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The A B C's of Anarchy

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Mikhail Bakunin: Our Beloved Anarchist Ancestor
Mikhail Bakunin: Our Beloved Anarchist Ancestor
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narchy (Anarchos). An: no; Archos: ruler.

Anarchy, as philosophy and praxis, has but two foundational principles:

1. No hierarchy or central authority in the social order.

2. The sanctity of the individual human being.

This will immediately raise for many the question: What about the group? What about community?

This question arises only because one has not adequately probed the real implications of the two stated principles. So let's do that.

Hierarchy necessarily means control and dominance. The principle of no hierarchy means that no individual or group can exert control or dominance over any other individual or group. The principle of the sanctity of the individual does not apply to any one individual, but to all individuals. So the principle of the sanctity of the individual equals no hierarchy and this in turn equals a relationship of equal individuals, which is the essence of real community. Real community is not a matter of everyone attempting to be the same, but rather of attempting to find the real balance points between individuals and the realization that all individuality is a relational reality. Individuals exist only in relation to each other. Without the other individual there is no individual and without the individual there is no community. Community is the relationship between individuals. So the two stated principles of anarchy completely cover the question of community. If the two principles of anarchy are steadfastly followed then real community is necessarily created.

If one looks at the history of anarchist philosophy and praxis one discovers several different so-called 'schools' of anarchy: Collectivist anarchy, individualist anarchy, libertarian anarchy, etc. But all of these 'schools' arose only because the anarchists themselves did not adequately probe the implications of the two principles I stated. This eventual probing finally resulted in synthesis anarchy and anarchy without adjectives. This probing process just amounted to a realization of the anarchy's two foundational principles as I have stated them. There are no valid schools of anarchy. There is just anarchy. And I need to state here emphatically that what is called anarcho-capitalism is a complete and unacceptable fraud. Capitalism is necessarily hierarchical and allows no equality among individuals. And this reveals a very important point. Anarcho-capitalism claims justification for its anarchism status because it rejects 'government'. But the government it rejects is only a particular form of hierarchical control. Anarcho-capitalism rejects that form but retains innate hierarchical control within its own system. Anarcho-capitalsim is fraudulent.

I will begin this extended definition of anarchy with a rudimentary working definition of the individual human being and proceed from there to the question of the relations between individual human beings.

We must keep in mind that at this point in the presentation I am not referring to any sort of revolutionary strategic application of anarchist philosophy in revolt against the nation-state of the sort which led to the emergence of the different 'schools' of anarchy. I will get to the subject of strategic application.

The anarchist rejection of social hierarchy is necessarily the rejection of the dominance of any individual over another individual but is also the retention of the rights of individual difference. Equality of value of individuals does not mean that all individuals are the same and therefore have no space of privacy, but rather that the protected differences of individuals is itself a rejection of dominance and violation. True individual freedom means that all individuals are free as individuals and therefore dominance/hierarchy is rejected. This immediately raises the question of how free individuals relate to each other. But to answer this question we must have a working definition of the individual human being.

We must be very careful in how we define the individual human being because everything else follows from this. And this consideration reveals immediately to us how controversial this subject of the definition of the individual human being still is. How we define the individual human being touches on how we define and value practically everything else. It is difficult to be conscious of how many unexamined assumptions are at work in the ordinary effective definition of the individual human being in our society. General context categories such as science or religion can give radically different definitions of the individual human being. Some people would say that the ambiguity resulting from this variance ultimately doesn't really matter because we basically know what an individual human being is. But do we?

Our society, for example, generally accepts the idea that the public is a real thing; that is, that the idea itself is valid. But this idea, working on a probability basis, presents human beings as statistical units with no distinctive features besides abstract numerical ones. Precious friend or relative, Jane, or John, becomes a functional faceless digit in the public. 'The average voter' is the type of categorization or characterization that is generally accepted without much hesitation though it reduces Jane or John to a digit that has no meaning or value except a statistical one. People say: But of course we know what Jane and John really are, implying that Jane and John have an innate value and meaning as individual human beings. But if we really know this then why do we allow Jane and John to ever be reduced to statistics in our consciousness? Someone will say that this is harmless and is merely the result of a certain type of thinking in its attempt to see and measure things 'objectively' for the benefit of our overall store of knowledge. And this someone does not see or perhaps care that this type of thinking facilitates the effort of politics in general to reduce people to controllable and manipulable digits. Does a person who tolerates such thinking really know and respect what an individual human is? Or is this merely hollow talk with a hidden power goal?

The Public is a concept that facilitates tyranny. Have you ever reflected on the fact that the public never includes the upper levels of a hierarchical society? Have you reflected on the fact that all hierarchical societies reduce most of its members to a non-individual fodder pulp in the societies' collective picture of reality? The pulp-people (the statistical people in modern society) always look up the hierarchical structure to find any identity because hierarchical society always tells them that they have no innate identity. They have only vicarious identities. In other words, they are not individual human beings. This fact, which is the foundation of tyranny, is also the essence of the celebrity-obsession in our society. The point here is that the reality of the individual lies in the immediacy of consciousness in any person. If contact with that immediacy is lost in theory or practice then the definition of the individual becomes invalid and unreal.

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