," "below," or "at the same level as" one another. Abstractly, a hierarchy is simply an ordered set or an acyclic directed graph.


First, let me say, I've studied biology (pursuing a grad degree in biology, coincidentally enough), so I'm intimately familiar with cladograms, cladistics, phylogeny .... but these are just classification systems that we've devised (and phylogeny, looking at the molecular data, has completely changed the way we look at taxonomy).

Anyway, anarchism in this context, would simply mean nothing above or below, rather, all relationships are viewed horizontally.


[-] 0 points by ClaraSprings (91) 8 years ago

How can power structures be afraid of something? They aren't even alive.


[-] 0 points by JoeWinters (47) 8 years ago

Why are bacterias always afraid of immune systems?

Because they are antithetical, and thus enemies of sorts. Your question doesn't make much sense. Anarchy cannot function inside a power structure anyhow. That would be a sort of isolated anarchy, but the bigger picture would be a hierarchy. In other words, when hierarchies and anarchies are mixed, a hierarchy always prevails. It's like a stain. You mix a stain with clean pants, well you still have a stain, but you don't have clean pants anymore.

Anarchy only exists when there is no hierarchy in sight.

[-] 2 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Well, bacteria is not "always" afraid of immune systems, and I wouldn't put it that way anyway. The idea of antibiotics is to break down the peptidoglycan polymer wall outside a bacterial cells plasma membrane. Sometimes, we see an innate immunity response to virus's (e.g. RNAi), but not so much bacteria (although there's obviously nuance to this), which is why people in the distant past often died from what's today considered easily treatable bacterial illnesses. If you ever took a biology class, maybe you remember the gram stain test (and all the science surrounding it)?

Moreover, anarchy has existed in tandem with hierarchical structures (e.g. the Paris commune), and there certainly hasn't been enough experimentation with this idea to make the sort of dogmatic statements you're making (if you think you have evidence to support your statements, then by all means, present it .... but all I see is unsupportable bare assertions).

[-] 1 points by ClaraSprings (91) 8 years ago

If an anarchy exists in tandem with an hierarchy, it implies that they are somehow connected together; that is, there is an exchange between them at some level. If not, then we can consider this anarchy and this hierarchy as completely isolated. However, what interests us in the aforementioned situation.

Now, where does that connection take place? This is the key question. It quickly becomes obvious that the anarchy must be a subsystem of the hierarchy, that is, the anarchy cannot be the main system. Why? Because an anarchy cannot contain a hierarchy as per its definition. A hierarchy, on the other hand, can contain an anarchy. However, because this anarchy is contained within the hierarchy, it means some parts of the hierarchy will be on a higher level, some parts on a lower level, and some parts on an equal level with the anarchy. Essentially, the system is hierarchic even if their is a pocket of anarchy somewhere in there. Yes, in US a factory could be run by anarcho-syndicalism (and some are), but the factory would still remain inside an hierarchy meaning it would have leaders in the hierarchic government. This factory would not really be free from hierarchic power struggles. A government could shut it down. Real anarchy must be complete, it can't be within an hierarchy.

Incidentally, this is why OWS wants to create a revolution and topple the current governmental structure. If anarchy could function without a hitch inside the current hierarchic system, the anarchists would simply create their localized anarchies and everyone would be happy ever after.

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

You may be overestimating the amount of agreement among OWS members regarding what a future society should look like. But anyway, I see no inherent reason why anarchism can't survive without hierarchy (there's certainly no law of nature that I'm aware of, which requires this, and I'm fairly well versed on the laws of nature).

Anarchism has never thrived within any sort of hierarchical system, rather, the few brief examples of anarchism in history, had to constantly fight against the existing hierarchy for survival (or, in the case of Spanish anarchists, they had to fight the fascists, who were also fighting against the established government). So really, we don't have data to support these sort of assumptions (and our intuition is not adequately equipped to make these assumptions, sort of like how our intuition is not capable of understanding quantum physics or many aspects of biology or for that matter sociology).

[-] 0 points by ClaraSprings (91) 8 years ago

It's not an assumption, it's based on the logical outcome of their definitions. It's a dichotomy anarchy vs hierarchy, and anarchy is an absence of hierarchy, so, as soon as hierarchy shows its face there is no anarchy anymore. This does not depend on practice, it's a purely theoretical outcome from the very definition of the words.

In similar fashion, a person cannot be a child and an old man at the same time as per the definition of these words.

Can you give me an example of an organization that is theist and atheist at the same time?

Remember, dichotomies don't have gradations. It's not black and white and together it makes grey. It's anarchy and hierarchy, and when you have an anarchy with the slightest tiny bit of hierarchy then it's an hierarchy and no longer an anarchy.

[-] 0 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

I think your argument is losing its cohesion. How is mutual exclusivity even relevant to my point? To say that, for instance, an anarchist community isn't really anarchist because some hierarchy exists somewhere in the universe, is sort of absurd. This isn't a matter of A can't be A and B at the same time (although, you might be interested in learning some of the ideas in quantum computing). The dogmatic ideology that would need to precede this dichotomy simply doesn't exist in anarchism. You're basically redefining the concept to suit your argument.

[-] 0 points by ClaraSprings (91) 8 years ago

The boundary is not the universe, but the country. You can have localized anarchy somewhere in the US, but if it's under the umbrella of an hierarchic government system which controls all of US, then it really gets swallowed whole. It's absolutely different than if all of US were under an anarchic system. What's important is the mother system of the country, every thing else flows from that. Again, that's why the anarchists of OWS are not satisfied with the small anarchies they are creating with OWS camps and communes, they want the whole country to become anarchic.

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

I don't see it this way. I think this presupposes a rigid view of anarchism that is not logically necessary. Real life is often a matter of degree. There's no reason to think anarchism requires a completely closed system to thrive. There's certain no data or research I'm aware of, which draws this conclusion.

[-] 0 points by ClaraSprings (91) 8 years ago

Again, it's not a question of data, it's a question of definition. If your anarchy works in tandem with a hierarchic system and exchanges with this system, then it becomes part of that hierarchy. Hierarchies engulf anarchies. An anarchy becomes a hierarchy when there are hierarchic elements involved.

You really are hard headed. These are simple definitions and I'm surprised you don't understand this. It's impossible to discuss something if you don't even know what the words mean. Use a dictionary. If I tell you that a dog is not a cat are you going to ask me for experimental data to show this. Come on man.

[-] 2 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

No, there's no law of nature, or law of anything ... that states hierarchy (necessarily) engulfs anarchy, and you're treating this premise as a foregone conclusion, without evidence (and yes, this is something that requires evidence) This is not the same thing as your dog/cat analogy (your statements here are obviously speculative, and are not at all self evident).

[-] 0 points by ClaraSprings (91) 8 years ago

If hierarchy does not engulf anarchy, then the definitions are wrong. Clean is anarchy, dirty is hierarchy, if clean meets dirty, dirty wins. It becomes dirty.

You still haven't answered my question about dichotomies. Can you provide an example of a system or organization that would be theist and atheist at the same time?

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

You're not contextualizing. Atheism and theism is not analogous to this issue. I mean, could an organization that's both atheist and theist (simultaneously), exist? It might be conceivable in a bizarre universe, but I can't imagine how or why something like that would exist, whereas I can imagine (very easily) how, for example, a state in our union could implement participatory democracy, while remaining under the umbrella of a (so called) representative democracy. I can even imagine the opposite happening, and I can (at least approximately) answer the how and why. There's absolutely no inherent reason to say this is impossible, or for that matter unfeasible. I would even say the benefits are somewhat self-evident. If someone isn't involved in the decisions that influence their everyday lives (and the larger society they live in), how can they really think they live in a democracy? It's one thing if you have the opportunity to participate, but for whatever reason you decline the invitation, but that is not what we have.

Is it any wonder that governments always rush to define themselves as democratic (these days). There's an important reason for this, people tend to gravitate towards freedom, and the definition of freedom is constantly updated. As people dream up or encounter new forms of freedom that they can conceptualize, the bar is raised.

[-] 0 points by Neuwurldodr (744) 8 years ago

How interesting, but amusing seeing as how most modern governments that exist today did overthrow an already existing society, government and/or culture of people in order to propagate their own ideology and way of life.. So, would this not be the very reason for fear, here and across the globe? What was done to other forms of society is now coming back to haunt all perps along with their descendants across the globe! Stands to reason in regards to a common knowledge, I would think.

[-] -1 points by PR1 (120) 8 years ago

Nonsense. I'm not having any of it. When people stand up for anarchy they will have to do a much better job than this!

When you say "liberal or progressive movements of the past" have never questioned the underlying power structure, that is so wrong I don't even know where to start. Let's just take the overthrow of the French Monarchy, and the Colonial overthrow of the British Monarchy right here in America! You should know what you're talking about before you talk about it

How can anyone take such a blatantly flawed argument seriously?

Now, coming to anarchy: You act as if it's something new, an idea that's never been tried, when in fact it's been around forever. So why does it suddenly seem like a "new" idea? I'll tell you why, because it has never worked! Although there have been numerous anarchistic movements none have ever succeeded, and that is because they fail to take into account the fact that humans don't have central governments because we want them, we have them because they are an inevitable outcome of the nature of being human!

Why? Put a mastiff in a cage full of poodles and find out. See if those poodles make collective decisions, or if the mastiff get's it's way. The problem with anarchy is that it doesn't work and it never has. Joseph Stalin (a communist) supposedly, should have put that notion to rest for all time. So much for the dwindling away of The State! Here was where Marx went lunny! Never in human history has a Powerful State merely dwindled away, and that's essentially the same thing anarchists are praying for. Well, good luck!

We already have a system that most people only dream of having. Who's fault is it if nobody can be bothered to participate, and then they scream and rant and cry like babies about the outcome?

Let's get REAL for f--k's sake!!!


PS I wonder why the trolls never jump on these pro-anarchy threads?


[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Indeed, even in the cases you cite, no one really questioned the idea of one party maintaining dominion over another. They traded dominion by a king for (basically) plutocracy, but there was always the assumption that power structures are necessary. Yes, there were always philosophical anarchists floating around (I've heard Thomas Jefferson referred to as a philosophical anarchist), but there hasn't been many cases where anarchist thought influenced an entire movement (save the Paris commune and Spanish anarchists during her civil war).

[-] 0 points by PR1 (120) 8 years ago

Are not Napoleon and Stalin enough for ya? Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater!

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Do you consider these tyrants anarchists?

[-] 2 points by PR1 (120) 8 years ago

No, they resulted from a (brief) state of anarchy. States of anarchy have historically always been brief, and resulted in dictatorship. Napoleon said, "I found the crown lying in the gutter and I put it on my head."

I am not impuning the motives of anarchists, and indeed I agree with their aims. It is not these that I question, but rather the ability to implement such a system: human nature and the survival of the fittest (which unfortunately operates in the human world as well as the natural world) being what they are.

How would such a system be enforced and protected from those who would userp it?

The institutions of democracy have the advantage of having been long established, and people are accustomed to lending them their legitimacy. Tampering with that could have the most tragic consequences, and if history is any judge, the most likely outcome would be military dictatorship.

That is the strongest, and I think the absolute reason for staying with existing institutions, at least until the power is restored to the people.

In order to do this the first and foremost thing, aside from what the brave are doing now in Chicago, is VOTE!

It is not one or the other - to succeed we must do BOTH, and success is the prerequisite for planetary survival.

This is no time for such dangerous experimentation. We must be calm, collected, rational and CERTAIN that the steps we take do not end in a WORSE situation than we are already in.

Further democratic reforms, such as the direct vote can only be made from a position of political power, to try to achive them at this juncture is OBVIOUSLY a foolhardy over-reach.

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

I mean, Stalin resulted from Leninism? However, I do acknowledge what you're saying, and it should be noted that OWS is not suggesting this sort of thing (by caveat of the fact that they're a decidedly non-violent movement, so much should be implied). I also see how a dogmatic refusal to attribute any semblance of legitimacy to any existing structure, could become problematic (although I won't pretend to know precisely "how" this will manifest).

I not only foresee the possibility of a gradual transition (won through peaceful protest, and simply changing hearts and minds over time, and slowly modifying our existing structures, but preceded by small scale experimentation before widespread implementation), but this is exactly what I personally endorse, and what many (if not most) OWS supporters also endorse.

This is not a French revolution after all. The anarchist sentiment held by many OWS supporters should not be seen as exclusively in line with what 19th or early 20th century anarchist thinkers believed. No one in their right mind would deny that our society has made progress over the last century. Indeed, whether we're talking about woman's suffrage, or civil rights, these advancements are consistent with mainstream anarchist thought. Where we depart from popular opinion is we don't view these developments as an end, but rather, a good start :)

[-] -3 points by foreeverLeft (-264) 8 years ago

Nobody is afraid of Anarchists, they're annoying, gnats buzzing around your head on a summer evening annoying.

[-] 1 points by Neuwurldodr (744) 8 years ago

So, since you are in the midst of all the "knats" on this forum, do you have your protective net over your head, or is that just your amnesia bubble?

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

I don't mean fear of physical violence (so calm down swampy) :)

[-] -3 points by foreeverLeft (-264) 8 years ago

LOL, physically least of all. :) Being an Anarchist is a way for cowards to hide from the vicissitudes of life. They know no one expects anything from an Anarchist except to be all earnest and mooch off friends.

Anarchists take themselves very seriously (at least the freshly minted ones) but no one else does.

[-] 1 points by Neuwurldodr (744) 8 years ago

Why won't someone define what an Anarchist is?

Oh never mind....here we go.....Definition of ANARCHIST 1 : a person who rebels against any authority, established order, or ruling power 2 : a person who believes in, advocates, or promotes anarchism or anarchy; especially : one who uses violent means to overthrow the established order http://www.zpub.com/notes/aan-hist.html

Now, what you all fail to understand is that your own founding fathers were Anarchists, since they took over and did overthrow all existing governing civilizations that existed on this continent when they arrived here. Sorry to break this to you folks, but your forefathers were not the first people on these shores or across this hemisphere or the WORLD!!! Get real and face the truth!! You come from families of ANARCHISTS!!!

[-] 1 points by markpaddles (143) from Denver, CO 8 years ago

Sounds like you've been hanging out with too many young teenagers with anger problems who wear Sid Vicious t-shirts. Let us know when you are done trying to take advantage of these little boys, and wish to speak in ways that actually address the systemic issues of our day.

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Do you guys have anarchists in swamp villages :)

Seriously, do you know what anarchism is? Here's a quick intro


It's like five paragraphs long (took me about one minute to read).

[-] -2 points by foreeverLeft (-264) 8 years ago

The most telling statement at your link: ...from the now defunct....

Had you taken longer than a minute to actually absorb what this unfortunate young lady has written you would have noticed a muddled, confused, non statement which gives an embarrassing glimpse into the mind of a self styled "anarchist".

My favorite quote:

"Anarchists hold disparate views on many issues. One of the major areas of disagreement is the question of the individual versus the community. Individualist anarchists place primary importance on the freedom of the individual, while anarcho-communists (and anarcho-syndicalists) focus on the benefit of the social group at large, and mutualists lie somewhere in between. In an ideal anarchist society, it is hoped that the needs of the community as a whole can be met in a just manner without unduly impinging on the free will and self-determination of the individuals within it".

Translation...We don't have a fucking clue.

Does it ever bother you that Anarchists couldn't exist without a rich society to sponge from? It's hard to be childish bomb throwers in the slums of Mumbai.

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

If you knew anything about the history of anarchism, you'd know the only real experiment in history with anarchism was during the Spanish Civil War and Paris commune.

[-] -1 points by foreeverLeft (-264) 8 years ago

So. you have no actual defense of your philosophy and must immediately go into default rage mode. Sad.

You know, if you think about it (which, of course, you never do) the massive third world slums of South America and India are actually anarchist communities. They are organisms that simple 'are', no law, no structure just millions of people living in some sort of terrible harmony of poverty.

Of course, like Western anarchists, even these parasitic anarchist communities couldn't survive without a larger society to feed from. After all, it you're going to survive on scraps there has to be someone creating the scraps for you to eat, right? :)

As in your pathetic examples, they had the larger society to feed from didn't they.

[-] 2 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

No, Spanish anarchists weren't feeding from anyone (if you had a modicum of factual knowledge, you'd know this). In fact, they were the first to fight European fascists (Mussolini, Hitler, and Franco). They took the shell of the old, and created a new society (which lasted for three years in places like Catalonia, before fascist bombing became too much to bear).

The reason I'm so dismissive of your babble, is because that's what it is, just uninformed babble (and you simply don't know enough, you knee jerk to the familiar, you're not a critical thinker, and thus no one should ascribe merit to your views). I mean, okay I get it, another under-educated American has deluded themselves into thinking they're not a complete idiot ... why am I not surprised!

When you guys can't escape from your own idiocy, the only knee jerk left for you, is the old "elitist liberal" line (but yes, I probably should not be amused by American stupidity, it will be the death of our society if we don't change our ways).

[-] -2 points by foreeverLeft (-264) 8 years ago

So you admit there would have been no Spanish experiment without reliance on what they could scavenge from the larger society? You aren't doing yourself any favors by using examples of 'anarchy' that wouldn't have been there had it not been for what had gone before.

Anarchy is parasitic, besides being silly on it's face it can't exist without a larger society upon which to feed. Anarchy is not a serious philosophy, even cursory examination reveals it to be foolish. If anarchy is so great why do you have to attempt to force it on the larger society? Why can you only hold up two scruffy non-examples of the joys of anarchy? Do you know you are a fool?

[-] 2 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

I see our cultural indoctrination has done a remarkably good job on that mass lodged between your ears :) I mean, you have no data to support anything you say, there's no precedent, and saying that the few, short lived experiments in anarchism had to somehow leech off of what preexisted, is like saying that humans have to leech off the sun, or rain, or the emergent and evolutionary aspects of agriculture, or the tool making skills acquired by our tribal primitive ancestors .... it's just ridiculous (and so don't be surprised by the fact that no one will take you seriously, not even thinkers who might agree with you, because you're not putting forward a real argument based on data, experimentation, quantifying the results of experimentation, etc., you're just vomiting gibberish).

[-] -2 points by foreeverLeft (-264) 8 years ago

Again, you can't refute what I say and so must immediately fall into tired vitriol. You really shouldn't come to places where your simpleminded reliance on a non-philosophy is so easily deconstructed. I know it's difficult to face the fact your anarchic ass has been handed to you but now might be the time to start facing just a teeny bit of reality. Ever wonder why there are so few old anarchists?

You should probably retreat to the coffee shop so you can sit there and be all moody and impress the freshman and sophomore ladies with your depth and angst. Take heart in that your fling with anarchy won't last too long and you'll be able to look back and remember all that fine hippy butt you scored along the way. :)

[-] 2 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

You sound like a religious fundy (I hear the same sort of incoherent logic from theistic apologists, and it's no less idiotic in your case). Look, I'm sorry you didn't have the benefit of a rigorous college education, I'm sorry you have a hard time understanding more abstract ideas, but if it's any consolation, we'd like everyone to have the benefit of this sort of education.

[-] -2 points by foreeverLeft (-264) 8 years ago

I know it makes you feel better to lash out when your world view has been destroyed by so many people. You must feel terrible to read over this thread and realizing what a fool you've been.

But look on the bright side, when you move on to the next philosophy, you can make fun of anarchists too! :)

[-] 2 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

It's unfortunate that you have such a grim view of human nature that you think we can only thrive as (essentially) herded sheep. I'm not making magical or naively idealistic claims about human nature, but you are making far reaching claims about human nature, just in the opposite direction. Maybe you're projecting (I don't know)?

[-] -1 points by foreeverLeft (-264) 8 years ago

I embrace human nature as it is, not as I wish it to be, that's why I am a small government conservative. The federal government should be responsible for defense, roads, foreign policy the currency and not much else.

I have a very positive view of human nature, we do best when left to our own devices with as little interference from government as possible. Look at the strength of black families up until the government began "helping" them in the 60s, look at the human wreckage of today.

As has been pointed out repeatedly in this thread anarchy has absolutely no way of becoming mainstream, it is an affectation, nothing more.

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

Dude, I don't need any of this to make me feel better. I'm a lawyer, pursuing a graduate degree in molecular biology, veteran (ten years of distinguished service in the Army, including service in Iraq) .... so I'm gonna be just fine. I've certainly seen enough bad shit in life, to know the challenges facing our country are very surmountable. But I'm not doing this for me. My best interests would probably be better served by a more narcissistic outlook.

On an unrelated note, is it any wonder that our society always tries to find hints of narcissism to try and sustain a charge of hypocrisy. As they say, misery loves company :)

[-] 0 points by foreeverLeft (-264) 8 years ago

Why would someone of your accomplishment write such a childlike OP? That governments fear anarchists reminds me of the story about the flea crawling up the elephants leg with rape on his mind, just as he drives it home a coconut falls on the elephant's head and elicits an 'oomph' whereupon the flea pats the elephant's enormous bottom and asks; "did I hurt you baby"? The word hubris should be in capital letters.

At any rate, thank you for your service, I'll put up with a lot from someone willing to risk their life for me.