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Anarchy: too utopian?

Criticisms of anarchism, anarchist vs. non-anarchist debates & anything generally antagonistic towards anarchism. Guest posts welcome.

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Anarchy: too utopian?

Postby Guest » Fri Feb 26, 2010 7:09 pm

I have been reading the Anarchist FAQ on Infoshop and while much of it sounds quite appealing, I still have many lingering thoughts. The main thing that stands out to me is how close it comes to describing utopia. If one takes the FAQ at its word, an anarchist society would have none of the social problems so familiar to us: unemployment, poverty, blighted neighborhoods, and so forth. Indeed even merely disreputable activities like prostitution and gambling would evaporate in communism since it has no money.

While nothing about this strikes me as strictly impossible, something about it seems rather counterintuitive. It all sounds so pristine and pure, devoid of all the wrinkles that invariably show up in human interaction. Pretty much every society on earth has suffered from some level of poverty and injustice, no matter what values it held or how its economy worked. Looking at history, one gets the impression that such problems are simply the inevitable consequence of human nature. A society that doesn't even have "bad parts of town" or sporadic corruption sounds like no society I have ever read about. Indeed it sounds downright contrary to human nature in all its gritty imperfection. But perhaps this simply reflects a lack of imagination on my part, an inability to envision a world radically different from my own.

My second concern involves luxuries (things we don't need to survive) in a communist economy. Distributing goods we need to survive without money seems pretty straightforward. We can all agree on what constitutes sufficient food to sustain the body, enough clothes and shelter to avoid the elements, and so forth. But of course, few people would feel content with just the bare necessities. They want all sorts of things they don't strictly need to survive, like alcohol and cheese cake, large houses and comfortable furniture. Without money or markets, though, it doesn't seem obvious how to distribute such goods, except maybe "first come, first serve".

PS: What is up with these esoteric quiz questions given by the topic posting page? I know spam can be a pain but who wants to take an exam just to post.
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Re: Anarchy: too utopian?

Postby variagil » Sat Feb 27, 2010 3:37 am

And the most important; the fiances will not discuss between them, because in the anarchist society the full love and peace will be reached and will not be needed to discuss with your couple.
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Re: Anarchy: too utopian?

Postby thelastindividual » Sat Feb 27, 2010 6:46 am

Hiya :)

BTW, you can ignore variagil. He's some kind of weird mix between troll and spambot.

Guest wrote:I have been reading the Anarchist FAQ on Infoshop and while much of it sounds quite appealing, I still have many lingering thoughts. The main thing that stands out to me is how close it comes to describing utopia. If one takes the FAQ at its word, an anarchist society would have none of the social problems so familiar to us: unemployment, poverty, blighted neighborhoods, and so forth. Indeed even merely disreputable activities like prostitution and gambling would evaporate in communism since it has no money.


I don't think the AFAQ comes anywhere close to describing utopia. There's no chocolate rivers or ice cream snow and Simon Cowell is still very much alive...

What I'm trying to get at is that nothing in that FAQ is "impossible" per se (Although I disagree that prostitution and gambling would dissapear completely) we just need a different set of institutional arrangements.

I also don't think anarchism will get rid of stupid arguments with friends or embarassing yourself in front of people your attracted to or any number of problems that occurs in day to day interaction. There will also always be problems with people breaking the rules. I think it's silly and counter-productive to think of anarchism as a utopia. It does give us a good starting point for solving a lot of problems that can't be solved within the institutional framework of neo-liberal capitalism though.

While nothing about this strikes me as strictly impossible, something about it seems rather counterintuitive. It all sounds so pristine and pure, devoid of all the wrinkles that invariably show up in human interaction.


I agree but there's a problem with getting from here (human interaction is imperfect) to here:

Pretty much every society on earth has suffered from some level of poverty and injustice, no matter what values it held or how its economy worked.


They've suffered from them to widely differing degrees though depending on the institutional framwork in place.

I think it's true that a lot of problems are just faults with humans but there are also a lot of faults that are down to the system in place. I would say that the faults with the former outweigh the faults of the latter.

My second concern involves luxuries (things we don't need to survive) in a communist economy. Distributing goods we need to survive without money seems pretty straightforward. We can all agree on what constitutes sufficient food to sustain the body, enough clothes and shelter to avoid the elements, and so forth. But of course, few people would feel content with just the bare necessities. They want all sorts of things they don't strictly need to survive, like alcohol and cheese cake, large houses and comfortable furniture. Without money or markets, though, it doesn't seem obvious how to distribute such goods, except maybe "first come, first serve".


Most anarcho-communists will take themselves out of the question by saying that their system will exist post-scarcity.

I say that there will probably be a transition period called anarcho-collectivism which would look something like Marx's first stage of communism:

Critique of the Gotha Program wrote:What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges. Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society -- after the deductions have been made -- exactly what he gives to it. What he has given to it is his individual quantum of labor. For example, the social working day consists of the sum of the individual hours of work; the individual labor time of the individual producer is the part of the social working day contributed by him, his share in it. He receives a certificate from society that he has furnished such-and-such an amount of labor (after deducting his labor for the common funds); and with this certificate, he draws from the social stock of means of consumption as much as the same amount of labor cost. The same amount of labor which he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another.


Money will still exist but it will be tempered by communal ownership.

Once the productive forces develop to the right sort of capacity then we can start talking about communism:

ibd wrote:In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly -- only then then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!


Guest wrote:PS: What is up with these esoteric quiz questions given by the topic posting page? I know spam can be a pain but who wants to take an exam just to post.


If you register you don't get any of those problems. Or alternatively you can complain to the board administrators (If they're still around that is).
"Well, judging by his outlandish attire, he's some sort of free thinking anarchist." - C.M Burns

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Re: Anarchy: too utopian?

Postby thelastindividual » Sat Feb 27, 2010 6:57 am

If it helps you can try and think of anarchism as more along the lines of skepticism about human nature and the kind of things they do when put into positions of authority.

Check out mah man brainpolice:

"Well, judging by his outlandish attire, he's some sort of free thinking anarchist." - C.M Burns

"Property is theft right? Therefore theft is property. Therefore this ship is mine" - Zaphod Beeblebrox
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Re: Anarchy: too utopian?

Postby Anarchological » Sat Feb 27, 2010 6:21 pm

Variagil isn't a troll. Apparently his first language is Spanish and sometimes he butchers his English, but he's a hell of a lot more bilingual than most of us, and is a thinker.
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Re: Anarchy: too utopian?

Postby variagil » Sun Feb 28, 2010 1:15 am

Most of my english had been learned reading papers about crustaceans, my common jargon is quite narrow. Anyway in France and Germany they also demand you a good level of their languages that I dont have. My mother language is catalan, and I learned castillian in school because we didn´t had TV -that is good not to have TV-. I try to get better english reading you and with a dictionary. And I am not a thinker, I am an unemployed.
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Re: Anarchy: too utopian?

Postby Anarchological » Sun Feb 28, 2010 3:22 am

From dictionary.com:
think·er   /ˈθɪŋkər/ Show Spelled[thing-ker] Show IPA
–noun
1.a person who thinks, as in a specified way or manner: a slow thinker.
2.a person who has a well-developed faculty for thinking, as a philosopher, theorist, or scholar: the great thinkers.

I think tht you're an unemployed thinker.
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Re: Anarchy: too utopian?

Postby variagil » Sun Feb 28, 2010 3:56 am

Thanks, is hard to find someone who says that he or she likes what you write or do.
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Re: Anarchy: too utopian?

Postby Guest » Thu Mar 11, 2010 2:52 pm

I don't think the AFAQ comes anywhere close to describing utopia. There's no chocolate rivers or ice cream snow and Simon Cowell is still very much alive...


By "utopia", I meant that the ideas described in the FAQ sound rather abstract and pure, an ideal type rather than a living, breathing society. Anarchy means a condition of no hierarchy and no exploitation, rather strict criteria that leave no room for debate. Real life is messy and full of ambiguities, though. Nothing ever really fits perfectly into the categories we create.

For example, we generally consider the US a capitalist democracy. But it has plenty of uncapitalistic aspects like welfare and unemployment benefits and it falls vastly short of the democratic ideal. Only the most ardent purist would disqualify the US as a capitalist democracy on those grounds, though. Why? Because we understand that concepts like "democracy" and "capitalism" attempt to describe a messy reality that doesn't inherently belong to any category. One can see the same thing with genres of art, celestial bodies, and so forth. Witness the debates over whether Pluto is a planet or the difference between melodic deathcore and technical black metal or anything else.

By contrast, anarchism seems to rule out such messy ambiguity. Either something has hierarchy (disqualifying it as anarchy) or it lacks it (making it anarchy). But a society with not even a trace of class structure or authority seems just as impossible as an economy with absolutely no non-capitalist interactions. People are too numerous, too unpredictable, and too crafty at finding ways to deviate to make such a thing feasible. Unless you posit that people will simply stop all such things and quietly conform to the

Regarding communism: I was more interested in how thinkers like Kropotkin (living as they did before anyone ever heard of nanotech or renewable energy) would have explained its functioning. But even more to the point, I am really interested in just what people would do with so much free stuff. What becomes of shopping for clothes or hanging out in cafes when you take conventional economic factors out of the equation?
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Re: Anarchy: too utopian?

Postby K=x'uksami » Sat May 01, 2010 8:13 am

Interesting points, though one should not forget how relative "utopia" can be. A thousand years ago, life sucked unimaginably for the vast majority of people. Feudal lords ruled with an iron fist, most children died in infancy, wars and plagues happened on a regular basis, and windmills were considered cutting edge technology. I think most people back then would have found it inconceivable that one could live without feudal lords or rampant disease. They would have taken our descriptions of the present day as impossibly utopian (though of course that word didn't exist yet).

It seems entirely possible and indeed even probable that the future will bring similar changes. Our descendants may well look back on McDonalds with the same horror we have for Mediæval Catholicism. In my experience, people often bring out the "utopia" charge for ideas they can't refute but which strike them as impossible nonetheless. It seems downright lacking in imagination, though, to think that we have reached our highest potential with liberal capitalism and that we can do no better. Given the looming ecological crisis the current system has precipitated, we have no choice but to do better if we want a worthwhile future.

I do see your points on the abstraction of the FAQ and have sometimes wondered that myself. I think that has more to do with the limitations of the format than anything about anarchism as such, though. You don't see living, breathing systems in theoretical texts; you see them practiced in real life. Most books on the theoretical basis for capitalism don't describe the ways in which capitalism goes awry or draw attention to corporate scandals.

Oh, and happy May Day.
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Re: Anarchy: too utopian?

Postby Guest » Thu Jul 08, 2010 2:21 pm

K=x'uksami wrote:Interesting points, though one should not forget how relative "utopia" can be. A thousand years ago, life sucked unimaginably for the vast majority of people. Feudal lords ruled with an iron fist, most children died in infancy, wars and plagues happened on a regular basis, and windmills were considered cutting edge technology. I think most people back then would have found it inconceivable that one could live without feudal lords or rampant disease. They would have taken our descriptions of the present day as impossibly utopian (though of course that word didn't exist yet).


I don't anyone disputes that societies can change for the better. But societies are human creations with all the warts and flaws that implies. Every social system, however logical, still gums up when confronted by human weakness. Bureaucracies were once considered a great improvement over arbitrary monarchist rule and tradition. But then they went on to create their own irrational effects.

Also, I'd question how far we've really come in abolishing despotism and plagues. Sure, things look pretty good in Western countries, but many people in the world still struggle with violence and disease on a daily basis. I think someone living in an Asian sweatshop would say "speak for yourself" in response to how much the world has improved.

My bigger point, though, is that the anarchist vision seems remarkably lacking in grittiness or non-conformity. It sounds like reducing the immense complexity of contemporary life to one tightly integrated economic system. But what about people who prefer to trade their products on the market or simply don't feel like voting in communal assemblies?
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Re: Anarchy: too utopian?

Postby mariza » Sat Oct 24, 2015 9:45 pm

thank you so much



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Re: Anarchy: too utopian?

Postby monter » Mon Oct 26, 2015 9:25 pm

this very nice
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Re: Anarchy: too utopian?

Postby missyou » Mon Oct 26, 2015 9:32 pm

good kidding
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Re: Anarchy: too utopian?

Postby supattra » Mon Oct 26, 2015 9:39 pm

i like post
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