Anarchism (Draft 2)
By Torrance Hodgson
Anarchism is not just a political theory. Nor is it an economic or social theory. Anarchism denies the whole idea that life can be separated into neat little spheres; it denies the whole professionalization of our lives where different parts are controlled by different people. Anarchism is what I call a life-theory. It's about us, every part of each of us, and about seeking happiness.
Anarchy comes from Greek and literally means 'no authority' or 'no rulers'. It is an ideal that strives to create a condition of freedom. This freedom is not just the freedom of the individual, that is, the freedom of the tyrant or dictator, but a condition of freedom for all humanity. It's about an environment where each and every one of us is free to take control of our own lives and make of them as we will. It's about not being subject to arbitrary rulers, laws, competition, religion, and so on unless we want to be. It's about setting the groundwork for the flourishing of humans both individually and collectively.
The world we live in now is not in some way inevitable, it's not "natural" and it's certainly not the best we can hope for. Throughout history humans have organized themselves in thousands of different ways, involving countless different relationships between each other, with the earth and everything else around them. Anarchism takes advantage of this fact. By creating an environment of freedom it allows all sorts of unique and creative relationships to develop to meet a whole variety of goals that are currently beyond our control. In effect, anarchy provides an environment for people to experiment with actually living in an attempt to fashion for themselves the highest quality of life they can obtain. It allows the entire creative energy of all of humanity to relearn and perfect the art of living. Anarchism goes beyond the naïve idea that plurality can be achieved within a single system and instead provides for a plurality of systems should individuals even want systems!
But we are a long way from even approximating the ideal that anarchy is. Anarchism throws harsh critiques at both the state and capitalism which have a very close relationship with each other. The state is an institution that rules essentially by the use or threat of force. It controls an arbitrary area of land and all those that reside within that territory. The state plays an important role in maintaining and enforcing hierarchy in every area of life. This creates divisions in society, conflicts of interests, allows for and practically requires usury and creates an environment of power struggle besides having detrimental and anti-social effects on the mental states of individuals within a hierarchy. Through it's maintenance of hierarchy a state creates, maintains and accentuates the very supposed reason for its existence - to maintain "law and order" as if they somehow go hand in hand. It does this at a tremendous cost to the freedom of all those it rules and it has a very negative effect on human happiness. On top of this, it puts an end to any creation or experimentation of better ways of living by standardizing so much of life.
Capitalism exists thanks to the state. Capitalism isn't simply the market. Capitalism is a system of exploitation and usury that is maintained under the guise of property "rights". Capitalism is a system where a few at the top who own capital, such as physical property, intellectual property, brands, companies and so on, use those below them, the so-called 'workers', to generate wealth which is taken from them and given to those at the top of the hierarchy. In effect, the vast majority of any population living in capitalism have the fruits of their labour stolen from them while a few at the top receive a disproportionately large amount of wealth in relation to their own output. The truth of the old saying "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer" can be seen to have a solid factual backing under capitalism and the concept of 'free trade' that is so espoused today can be seen to be anything but free. The entire system of capitalism relies on the enforcement of property. Anarchism condemns the concept of property, which really is an entirely unjustifiable concept, and therefore also is strongly against capitalism.
In this respect, anarchism is a type of socialism, also known as libertarian socialism. Socialism calls for property to be made common to all, which is much the same as the elimination of property altogether. The socialism we speak of has nothing to do with the "socialism" of Russia, China and so on. All those so-called "socialist" countries ever really did was replace those at the top of the capitalist hierarchy with a single entity - the state - and in doing so created a monopoly of the grandest kind. The socialism that anarchism advocates, libertarian socialism, simply means the elimination of property and its enforcement but does not in itself advocate any particular form of economic organisation, whether that be a market or some cooperative from of organisation. Such a position is consistent with anarchism in that it provides an environment for people to create and control all aspects of their own lives.
Trapped within this world of authority it can be hard for many people to envision a different society - one where people really are free, one where people don't live in submission to others. Anarchists have traditionally restrained from describing what anarchy would be like, as undoubtedly a whole host of societies, all organised in unique ways, will coexist. But in most visions there run themes. One of these is the idea of decentralization. It's expected that most societies would be highly decentralized so to allow maximum fluidity of ideas and maximum input into decision-making processes that control each and every one of us. Another core idea is that of the community. In the immediate surrounding area of any locale exists a group of people whose effects can have major impacts on us. Hence the community is a group of people who work together to control their surrounding area and coordinate various efforts. In many ideas, it is the community that is the pivotal building block of a society. Another key idea is networking or federating. While at it's most basic level an anarchist society may be highly decentralized, people need to work with wider and wider groups of people to achieve various ends and federating or networking can achieve this. Finally, cooperation is a very important idea that runs throughout anarchy. As well as many of the inefficiencies of competition and its downside of continual growth, competition creates conflicts of interests and can make a society rather unstable. Most anarchists realize cooperation is the better path to take especially considering how effective it is at developing trust and cohesiveness among members of a society. Decentralization, community, federating or networking and cooperation - four very important themes throughout anarchism and will likely play an important part in any anarchist society.
Anarchism recognises that the world we live in is only one of many possible worlds. Anarchy is a condition of freedom for all humanity in an effort to create an environment where any number of those possible worlds is realisable and that individuals can live to their full potential whilst being in full control of their own lives. Anarchism sees the state and capitalism as being the leading obstacles of ever achieving anarchy and it sees their removal as being among some of the most pressing issues for humanity today. Anarchism is about realising that our lives really are in our own hands for "nothing could be more tragic, and more ridiculous, than to live out a whole life in reach of heaven without ever stretching out your arms".