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There's Anarchy and then there's Anarchy

By enterfornone in MLP
Sat Feb 10, 2001 at 09:24:15 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Textfiles.com, the museum of '80s BBS files, has an interesting article on anarchy.

Anarchy as a political system is quite misunderstood by many, even more so for those growing up with the HPAVC BBS scene. This article doesn't do much to explain what anarchy is, but it does a good job of explaining what those involved in the BBS anarchy scence meant it to mean.


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There's Anarchy and then there's Anarchy | 34 comments (28 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
Anarchy (4.27 / 11) (#3)
by Anonymous 6522 on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 01:32:02 AM EST

I once followed a link to some anarchy book a guy posted online (sorry, no link) that was originally published in the 1920s. The few chapters that I read sounded remarkably like the communist manifesto, cock full of words like proletariat and bourgeoisie. It gave me an idea of what anarchy is and why it won't work.

Anarchy is basically the absence of government were everyone works for themselves and no one else. It sounds remarkably like communism, but instead of working for the best intrests of the community, you work for your best intrests, and like communism, it would only work in a perfect world were everyone is nice and minds their own business. With both communism and anarchy you have the revolution and a few people end up controlling everything afterwards.

Geez, it's 12:30, I need some sleep.

Wrong, wrong, wrong (4.50 / 4) (#23)
by marimba on Sat Feb 10, 2001 at 03:04:04 PM EST

Anarchy is basically the absence of government were everyone works for themselves and no one else.

What you are describing is American Libertarianism, which is really Anarcho-Capitalism. True anarchism is based on cooperation, where the input into decisions made is proportional to the effect the decisions have on the actors. "Anarchism doesn't mean no rules. It means no rulers" (Edward Abbey, I think. You can find it on Znet's quote database) It isn't the absence of authority. It's the absence of arbitrary authority. In its cooperative aspects it has some similarities with Marxism.

it would only work in a perfect world were everyone is nice and minds their own business.

Not true. Only the majority have to behave in a reasonable fashion, and believe it or not, most people already do. The unfortunate thing is that most people either a) are disenfranchised and feel powerless (see 'self-fulfilling prophecy')(in some cases this is literally true, i.e., East Timor, Columbia, many other examples. They not only feel powerless, they are powerless, or largely so.) or b) feel some kind of misplaced reverence for authority. If people a) act on their power and b) question authority (remember those buttons?) anarchism will evolve naturally. It is a quite natural system if you take the time to think about it. A quick lesson: Why should any human being have any authority at all over another? Once you study this question you will begin to understand a lot of the logic behind anarchism. A very rich resource for anarchistic thought and strategy (think 'portal') is lbbs.org



[ Parent ]
Libertarianism (5.00 / 1) (#27)
by Paul Crowley on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 06:53:15 AM EST

It's very annoying the way the anarcho-capitalists have coopted the word "Libertarian". Traditional, left-wing anarchism used also to be known as "libertarian communism" which is a great term for confusing people :-)
--
Paul Crowley aka ciphergoth. Crypto and sex politics. Diary.
[ Parent ]
Communist Anarchism (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by ObeseWhale on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 08:13:11 PM EST

The book you are referring to is Alexander Berkman's "What is communist anarchism", the veritable masterpiece of anarchist thinking. Oh, and yes, you are correct, anarchism has much in common with Marxism.

---

"The hunger for liberty may he suppressed for a time; yet never exterminated. Man's natural instinct is for freedom, and no power on earth can succeed in crushing it for very long."
-Alexander Berkman
[ Parent ]
Nostalgia (4.00 / 3) (#4)
by Aquarius on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 02:46:49 AM EST

I rarely vote up MLP, but this one gets a +1 to section, because I didn't know about textfiles.com. I've just spent a while looking through it and saying "wow...I remember this." :-)

Actually, I've got a floppy around here somewhere with most of the Jolly Roger's Cookbook on it. I think I'll root around and see if I can find it.

Yes! Ha. I have it. That's one floppy I've gained back for use, then, if all this stuff is still on the net. :-)

Aq.

"The grand plan that is Aquarius proceeds apace" -- Ronin, Frank Miller
Stupid untraceable quotes. (3.40 / 5) (#5)
by Holloway on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 03:29:08 AM EST

Some movie producer I can't remember the name of said, "I am so far right-wing, I'm almost anarchic" - which is similar to my thoughts. I don't consider anarchic to be punkish near-lefty bollocks - but instead a minimal political system: "Anarchy as a political system is an attempt to keep out a vast, overseeing government, and instead focus on the cooperation of smaller collectives towards an ideal society". By a minimal government I mean a government only managing things that individuals or towns can't - such as import/export ... international policy ... police,law,fire/sewerage.

PS. While I was trying to attribute that quote I came across this lovely thoughts of Fight Club.


== Human's wear pants, if they don't wear pants they stand out in a crowd. But if a monkey didn't wear pants it would be anonymous

anarchy isn't about minimal government... (5.00 / 3) (#6)
by Glacky on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 06:08:19 AM EST

...it's about minimal power strucures of any kind (ie Corporations too)

In that sense, Anarchy as a political system is neither right wing nor left wing, but rather off the 1 dimensional scale ;-)

[ Parent ]
Power structures are natural. (2.00 / 2) (#7)
by Holloway on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 06:31:23 AM EST

I think forcing the lack of power structures - or even desiring the lack of power structures - is not anarchic. I think power structures through groups of people and businesses will be naturally formed. Anarchy, so far as I understand it, is not forcing others to be a part of your group - no compulsary participation.


== Human's wear pants, if they don't wear pants they stand out in a crowd. But if a monkey didn't wear pants it would be anonymous

[ Parent ]
divisions (4.80 / 5) (#11)
by _peter on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 11:40:50 AM EST

For the record, there's a recognized split among anarchists: left-anarchists, or anarcho-socialists/anarcho-syndicalists, and right-anarchists, or anarcho-capitalists. They have very little in common, coming from the extremes of marxism and capitalism, respectively.

[ Parent ]
I begrudge them even that... (5.00 / 5) (#14)
by Simian on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 03:54:10 PM EST

There are any number of great reasons why libertarian capitalists shouldn't be referred to as anarchists.

See this link for a nice discussion of why. Of course, as an anarchist, I think the libbies should be free to refer to themselves how they wish, but the fact is that their school of thought bears no historical connection to the body of anarchist thought. Most people would agree that even 'individualist' anarchism was extremely hostile to capitalist ideas about property.

I have met some libertarians who think they believe in the abolition of the state, but they suffer from delusions about the feasibility of private capital in a free society. It's an easy mistake to make in this era of market populism.

jb




"As I would not be a slave, so would I not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy." Abraham Lincoln
[ Parent ]
historically, yes, but... (3.00 / 2) (#20)
by _peter on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 05:40:55 PM EST

You do have a historical point. However, look at the socialists' slow appropriation of the label "liberal" if you've any illusions about common usage honoring historical context.

[ Parent ]
...but that's the point. :) (5.00 / 2) (#26)
by Simian on Sat Feb 10, 2001 at 11:01:02 PM EST

What follows is an overkill reply; I'm just working some things out in my head. Duly warned...:)

It is a common maneuver, politically speaking, to cloak oneself in the aura of another ideology. There are a wide variety of reasons to do so.

I think the libertarians and company have bought into the slowly germinating ideology of market populism to the extent that they truly believe that they are rebels against the nation-state. They see an logical analogy between their (mistaken ;) opinion and the Webster's definition of anarchism.

"Common" usage is never simply the mean or median of language-use. It is the remainder of an active political and cultural struggle over the meaning of social life. Libertarian capitalists have made the disingenous move of hiding their Victorian sensibilities in the name of the Victorian's nemesis, the Anarchist.

This isn't an accident, and although it is indeed becoming a common error, due to the success of market populism in the last decade, it is a mistake that is actually quite revealing about the nature of libertarianism. You can learn a lot about people by exposing them in a position they thought concealed.

The more libertarians struggle to become anarchists, the more they reveal about their true significance, historically speaking. It isn't enough to rewrite language as you see fit, if you neglect to obliterate the history in which language is embedded.

If you dwell long enough in the history of individualist anarchism, you will eventually come to the nihilist bomb-wielders of the late nineteenth century. And if you think very hard about exactly who or what those bombs were aimed at, you'll find the image of the Victorian businessman. Study the Victorian businessman's thinking, and you'll find...libertarianism. So libertarianism is triply wrong: for pretending to be what it can never be, for pretending to be something that was, historically, the most knee-jerk reaction to what it really is, and for being so thoroughly lacking in historical understanding that it could, and still does, honestly believe this transposition to be accurate.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. :)

jb




"As I would not be a slave, so would I not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy." Abraham Lincoln
[ Parent ]
overkill, overkill, why won't you die? (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by _peter on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 01:08:37 PM EST

One thing to not forget is that, among libertarians, being an "anarchist" is not at all common. Many libertarians are strongly opposed to the idea that no government is necessary, and I'd hardly say that their opponents within the movement are winning them over.

So don't paint the entire movement with that brush you are wielding so artfully.

[ Parent ]

You're right, of course... (4.33 / 3) (#31)
by Simian on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 05:40:36 AM EST

I was indeed making mountains out of molehills.

Those Libertarians who recognize the necessity of a forceful, if small, government to support their politics are being consistent. Of course, I have little interest in that philosophy, consistent or no.

As I mentioned in my post, I liken libertarianism to reheated Victorian economics. Those libertarians who fancy themselves anarchists I have a bit more interest in, if only because they are, in my opinion, half-right as opposed to all wrong. They've perhaps grasped the suboptimal nature of coercion as an organizing principle, but they still think that their naturalistic interpretation of property has some existence independent of the nation-state.

Since I think I can make a good case as to why their assumptions about property are wrong, there is at least a snowball's chance in hell that they might see, ahem, the light. And who knows, maybe they have an argument or two about their view of property I haven't heard before.

jb




"As I would not be a slave, so would I not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy." Abraham Lincoln
[ Parent ]
um, yeah.... property (5.00 / 2) (#32)
by _peter on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 12:53:57 PM EST

Both the strong point and the only assailable point of minarchist Libertarian thought.

I assume when you speak about assumptions regarding property, you mean justifying private ownership? Or perhaps just enforcing it?

If it's the latter, I can point to at least one society with private property which doesn't rely on a nation-state to enforce ownership.

If it's the former, I believe I can support property of the sort created by human labor -- wheat grown in a tended field, for example, or an intellectual construct like a book, are direct products of man's action and therefore should be his to control. It's much harder to justify the division of land into units of real estate, and I usually fall back on the idea of "mixing".

For an example, in the American west land was recognized as being owned only after a promise was made to 'settle' it. The settler would then go forth and invest his energy in improving that previously unclaimed land. Do ignore the prior presence of Native Americans -- that's something I'll grant was patently unfair.

Anyway, after the first owner of the land invests his effort into it, it becomes impossible for anyone else to control it without that first settler's interest being ignored. Raw Material mixed with human effort becomes property.

[ Parent ]

I guess I'm just a pragmatist, but... (5.00 / 2) (#33)
by Simian on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 03:24:34 PM EST

The last sentence of your post is particularly interesting. The idea that raw material, mixed with human effort, creates property is very near the mark. Do you see, however, the havoc that notion wreaks on the capitalist mode of property? In that it expropriates nearly the totality of those who work with the material?

The problem with the libertarian approach, minarchist or anarchist, is that it is far too theoretical. The Somali paper you refer to illustrates this well. John Rawl's book <u>A Theory of Justice</u> demonstrated to me that such a thing as natural law is indeed determinable--for a particular group at a delicate moment in time--but useless as a normative measure. Laws were indeed in some sense made to be broken. And no natural conception of law can tolerate this for long without retribution.

That having been said, the discussion of the kritarchy was intriguing, and paralleled some of my own thoughts on that score. I would just add that the most important role of the judges would be to articulate the propriety of property in a given context. Private property is essential to the well-being and fullness of individual human beings. I don't think this derives from any natural law or "right", though, but is the proper consequence of taking care of something.

You assumed wrong about my assumption about the libertarian assumption about property. (whew) It isn't a question of justification (before whom? on what basis? to what end and by what means?) or enforcement (against whom? etc. etc.). You assume that private property is a singular thing, a stable, natural right that needs justification or defense. I question it's existence. Or more specifically, I question its motivation, and the nature of it's historical reality. There have been and are now any number of different, sometimes conflicting concepts of 'private property'. I try to draw attention to the one I label the "capitalist mode" of private property (although it's really more related to the nation-state as such than a particular economic relationship), which, far from being natural or assumed, is quite steeped in the blood of millions and is less than four centuries old, period (just a century or less in the so-called third world).

Property is a slippery substance. You say the first owner of a piece of land can't lose control of it without their interests being ignored. This is clearly untrue in several respects. The farmer may ask others to join him/her in tilling the soil, or in a time of drought the farmer may have been forced to sell the land to survive. What of the capitalist who must entice others to work their property in order to make a profit.I suggest that the problem with the close relationship between force and property is the inability to define "fuzzy sets" more appropriate to the context.

It makes sense to me to say that, if a farmer invited others to help him work the land, that land would be less his than it would have been without them. Additionally, to retain his 'rights' in the land, the farmer must recognize the efforts of others, taking responsibility for the property by giving some of that responsibility away. I think a better measure for property is human responsibility, not just a fixed quantity of human effort.

An analogy that sprang to mind just now is the old saw about King Solomon's wisdom. When the two mothers were squabbling over the child, the propriety of it's belonging to one or the other was unclear. But when asked to take responsibility for the child's death, the mother to whom the child belonged became clear.

*sigh*. Sorry about the longwindedness. These subjects have been preoccupying me for some time.

jb




"As I would not be a slave, so would I not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy." Abraham Lincoln
[ Parent ]
belated response (5.00 / 1) (#34)
by _peter on Thu Feb 15, 2001 at 11:54:54 AM EST

The idea that raw material, mixed with human effort, creates property is very near the mark. Do you see, however, the havoc that notion wreaks on the capitalist mode of property? In that it expropriates nearly the totality of those who work with the material?
I don't, because the raw material I was referring to was virgin raw material, unprocessed by human hands. When one works in a factory, one is working on material that someone else has already enriched and brought into the realm of property (and then sold to your factory).

When you say "private property is essential to the well-being and fullness of individual human beings", I simply see that as a re-statement of the right to property. A right which I also see as the proper consequence of taking care of something.

I'm curious what it is that you think characterizes "capitalist mode" private property. After we're on the same wavelength there, then we can talk about the blood of millions.

Property is a slippery substance. You say the first owner of a piece of land can't lose control of it without their interests being ignored. This is clearly untrue in several respects. The farmer may ask others to join him/her in tilling the soil, or in a time of drought the farmer may have been forced to sell the land to survive. What of the capitalist who must entice others to work their property in order to make a profit.I suggest that the problem with the close relationship between force and property is the inability to define "fuzzy sets" more appropriate to the context.
I suppose I should have more correctly said "the first owner of a piece of land can't unwillingly lose control of it without...". The farmer can of course invite others to help him improve the land. If he's a man prone to forethought, he'll offer to make an arrangement with his helpers beforehand. The arrangement may or may not involve them earning a stake in the property. It's up to the original owner and the newcomers to negotiate something that all can agree to. If that fails, the newcomers can walk away and the original farmer can search for different assistants. I think most farmers would recognize that the boon of the land itself is probably more valuable than a few seasons worth of help, and act to protect that interest.

If a farmer invited others to work the land without a clear understanding of what their reimbursement would be, then the default would indeed be what you propose: the land would be less his. However, it would be a bad situation; whenever one's rights and responsibilities within a group are not clearly understood ahead of time, misunderstandings and bad blood are inevitable.

[ Parent ]

Left, right, elsewhere (5.00 / 2) (#12)
by SIGFPE on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 12:18:49 PM EST

In that sense, Anarchy as a political system is neither right wing nor left wing, but rather off the 1 dimensional scale
I'm not sure this is true in practice. One reason why anarchism is hard to pin down in the political spectrum is that it includes a wide array of beliefs. But pin one anarchist down and quite often they do fit into the spectrum quite well. In the UK there have been lots of close associations between extreme left wing groups and anarchist groups. In the US many intellectual anarchists seem to have more in common with the extreme right. Libertarians are almost anarchists+private property and could be called anarcho-capitalists.

Of course the scale left-right is a crude tool for classifying political beliefs but many anarchists do fit somewhere on this scale.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

minimalism or decentralisation? (3.00 / 1) (#21)
by mikpos on Sat Feb 10, 2001 at 10:20:24 AM EST

It sounds like your talking about massively decentralised governments, not a minimal government. And your quote is describing pluralism, not anarchy.

Anyway, back onto decentralisation, smaller (municipal or even provincial/state) governments can very much handle police, law, fire and sewerage. Probably the only thing they couldn't do is international relations. If you want to take the pluralist view, then the government one level up (whatever that might be) would also have to facilitate trade between towns.

[ Parent ]

Ursula K. LeGuinn (4.00 / 2) (#9)
by Ming D. Merciless on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 08:31:15 AM EST

The Disposessed paints a great picture of what a functional society based on anarchy might be like. I highly recommend it. Also a good study in stagnant cultures.

I followed the link and it is an interesting essay. Somewhere I think there's a good discussion here. Perhaps with a longer writeup and maybe resectioning under culture?



==============================================
A little slice of 1987 on the internet. Visit KAOS -- Central NY's premiere BBS. Multi-user, telnetable, Citadel/UX.
Also check out (5.00 / 2) (#16)
by danny on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 09:11:23 PM EST

Fans of Le Guin and The Dispossessed should also check out Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time.

Does anyone know of any other anarchist novels (or novels about anarchism)?

Danny.
[900 book reviews and other stuff]
[ Parent ]

Anarchism in sf (5.00 / 1) (#28)
by 0xdeadbeef on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 02:26:06 PM EST

It figures prominately in two of Ken MacLeod's novels, The Star Fraction and The Cassini Division. Ian Bank's Culture novels are about a post-scarcity anarchistic civilisation. Greg Egan's Distress takes place on an artificial island called "Stateless".

[ Parent ]
Dayglow green on black... (2.50 / 4) (#10)
by ucblockhead on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 11:14:01 AM EST

My eyes, they burn! They burn!
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
Feeble attempts at humor (3.00 / 1) (#19)
by ucblockhead on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 11:07:00 AM EST

What I meant by that was that I find the color choices made on http://www.textfiles.com/ very hard on the eyes...
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
RE: Dayglow green on black... (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by cht on Sat Feb 10, 2001 at 12:46:34 PM EST

That's how we read t-files in the good old days. We didn't have color monitors. You wanted color, you hooked your Apple ][+ or your Commodore 64 to a color TV. Real Users had monochrome monitors. Either green phosphor or the very elite amber phosphor on a black background.

Yes, you kids have it easy these days. Why, when I was a young man, hacking the C64, nickles had pictures of bumblebees on them, and we called turkeys "walking birds", and if you had a 300 baud modem you were considered super elite. Why, we didn't even have pr0n back then. You had to get your dirty pictures from some guy in a dirty trenchcoat that hung around the schoolyard.


Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos!
[ Parent ]
Age... (4.00 / 1) (#24)
by ucblockhead on Sat Feb 10, 2001 at 04:22:50 PM EST

I'm older than you think...I had amber!

But the green wasn't quite right. The original wasn't quite so bright.

Hey, maybe you had 300 Baud...I had a 1200 baud half-duplex Applecat....L33t before there was L33t...And believe it or not, I actually came across pr0n of a sort in the shape of a strip-poker game featuring monochrome bitmaps. Lots of imagination required.

-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
The Anarchist FAQ (5.00 / 4) (#13)
by aphrael on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 02:12:40 PM EST

is here. It would have been nice to have seen a link to it in the writeup, as well.

Hey! Thanks! (5.00 / 2) (#25)
by SketchCow on Sat Feb 10, 2001 at 10:06:50 PM EST

This is Jason Scott of textfiles.com. Thanks for pointing to the article; it was a nice surprise to see people linking to it on a Saturday evening.

I've been trying over time to augment the textfiles.com collection with a series of writing about nostalgia and different aspects of the BBS culture of the 1980's. My main time has been spent going through the 24,000 files in my inbox to get them all put into the collection, after which I can write more "meta" articles about the entire history of this important sub-culture. I've had several people come to me thinking I advocated what's in the files, which wasn't really the point, and "There's Anarchy and Then There's Anarchy" came about as a result.

An excellent happenstance. And remember, if there's something that you remember or have that I don't mention or have examples of, PLEASE send it along; that's how the collection grows stronger.

- Jason Scott
TEXTFILES.COM

There's Anarchy and then there's Anarchy | 34 comments (28 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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