My Thoughts: A Critique Of Anarchism As A Social Model

in life •  2 years ago

My Thoughts: A Critique Of Anarchism As A Social Model

There are quite a few posts supporting anarchism as a social system on Steemit; the motivation for making this post was in part to respond to a particular post I read by @sterlinluxan. You can find it here. But also, one of my closest friends is a heavy supporter of anarchism. We often engage in heated debates over the topic, and I thought it would be a good idea to bring that discussion onto Steemit. My own personal persuasions regarding this topic are irrelevant. I want to play devil’s advocate to this notion of anarchism as a social system. I believe engaging in this topic will be to the intellectual benefit of everyone, regardless of which side you may be so inclined to support.  

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What Is Anarchism As A Social Model?

The nature of cryptocurrencies and their decentralised nature often attracts a certain type of person. That being those who subscribe to the social concept of anarchism. This is not particularly surprising given that a fundamental element of cryptocurrency is that there is no central authority to exercise control over its functions.

Anarchists subscribe to the belief that, in society, individuals should be able to do whatever they please, as long as it does not interfere with the ability of others to do what they choose. They are opposed to the notion of governments and coercive institutions, such as the police and the army, as a system of governance. Instead, it is advocated that community itself is sufficient for the taking of decisions. This interpretation is a far cry from the conventional manner in which anarchism is depicted. The objective of anarchism is not to bring about a chaotic social order. It instead seeks to bring to the forefront, the importance of individuality and the ability to do that which one desires, without the possibility of constraint.  

Corruption of Government & Abuse of Rights

The anarchist social model does seemingly have its advantages when compared to the current statist social model. In an anarchist society, one would be free from the control of government authority. Anarchist opposition to governments really is the foundation on which the social model rests. Governments often do possess corrupt individuals that mismanage resources, and ofttimes abuse citizens’ rights. Take for example North Korea, where a significant portion of the population face subjugation under the leadership of Kim Jong-un. It is in this centralisation of power into the hands of governments that anarchists take issue. It is argued that the decentralisation of power, diffused throughout an equal community, would prevent this corruption and abuse of citizens' rights.    

However, the author is extremely sceptical at the notion that the decentralisation of power into communities, as the anarchist model advocates, is ideal. The fact of the matter is, decentralising power into communities is arguably far less efficient for decision making. As humans, we tend to hold views that may be very different to the opinions of others. It is this human trait that really throws the anarchist model into question. How can we be expected to make decisions and manage ourselves when, as humans, we can prescribe to such contrasting views on how things should be done? Furthermore, the development of society is rendering its landscape as an ever increasingly complex one. It is extremely doubtful that a communal decision making model that anarchism advocates, would be sufficient in responding to these societal developments. There is no question that the current form of government has its deficiencies. However this author submits that the focus should be on remedying these inadequacies in government, so that corruption is limited in its effects and citizens’ rights are not abused. The alternative of completely abolishing governments presents its own set of problems that are arguably much harder to overcome.  

Anarchism In Increasing Our Freedom

Another derivative advantage of abolishing governments is the benefit that would be gained in terms of an individual’s freedom. Anarchists argue that a society absent of government would not be able to create laws to restrict one’s autonomy. For example, some states prohibit the consumption of drugs. If one breaks that rule, then the consequence of  punishment, in the form of a prison sentence, is likely to be administered. For anarchists, this coercive nature of the state -rules backed by punishment- is one that cannot exist in a truly anarchist society. A key pillar of the anarchist social model is being able to do whatever you want, and rules backed by punishment would impinge on such a freedom.  

The author takes considerable issue with the presented analysis. If we accept that the anarchist social model concerns itself with protecting one’s freedom, by eradicating governments, how exactly is one meant to guarantee that freedom?   

Take this scenario for example: 

Adam, living in an anarchist society, proclaims that Facebook is the best social media platform in the world. However, Eve being a die-hard Steemit fan disagrees with Adam, and subsequently beats him up for making such a ludicrous statement.

In this scenario, what redress does the anarchist model allow Adam? Are Eve’s actions perfectly permissible in the anarchist model? if they are not acceptable, and some sort of punishment is brought forth, then surely a rule backed by punishment has been created? Does this not contradict the very basis on which the anarchist model sits? The problem is this, it is extremely difficult to guarantee the freedom conferred upon someone, without the existence of a form of punishment to deter those individuals that are willing to impinge on that freedom. If there is no punishment for encroaching on the freedom of another, then the anarchist model is seemingly relying on the goodwill of humans in safeguarding those freedoms. This is obviously a bizarre notion to accept; why on earth should Adam rely on Eve’s goodwill in making sure he is not beaten up when he declares that Facebook is better than Steemit? It is this possibility of human infringement on the rights of another that makes one question if individual freedom would indeed be expanded under the anarchist social model. 

Conclusion

The anarchist social model is a seemingly faulty one. The prospect of the decentralisation of power to communities presents challenges that are honestly insurmountable. As well as this, the objective of expanding freedoms under the anarchistic social model is seemingly one that can only be achieved via means of contradiction or absurdity. The problems that the anarchist social model seeks to remedy, are issues that can be fixed by focusing one’s efforts on deficiencies that exist in the current social model. This is no easy feat by any means, but surely this is a more practical solution than the one offered by the anarchist social model? 

Feel free to comment below, offering your own perspective on the matter and highlighting anything that I may not have considered.

Make sure to check out my most recent post that'll help minnows everywhere, here.

@bisade

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Your understanding of anarchism appears to be lacking the crucial underpinning of the non aggression principle. An anarchist society is not one without laws; it is instead without centralized authority.

Many solutions have been proposed for how potential societal problems such as the ones you mentioned might be addressed in an anarchist society. Because no one entity would be in charge of dealing with societal level problems, competing solutions could arise.

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I understand the importance of the non-aggression principle; I was simply questioning how the model dealt with aggression if it were to occur. I could not find an answer to that query, but this may have been as a result of myself missing some information. I more than welcome you to offer any information that would enhance my understanding of the issue in question.

In response to the point you make in the first paragraph, when I refer to laws in this post, I am referring to 'laws backed by coercion'. It is these types of laws that an anarchist society does not permit.

Thank you for your comments.

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The main deterrent to aggressive behavior in an anarchist society would be the simple fact that potential victims need not rely upon a middle man to react in defense of their lives and property. In a society where the "law of the land" is DO NOT AGGRESS UNLESS AGGRESSED UPON, and there are no state agents to depend on to arrive at the scene of a crime twenty minutes after the crime has been committed, people will be more proactive about protecting themselves by owning small arms and knowing how to use them, by forming better relations with their neighbors, and by securing their property more efficiently. Criminals will be well aware that any individual walking down the street has a more than 50% chance of being armed for protection, that any house or business likely has guns inside, and that most neighbors watch out for each other, since that responsibility has not been passed off to a police force. That will prevent a lot of attempted crime in and of itself.

Another thing to keep in mind is that many of the reasons people commit crimes in the first place will be greatly reduced. From an economic perspective, an anarchist society would reduce poverty by allowing people to keep 100% of what they earn, start businesses without jumping through a multitude of bureaucratic hoops, and build homes, make transactions, and grow food without needing approval from the state. Since poverty is known to be a major contributing factor to crimes like robbery and home invasion, this should again cut down on society-wide crime.

Another huge factor is that without laws prohibiting the sale and consumption of drugs, the biggest source of organized crime will be eliminated. A majority of violent gun crime in the U.S., for instance, is tied to gang or cartel activity. Gangs and cartels stand to make enormous profits from the trafficking of drugs, simply because they are illegal. The fact that they are illegal is what creates the black market and all of its attendant violence. Remove those laws, the black market disappears, and the violent crime rate is again severed.

Of course, no one pretends that there would be no crime or aggression in an anarchist society, but most of us do contend, with good reason, that there would be a lot less. For those crimes that still occur, there are many ideas about how an anarchist society would dispense justice. The most popular idea is probably the private security and arbitration firm, which would operate much like an insurance company. No one would be required to purchase insurance from one of these firms, and there would be a lot of competing firms that would serve all economic strata. Other ideas include community-level judiciaries that would make decisions by consensus (the caveat being that in order to live in the community, one would be obligated to abide by the community contract, which would presumably lay out rules for behavior and penalties for breach of the contract), community watch organizations, and Old West style sheriff services.

For literally any problem that an anarchist society might face, there would probably arise multiple competing market solutions. The best and most efficient would become standard, but there would always be options for the individual. The most important question, though, is not "how would an anarchist society overcome x problem?" The most important question is "does the possibility that an anarchist society would not overcome x problem justify supporting the current paradigm of enslavement to the state?"

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Thank you for your comprehensive response to my query. In sum, I would like to see the operation of an anarchist model. It would be very interesting to see if the assertions you have made would hold true. Perhaps the rise of decentralisation via blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies will bring forth such a society. Nevertheless, thank you for engaging with me in this discussion @lesliestarrohara, it was very insightful.

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What about safety in Business? What would make the market working in a perfect way?
How would a company be stoped from turning into a monopoly?

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I am wondering what would prevent the biggest, best armed and richest people from grabbing up all the resources, creating armed camps and forcing weaker people to work for them in exchange for resources and protection?

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First of all it's important to realize that this is exactly what government does. Government is the biggest, best armed, and richest entity in any given region, and they force all individuals under their purview to work for them (through taxation), in exchange for resources and protection. And once this mechanism of control is in place, other powerful and wealthy people and entities use it as a vehicle to exert even more control over citizens.

So if that's your argument in favor of the continuation of the state, it doesn't quite add up.

There is no guarantee in any society that something like this won't happen, but in the absence of the state, it would be a lot harder to accomplish, simply because the vehicle to accomplish it (the state) would not already be there.

There are other reasons, too. Once individuals stop relying on the state to provide their protection and resources, they're likely to become much more proactive about providing those things for themselves. Market solutions would arise for all of the goods currently marked as "public" and provided for through tax revenue, and once those are in place, a would-be tyrant would have a lot harder time convincing people to submit to him. Throughout history, tyrants have relied upon people's dependence on the state to take power. Very rarely are they able to just walk in and take it. Instead, they drum up support by appealing to people's fear and insecurity. A free people who prosper in a robust economy would fight back hard.

Another important thing to note is that it is simply easier and more efficient to grow and sustain wealth by serving people than it is to take it through force or fraud, UNLESS the vehicle is already in place to do so.

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I'm not making an argument for the state. I am asking how anarchy would be better and why people in a power vacuum wouldn't revert to primitive behavior. I think we'd have to look at ancient human history before the rise of city-states to see how people lived when there wasn't a central authority. I think there will be a lot of variation across the globe when you look at it. People will form into groups or tribes for protection and shared resources. The question is what happens when one or more of the resources is scarce and different groups want it.

Ancap philosophy in a nutshell;
The best rules come from property owners.
They put in the work to acquire the place, they know it best, and they're they ones who stand to suffer if they choose poorly.
If you own the place, you should be in charge of it.
If you don't own the place, either abide by the owner's rules or go away.

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But do you agree with it? Do you think this how society should be organised?

I would be interested in knowing your thoughts on the matter, @mattclarke.

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Absolutely.
Full blown, card carrying ancap reporting for duty :)
I believe you're an ancap too, btw, you just don't know it yet.

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I might agree with its objectives, but not necessarily the manner in which it is trying to achieve those objectives.

Thank for commenting :)

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If there was a button you could push, which would end my relationship with the state, and I begged you to push it, would you?
(I'd only be able to use state provided services if the state were actively preventing private alternatives.)

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My curiosity would compel me to push the button.

Why?

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If you'd push the button, then you believe people should be able to opt out of their relationship with the state. That makes you a voluntaryist/ancap.
We don't want a different system, nor do we want to deprive others of their system; we just want people who want to be free, to be able to be free.
Welcome aboard.

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Thank you!

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I see. I never thought of another system being able to co-exist alongside the current system we have now.

Thank you for engaging with me on this topic, I've learnt a great deal :)

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I think it can be simplified further; as long as it's consensual and non-violent, act, organize and live however you want!

I thought the discussion in the comments was almost better than your article itself, no offense intended. I believe you were trying to stimulate an intelligent discussion, and you succeeded. That is one of the things I am really enjoying about Steemit: that people can discuss their differing viewpoints with intelligence and openness. That is how we will truly create a better world for everyone, and Steemit is showing how anarchy could be a successful way for us to co-exist peacefully.

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Agree 100%

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No offence taken. I'm glad the post stimulated your thinking!

Wow, learned a lot from this post and comments. I previously had this mental image of anarchism of something like the joker in batman, chaos & blowing up hospitals etc. Not sure where I stand on some of these concepts as they are new to me but it is clear there is sone sensible logic in them as well as some sensible and intelligent people supporting the idea. Some research and thought required on this subject I think.

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Most definitely can agree with your conclusion on more research into the matter.

Glad the post dispelled some of your preconceived notions of what anarchism was about!

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Good honest answer. I wrote few articles about anarchy. Here is one, it might clear some things for you
https://steemit.com/anarchy/@cmoljoe/anarchy-and-voluntaryism-are-our-only-solutions

I do not consider myself an anarchist. But in the other side I believe that the bigger the government, the least freedom has the people. That is why I think that the smaller the government the better.

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It is a tough one. A smaller government would also find it difficult to remedy social deficiencies e.g. how would a small government have tackled the issues presented by the 2008 economic crash? I personally prefer to subscribe to the belief that there is a balance that can be achieved, and that is what we should work towards :)

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A small government would not have created the 2008 economic crash. Only a falsely inflated market combined with poorly executed regulation could have created that mess.

I agree there are pros and cons, but many of the problems government solves are those it created years before.

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The 2008 economic crash was caused by the banks. I question how effectively a small government would have been able to deal with the aftermath of said economic crash. It is a complicated issue that, as you say, has many pros and cons.

I finally know what it means to be an anarchist now! I wish I could join this conversation, but I need some time to really form a concrete opinion on it.

That being said, great post as always bisade! Learned a lot!

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I'm glad you learned a few things. I would definitely encourage you to read more into the topic!

Thank you!

I would not support Anarchism, everything around us is bound by laws, remove these laws of nature and everything falls apart. This should be a clear indication of how things should be run.

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I think it would be interesting to see how society would function if the anarchist model were to be implemented. No one knows for sure what would happen. I think there is a tendency for us to imagine a chaotic and messy social order, which results in us favouring the law and a statist centric society. but I think this is a common misconception of what anarchism is about. I encourage everyone to conduct some research into anarchism, so that they can enhance their understanding.

Great comment, thanks @dragonslayer109

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Why it will fall apart? Nature is anarchistic already :)

I think you're right, decentralising ad infinitum is not the answer, there comes a time when we need centralised organisation.

We constantly play a game whereby the two sides are giving people power, and trying to avoid corruption via that power. Some tenets of anarchism may help in that struggle, others clear do not.

Perhaps the blockchain and advanced machine intelligence will help us out of that particular pickle.

Cg

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I definitely agree with the objectives that the anarchist social model tries to achieve i.e. eradicating corruption, preventing abuse of rights and achieving certain freedoms. But I question if the methods it advocates are the most appropriate in achieving that goal.

No doubt block chain technology will bring in to question the role of central authority in our lives. Which I think is a good think. Hopefully that discussion will in fact help us out of the social problems society is facing!

Thank you @cryptogee :)

The problem with the current system is it is deliberately designed to keep us at each other's throats in order to guarantee its continuation.
In my opinion it cannot be reformed, the only way to change anything through revolution, preferably peaceful. That won't be allowed to happen IMO so sadly violence will ensue.
The anarchistic model may not be theoretically perfect but I'd prefer to give it a go over the current debt and death paradigm we live in.
Too many people are living in poverty and dying needlessly because of it.
It needs to go.

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Yes, it would be interesting to see how the anarchist social model would work out in practice, and if in fact it would remedy the defects you mention. I do not know how our current social model will evolve in the future, but one earnestly hopes it evolves into something that will be able to address things such as poverty.

Thank you for your comment, percy :)

I honestly don't know where I stand on this. A lot of concepts sound really good on paper but play out all wrong in real life. Even if you allow individuals unlimited free will and believe in the basic good of humanity, there are always going to be people who want to hurt others and I don't know how we would deal with that. I don't know what the answer is, but I do think the current system sucks royally!

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I really do want to see how it would play out in real life. Perhaps an anarchist society would adapt in some way to compensate for some of its faults? And what form would those adaptations take? We can only theorise!

But one thing we do know is that the current system definitely does suck haha

A crucial element of anarchy is absent from your argument, voluntarism. The principle of relying on voluntary action. Anarchists believe in rules and laws and agree that society must have them in order to function. However, it is when these laws are forced, involuntarily upon the individual, as with all governments, that incentives become skewed and lives are ruined. Communities such as Steemit are a wonderful example of a free and voluntary society. Every user has an understanding that in order to participate and gain the benefits of the community there are rules previously agreed upon that are to be upheld. By voluntarily deciding to be part of the community you are accepting to act in accordance with these rules, this is anarchy in action and its beautiful.

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I should have made it clearer, but when I referred to laws in this post, I was referring to 'laws backed by coercion'. The point I was trying to make in the post is the difficulties that this notion of voluntarism can bring in an anarchist society. I think the Adam and Eve example highlights this problem well.

Nevertheless, I agree that the goals that are being pursued are definitely the right one to pursue, and sites like steemit are doing a good job of showing us why :)

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I saw a previous comment addressing the non-aggression principal which dispels your Adam and Eve example. Eve has no grounds for violently beating on Adam in any philosophy being addressed here. And Adam has every right to defend himself. Anarchists believe people should be free to act peacefully and voluntarily, it's really that simple.

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What happens when Adam is disabled and can't defend himself?
I understand that anarchism is about promoting peace and voluntarism, but what happens when an individual just wants to cause some trouble in such a society?

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That individual then has to face a society of people willing and able to defend themselves, each other and their property.

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Yea, I see what you mean. Well i've taken up enough of your time haha. Thank you for breaking it down from your perspective :)

Upvoted via steemchat from Emma

Anarchism always sends me away as I never see any handicapped people being able to suceed under this philosopy

This whole content could be written in few lines:
''Anarchism is doing what you want. Governments are bad but let's improve them. Adam and Eve have a different opinion. Anarchy is bad. '' ....whaaat a lack of even basic basics to start a discussion. Eh.

Good contents

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Anarchy doesn't mean no rules. Anarchy just mean no ruler. I would write longer comment, but both of my laptops broke, so I'm typing this on tablet and it would be real effort to write long comment. Basically I would write something like this article I wrote about anarchy https://steemit.com/anarchy/@cmoljoe/anarchy-and-voluntaryism-are-our-only-solutions