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My introduction to Anarchism.
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  Anarchism 101   Introduction  Anarchism is a much misunderstood political philosophy. We are often regarded as desiring chaos, disorder, and disorganisation. We are painted as something purely negative  –  that is, something destructive, rather than constructive and positive. The caricature of the superficially violent bomb-throwing anarchist reflects this societal prejudice nicely, but nothing, however, could be further from the truth. I hope that, in this short text, I shall tear down these myths and tell you what anarchism really is all about: an emancipatory and constructive political philosophy and way of seeing the world. Anarchist thought can be divided into five categories: -Anarchist Theory -Anarchist Action -Schools of Thought -Anarchist Analysis -Anarchist History I shall be dealing here with anarchist theory, which concerns itself with the ideas, values, and principles of anarchism as a political theory and outlook. In the future, I shall engage with the other four categories, which will then give the reader a substantive and broad comprehension of the various aspects of anarchist thought. Overview of Anarchist Theory  Anarchism has two sides: a positive side, and a negative side. The positive side is concerned with what we are in favour of; the negative side is concerned with what we are against. The positive side consists of three central values, and a further five key ideas that serve as practical extensions of the three values. These values are liberty, equality, and solidarity. The key ideas are voluntary association, self-management, federalism, decentralisation, and social ownership (socialism). The negative side consists of a denunciation and rejection of hierarchical authority  –  that is, dominance and control. You will see that our values, key ideas, and rejection of hierarchy are interconnected. We denounce hierarchy because it violates liberty, equality, and solidarity. We value liberty, equality, and solidarity, and so we must denounce and reject hierarchy. They are interrelated. A further underlying principle of anarchism is that the burden of proof rests upon those advocating hierarchy. We do not, therefore, reject all kinds of hierarchy  –   only those that can’t be  justified. If they are show to be unjustified, we can re-organise the particular social relationship in an anarchist manner. How will this manifest? Let us see. Positive Side: Values and Key Ideas So what do all these terms mean anyway? We may have an idea about what freedom and equality are, but anarchists have a particular conception of what they mean. We reject other conceptions of freedom, as not being freedom at all, and therefore unworthy of the label. We shall see what they mean now.  Values: Liberty - Liberty, or autonomy as it is sometimes called, has a positive and a negative side. The positive side deals with freedom to, and the negative side deals with freedom from. The positive element is concerned with the desire for autonomous control over one’s own life and decisions. Autonomy means that impulses and action should be able to flow freely without restriction and coercion. All the moral, intellectual, and physical faculties of the individual will be unfettered, and so can expand and grow in an environment of unrestrained flourishing. The negative element is concerned with the means to achieve this end  –   the end being autonomy. An individual can’t fully grow and develop within poverty; an individual can’t flourish whilst bound and restrained. Liberty then, as we conceive it, must involve the satisfaction of these means, as these means give rise to autonomy. Liberty will ultimately maximise an individual’s uniqueness and will produce a state of rich diversity. Liberty can also be individual and collective. The individual is a social creature, and must associate with others in order to get things done and make decisions. This collective liberty expresses itself as self-management  –  a key idea in anarchist theory which I shall cover later on. Equality  –  If we are to understand what is meant by equality, it is necessary to understand what we do not mean by equality. There are three main types of equality: equality of opportunity/power, equality of endowment, and equality of outcome. We reject equality of endowment, and equality of outcome. Equality of endowment aims to create a mass of clones  –  all walking to the same tune with no uniqueness and no individuality. It aims to create a humanity with all the same qualities, traits, personalities etc. This, of course, is an absurd and ridiculously impossible idea, and the fact that some people believe we hold on to this view just demonstrates how little is understood about anarchism. Equality of outcome is also rejected. This means that all individuals should receive the same goods and services  –  that they should receive the same amount of things. Again, this is an absurd idea. We value freedom, and valuing freedom means valuing the differences of people and their different needs and qualities. This diversity is a source of richness, and is celebrated amongst anarchists. Because human beings have different needs and possess different qualities, living in a state of freedom, in which individuals can develop their faculties freely without restraint will maximise uniqueness. This is an inevitable consequence of freedom, and it is to be venerated and upheld. Whilst we reject these forms of equality, we embrace equality of opportunity/power. This essentially means that all individuals should hold the same amount of power and control over the decisions that affect their lives. Within associations, individuals should have equal amounts of power with all other members of that association. Liberty can only flourish under these conditions of equality. Equality and liberty, therefore, depend upon each other for their existence. They are not contradictory values, as some people absurdly propose, but are instead values that are interrelated. One cannot have liberty with equality. One cannot have equality without liberty. Solidarity  –  Solidarity consists of individuals combining together in order to satisfy common interests. It is the way in which human beings support each other and form unions in ways which respects human liberty and equality. This practice of mutual aid is a natural feeling, and is an inevitable consequence of the internal sociability of our species. It is necessary to feel solidarity and practice mutual aid so as to prevent hierarchical authority from appearing and establishes its dominance and control over individuals. Solidarity, rather than competition, is a necessary component of anarchist thought, as it guarantees both liberty and equality. Ultimately, the practice of mutual aid is based upon the truism of strength being guaranteed through unification, and not  division. These values are fundamental aspects of anarchist thought, and are interconnected values that cannot be separated. Five key ideas emerge out of these three values, and I shall now explore these key ideas. Key Ideas: Self-Management  –  One of the most important and vital key ideas within anarchism is the idea of self-management. Self-management, essentially, is a structural arrangement  –  the manner in which an association is organised. It means that the association, the group, is controlled by its members democratically from the bottom-up. Power then, flows upwards, rather than downwards. Control, ultimately, rests at the base. An individual, then, when part of some kind of collective group, whether that be a neighbourhood, a community, a workplace, a club, a study group etc. will always have an equal say in how the group is run and how it functions. Self-management is also sometimes referred to as direct democracy. The underlying principle that governs this particular type of organisation is that an individual should have a say in decisions that are made in proportion to the degree that they are effected by that decision. This may manifest in a number of ways democratically, but essentially, power and control rests with the members of the association. It will be necessary for certain members to fulfil particular roles, or co-operate with other groups, and so a form of representation will be necessary. This necessity will be fulfilled by mandated, and instantly recallable delegates. Because these delegates are instantly recallable, power still remains where it belongs: with the members of the association. Anarchists, therefore, are in favour of organisation, but a specific form of organisation: self-management. Anarchism, then, and our conception of freedom, is much more than voluntarism. Voluntarism, whilst a key idea of anarchism, is not sufficient in guaranteeing true liberty. Freedom is a permanent condition, not a temporary one. Freedom is retained not only outside of associations, but within associations as well. Freedom, after all, in order to have substance and meaning, has to have a social space in order to be exercised. The individual comes first, and their will is supreme. This is important to understand, and it exposes clowni sh ideologies, such as “anarcho” -capitalism, for what they really are: pseudo-anarchist tendencies that have nothing to do with real anarchism. Voluntary/Free Association  –  Voluntary association simply means that individuals should be able to freely join and leave associations. This will flow naturally from their own impulses and will not be a consequence of coercion and pressure. So, whilst voluntary association is a necessary component of freedom, it must be complemented by self-management in order to have any substantive meaning in relation to collective undertakings. Federalism  –  Federalism is a necessary condition of self-management. When associations join together in order to make decisions, the self-managed assembly will elect mandated and instantly recallable delegates to a council, which will consist of delegates from other associations chosen by their assembly of members. Federalism can work at all levels in terms of scale. Communities, for instance, can associate to create a regional council. These regional councils can associate to form a national council etc. The point, however, is that power remains at the base, and freely flows upward, rather than downwards. Social Ownership  –  Social ownership, or socialism, is a natural extension of anarchist principles and  ideas. Socialism, at its core, means worker s’  control of the economy. It is the establishment of workplace democracy. Because we adhere to the organisational idea of self-management, we consequently favour the self-management of workplaces and the economy as a whole. We are, consequently, socialists and anti-capitalists. Socialism, therefore, is a necessary component of anarchism. How socialism manifests can vary greatly between different tendencies within socialism, but the core idea remains the same. Decentralisation  –  Because the organisational structure we adhere to is that of self-management and federalism, the organisation will, consequently, be decentralised. This simply means that it is not controlled from the top-down, in a centralised manner, but is rather controlled, as we have seen, from the bottom-up, in a decentralised manner. Negative Side: Hierarchical Authority Hierarchy is a particular form of organisation that is centralised and controlled from the top-down. Dominance, control, and hierarchical authority are synonymous. They are systems of command and obedience which aim to establish relations based on dominance. Whilst they can manifest in many different ways, they all aim to limit human action through coercion. Hierarchy can be conceived of as a pyramidal structure, in which power weakens towards the base of the pyramidal structure, and strengthens towards the top. Those below those in power are subject to the dominance and control of those at the top, and so are treated like automatons, without dignity, and without freedom. Hierarchical power ultimately has two attributes: extensiveness and intensity. The extensiveness can either be narrow or broad, and the intensity can either be weak or strong.   There are three main types of hierarchical authority: physical force, manipulation, and situational coercion. Physical force  –  Physical force is perhaps the most obvious type of hierarchy and dominance. We often think of this when we first think of coercion, dominance, and control. It consists of the use of one’s body to control another individual. This can eith er be direct or indirect. Direct coercion is the use of one’s physical body in a way which establishes physical contact with another individual, such as assault and homicide. Indirect coercion is the use of one’s body which doesn’t establish physical contact with another individual, such as protestors blocking a highway to raise awareness of a particular issue, or an individual blocking a doorway so as to prevent another individual from leaving. Manipulation  –  Manipulation is the concealment of information in order to handle, manage and use a subject. The manipulator essentially creates a relationship based on subordination through the use of concealment and omission, and through concealment, the manipulator is able to control a subject. The advertising industry is a sound example of large-scale manipulation. Situational Coercion  –  Situational coercion is a particular form of hierarchical authority which consists of one party gaining control due to a situation in which there exists in imbalance of power. If someone pointed a gun to your head, you would feel compelled to act upon the demands of the individual wielding the gun. Similarly, if one individual is in a situation in which they require urgent medical assistance from another individual, but then the potential saviour demands that in order to be helped, the injured individual has to give them all the personal belongings they have on them, the injured individual would be compelled to hand these personal belongings over. This is a situation
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