portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article portland metro

political theory

Why Anarchism FAILS: Towards a Moderate Approach in Activism (special to pdximc)

Why Anarchism FAILS: Towards a Moderate Approach in Activism (special to pdximc)
Why Anarchism FAILS: Towards a Moderate Approach in Activism (special to pdximc)
Why Anarchism FAILS: Towards a Moderate Approach in Activism (special to pdximc)
Why Anarchism Fails:
Towards a Moderate Approach in Activism
by Anonymous
Special to Portland IMC

Does a molecule oppress an atom? Is the molecule an oppressive state in the eyes of the atom? "Who cares?" you may be thinking, "either way there's children starving and *people* being oppressed out there, and idle philosophical speculation does nothing to put food in their mouths or bring my liberation from the police-terror state." And so you go about putting into practice your ideals of compassion and equality, all the while grumbling why everyone else just "doesn't get it" about the need for universal anarchism, for "the revolution" to occur.

Your movement fails because it must fail. State is not merely *inevitable* for life, it is *essential* for life.

Let's define a few things. One definition of "anarchy" reads, "the absence or denial of any authority or established order".

"Entropy", on the other hand, is a word with no simple meaning; it means disorder, randomness, chaos, but it also means complexity. A lot brings death, but a little creates life. Thanks to the second law of thermodynamics, we know that the amount of entropy in the universe must always increase relative to its original place (the big bang) until its final "death", a state of zero entropy, zero change, total equality (see diagram top, four stages).

Due to this constant change, we have various levels of increasing complexity enfolded in quarks, atoms, molecules, cells, organisms, and intelligence and beyond. Each level up represents a *state* of greater entropy, greater complexity, greater rarity.

Thus, the universe itself unfolds into a hierarchy (see diagram bottom, pyramid). Does the chart look familiar? Yes, a pyramid -- a hierarchy of states.

Forcing ideas of anarchism into every aspect of life is unnatural because life itself does not unfold anarchically -- if it did, there would be zero entropy, and none of us would be here.

In fact, you actually have hierarchy to thank for being here, on every level imaginable. Within any system there must be variation; social, economic, molecular. For example, pronounced variation economically is undesirable, I would agree, but it does not follow that there should be *no* economic variation. Variation is the essence of life and the essence of hierarchy.

If you saw all colors as the same color, all sounds as equal sounds, all ideas as equal ideas, you wouldn't be able to see, hear, or think. Every time you make a decision you create a hierarchy -- you chose to do one thing *over* another. That does not mean the unused option was "repressed"!

Does it make sense to speak of anarchism in a purely political and social context, with ideals that all people in the same relative vertical area are created relatively equal? Perhaps. However, one should be careful to define one's beliefs more explicitly, by self-describing as a *political* anarchist as opposed to just anarchist in a more general context. Even then, there are no hard-and-fast lines between where hierarchy begins and anarchy ends on the continuum (see diagram top, four stages gradation); each is in every step along the way, if marked only by its absence. Thus, with no clear boundaries, anarchist individuals and groups all have to draw their own lines drawn where they consider the border between hierarchy and anarchy, and that often is drawn in conflicting places.

The anarchist movement fails because it does not recognize hierarchy as a natural and beneficial process to be utilized, transcended and included, and not just destroyed -- evolution, not revolution. It fails because if it does recognize hierarchy, it fails to place the boundaries between hierarchy and anarchy in the appropriate places -- toward a more central, balanced equilibrium. It fails because there can be no absolute anarchism.

If you believe that anarchism is better than hierarchy, *above* hierarchy, that itself is a hierarchy, for you are placing the value of anarchy on a higher level than the value of hierarchy -- it's a self-contradiction. If you smash enough states, you'll find there's nothing left to do the smashing.

Not all things are created equal, or there would be nothing -- only static, only silence, and no one to hear it. The music and the listener co-arise, co-exist; though both are relatively within hierarchical structures, states, both are ultimately absolutely free.

The call to anarchism is a deep and intuitive feeling. When we imagine an future anarchist utopia, it somehow feels like home. We might even feel a little spiritual about it, imagining it as a sort of nirvana. This is natural. We were born from anarchism and will return to anarchism (see diagram top, four stages), but in the meantime, we live within certain hierarchical structures, certain states, and it is up to us where to set the limits and definitions of those states, but not smash them altogether, because there is ultimately nothing to smash, because there is only chains, endless as the digits to pi.

And in the endless digits of pi there is no final peace.

A student once went to a Zen master and asked for liberation.
The master replied, "Show me your chains and I will break them."
The student had nothing to show, and smiled.

Wanting to break the chain is itself the chain, a chain from which there is no escape -- this is why anarchism fails.

A more moderate approach to activism, recognizing and working within some level of hierarchy instead of rejecting hierarchy outright on principle, will yield stable, beneficial, long-term results.

A guitar string which is too loose will produce no music, this is true; but neither will a string which is too tight. Open yourself to the possibilites of hierarchy and you'll be amazed at the beautiful music you can make.

Thanksgiving turkey 28.Nov.2002 22:17

Not an anarchist

This argument fails on two levels.

First, mechanically using arguments from physics or nature to apply to social organization doesn't work. Of course humans live within nature and must answer to the laws of physics. But that doesn't mean that the whole business about entropy has any meaning here. Entropy is a process within the universe that is expected to take eons. Are you arguing that human civilization, which is mere tens of thousands of years old, is subject to these forces?

Second, you confuse organization with hierarchy. Many anarchist theorists accept and even argue for organization. But, organizing work and society itself doesn't mean that a structure above the work process (let's call them the 'capitalists') or above the society (the 'state') is necessary. Any kid in a school yard can show you how to organize a a game or a clean-up or a homework project without having a boss. Introduce the element of profit or control of power and the state and capitalists become necessary.

Our job is to eliminate the bosses. At every level.

Have the courtesy to read some anarchist theory and look to the examples from history that they cite before giving us a real turkey of an argument.

By the way, I am neither an anarchist nor a vegan. But I hate sloppy theorizing, whether from anonymous sources or people who have enough wit to post a name.

Anarchy does not mean chaos 28.Nov.2002 22:31

greenman peacefulgreenman@attbi.com

Thank you for writing your interesting article. It does, however, contain a common, mistaken view of Anarchism being a complete free-for-all, chaotic mess. This isn't the case. Anarchy seeks to realize that natural, balanced state of existence that is what would result without artificial and unhealthy hierarchies which were created out of a lack of understanding of the interconnectness of individuals with the Universe.

Surely you have seen the circle with the 'A' in it as a symbol for anarchy? This stands for Order from Anarchy, something described by Proudhon. Anarchy is not against order, authority, or community. Anarchy is against oppression (hierarchy through violence), authoritarianism, and the State as an artificial uber-Human Being (deciding for, acting for, and controlling everyone in it).

What you've described as Anarchism is actually Nihilism. Anarchism is, I believe, what human beings tend towards naturally and I think the oppression and suffering caused by state, capitalism, and other institutions is unhealthy and unnatural to human beings. I realize that most people have been conditioned to think of the state, capitalism, etc as being the Natural way of human beings, but, I challenge this assumption.

I would recommend the works of Kropotkin to see the relation of nature and anarchy and Chomsky to recognize why we might have false fears about anarchy. I am glad you are thinking about these things and I hope that you will dig a bit deeper to consider the heart of anarchy rather than nihilism. Peace.

About hierarchy, organization, and entropy 28.Nov.2002 22:51


I have two more comments, actually. Firstly, when we look at a vertically-pointing pyramid like that we might apply our own prejudices that it would imply a hierarchal relationship, specifically with some kind of valuation regarding the top as controlling the bottom. This is a direct projection of what we have been conditioned to think about macroscopic and microscopic phenomena and has nothing to do with Nature!

The second point is regarding the myth of inevitable eventual entropic chaos. This is a quasi-scientific idea that is refuted by the frequent self-emergent organization in Nature. In fact, modern evolutionary biology suggests that biological organizational complexification originated out of the 'random' interplay of simpler parts -- the primordial soup. Similarly, stars (and planets) are formed out of 'simpler' gas and dust.

The complexions of Nature are much more profound than we usually think. Anarchy can be a very deep concept.

[begin again] 30.Nov.2002 18:55

ant-archists..get it?

"State is not merely *inevitable* for life, it is *essential* for life."

do you mean "the state", or the state of being? to be something means your state is a "solid"--constant--one, wholly (able to be) defined.

but you will probably admit that Life is about "change", inevitable change because change is inevitable, am i assuming correctly?

changing state...static state--you seem to be suggesting that "anarchy" is a development of the latter variety of state, that it is static (absolutely stable) and unchanging.

what if anarchy is about a state which is "absolutely and dynamically stable" and is incorporative of a "continuum" of "states"? (in theory, it should be very difficult--neigh, impossible?--to prove such a state is 'real' though it can exist without being proven irrespective of).

we could then "force" this idea of anarchy into the realm of the natural (given that everything can be considered a part of the Natural Order because " every aspect of life" can be seen as part of the Natural Order..at least i say so by my defining. 'Life' itself can maintain the "highest order" and of course it'd be difficult to ascertain what the position of such an order entails unless we become everything that Life entails all at once. how would it *feel*, i could only guess--blah blah) by saying that life "is unfolded" rather than saying, as the article's author put it, "life itself does not unfold (anarchically)". this would necessarily be admitting that everything is occurrent, that there's nothing new under the sun which of course could possibly be seen as relating to your opinion regarding the fallacy of workable anarchism--of course, again, we can admit--given that everything exists--that we don't truly know 'everything' (maybe we effectively know nothing) and so we can't know what the "order of society" (or even sub/atomic particles is, or even can possibly: we don't know and guessing would border on absolute and utter foolishness given the scope of "guessability") is; therefore, i should be free to whatever extent to flex my wings and see if i can't, say, bring down the government, or live on a limited diet (though the govt tells me i need 2000+ 'calories' a day to maintain my body), or whatever.

this social system we are in is necessarily wide open because, it's not the collection of individuals that is important, it's the individual that is the key to the whole thing. i am important, but mostly anarchism is about achieving a dynamic understanding of ones "importance" and how to better balance the one against all/any other one and The One of Life. for example--we aren't always in a direct social environment, say, in the company of 2 or more people--we are more often than not, alone and by ourselves (Orwell and other futureshock scifi writers speak of how the controllers rely on "social cohesion" in order to control the society at large, and subsequently, the individual). [the argument deepens here, so i'll try not to ramble]

take an ant colony; even when the ants are scouting by themselves, it appears that they seem to take to the idea that the colony is all important and they are putting in work for the better of the colony. an ant thinks "screw this crap, i can do better by myself"; is it a matter of "intelligence" to understand that if it goes against the wishes of the colony it is a member of, it's not likely to make it (unless it gets in with another crew)? maybe the instinct to "shut up and work" is still strongly ingrained in them...

...we humans seem to be able to go it alone, or help the "colony" in whatever way think will benefit it. obviously there are many schools of thinking that can come into play with the way one conducts themselves with regards to the society--even if they only think about themselves, somewhere lurking out there is the rest of them that look like you. how does one deal with them? on the terms of those who control such a mass, or on terms which one sees for themselves as being copacetic ones, maybe even "good" and beneficial ones overall?

feel free anyone to refute any of this crud i typed or ask for clarification.

ants in general

ants born for work? yuck...
ants as slavers (free the aphids!)