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could anarchism work?
Posted: 05 September 2007 12:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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TA, frankly, to have a opinion about what is innate and what depends on the way someone is raised is far beyong my skill and knowledge. Maybe you were right, and this 15% (or the percentage who choosed not to know about dictatorship crimes, and even justified them) is the way it is because the environment. But, anyway, it is dangerous to be so weak to the environment… I imagine we (as a specie) could be caring ... until the first real trouble. To resume, I don’t have the confidence in human beings needed to accept a system like this grin. This is not a moral statement, I think we have a lot of bias in our form of understanding (the group-agreement bias, as Brennen notes, is a big one) and, at least in our current situtation, taking into account how we are and how we were raised (hard to tell where every form of our temperment was build), we need a lot of education and training to get rid of this bias, and still is very hard to manage them.

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Posted: 05 September 2007 12:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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managed anarchism, eh?  Novel concept.  Who gets to choose who manages and what happens if we disagree with the manager/management team?

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Posted: 05 September 2007 03:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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From Trutheaddict:

with all due respect, as someone who considers himself an anarchist I can tell by that statement that you are not really that familiar with it by any means.

I’m quite familiar with the concept and definition of anarchy.  I believe it’s you who has narrowed the definition to “Golden Rule Anarchy”.  Straight anarchy only refers to a society without any government.  It has nothing to do with what ethical behavior is required.

As I see it, as soon as you start imposing “the golden rule” and “management” you have the structure of government, even if you prefer to call it something else.

Occam

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Posted: 05 September 2007 04:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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occam,

I’m sorry but I beg to differ…

It has nothing to do with what ethical behavior is required.

It’s that kind of statement that tells me you dont know what youre talking about. Ethical behavior is at the center of Anarchism.

Kropotkin’s Anarchist Morality sums it up as the Golden Rule as well as many other Anarchists like Michael Bakunin.

Actually, if you read the classics - Bakunin, Kropotkin, Malatesta, Berkman, etc - they frequently talk about the misunderstandings of what anarchism is and isnt. The concept of disorder, chaos, no social structure, violence, etc is not what Anarchism, especially not any brand I have been mentioning, is or is about.

Errico Malatesta in Anarchy: “the word ‘anarchy’ was used universally in the sense of disorder and confusion, and it is still adopted in that sense by the ignorant and by adversaries interested in distorting the truth.”

Peter Kropotkin on “Anarchism” in Encyclopedia Britanica of 1910: “the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government - harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being.”

Alexander Berkman in the ABCs of Anarchism: “Therefore I must tell you, first of all, what Anarchism is not. It is not bombs, disorder, or chaos. It is not robbery and murder. It is not a war of each against all. It is not a return to barbarism or to the wild state of man. Anarchism is the very opposite of all that.”

that’s just a hint of what the most popular anarchists have said about what it is and what it isnt.

Your last sentence implies that I or someone would be “imposing” anything and that I have been arguing to dismantle all structure of government, which has been the farthest thing from the case. I have argued in favor of cooperatives and structuring government, the economy, school, etc from the bottom up.

——-

Narwhol,

“Who gets to choose who manages and what happens if we disagree with the manager/management team?” The workers, the community, those who are affected by the institution. They replace him/her/them. In a democracy the citizens elect their leaders and in many places they can vote on a referendum to remove him or her from power.

Again, youre wrongly assuming that anarchism does not involve management. It does, but the management does not come from unelected representatives above. Management is done cooperatively - like AK Press does.

——-

Barto,

And maybe im wrong. I definitely leave open the possibility, but comparing the ideals of predatory capitalism and libertarian socialism - or raising a child in a violent or nurturing enviornment - comes off as a no-brainer to me. Again, maybe im wrong.

But why would the very concept of Democracy be okay for society and politics but not economics? If its good for citizens to have a role in managing their political affairs through some democratic republic then why would it be bad for the economy to be democratized? Thats all Anarchism really comes down to: democratizing society. A well-informed and particaptory democracy is vital for a healthy society, at least politically speaking. There has never been a sound reason why the same shouldnt be said for economics.

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Posted: 05 September 2007 06:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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How does “democritizing the economy” differ from “free markets?” I know from past posts that you’re not a paleolibertarian economically, yet I sometimes find your vision of anarchy hard to distinguish from laissez faire economics except that you see natural cooperation as the guiding force and likely result of freeing people from authority, whereas right-wing libertarians/randians see competition as the guiding principle leading to optimal effeciency. It sounds like you’re essentially talking about the socialist ideal of workers owning the means of production, in which case how do we get there without nationalisation of industries, which hasn’t proven especially effective and still involves a coercive state? I realize you don’t have, and I don’t expect you to have, exact answers for all eventualities, but I guess I’m still hearing a great deal of vague idealism, and while I support the ideals I can’t see how to get there beyond pushing for what I already support, which is a traditionally “liberal” welfare state model.

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Posted: 05 September 2007 11:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Brennen, although I am not able to understand how this anarchist society would work, I guess the diference between libertarian socialism and libertarian and objetivism is that the later proposse the rule ‘a share, a vote’, in opposition to the socialist ‘a man, a vote’.

Although I wouldn’t say that the soviet union was a case of worker owned production means ( I don’t know if it was the case you have in mind, Brennen) , I think that the cases I saw of this kind of organization were, at best, just modestly sucessfull (the ‘recoveries companies’ were very common here during the 2001 crisis). They were working very well, but in a certain point, they needed high trained support in areas where a strong specialization is needed (financial, logistic, computer aided management). At this point, they faced the trouble that (with a partially recovered economy) the specialist prefered the more safe and sometimes better paid tradicional organization, and the persons qualified to assume in this position asked higher salaries. This fact sometimes crashed against their plain organization, where every dollar (or peso) earned were equally shared between all workers.

So, while I wouldn’t say that the cooperative organization where every worker is involved is a complete nosense, I recognize a trouble derived of our cultural background: a lot of us expect to be paid according to our knowledge and specialization.

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Posted: 05 September 2007 11:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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Barto,
As far as applied socialism, I wouldn’t hold the USSR up as a great example, since it got so caught up in totalitarianism, cult of personality, ruling elites, etc. I wonder if the model of worker-owned companies might be a better one. Here in the US, as well, there have been companies going into failure that were bought by the workers. Some did well, others failed, but I’m not sure it’s a fair test since they were failing already when the workers took over. I think the workforce is more motivated to be commited and creative in their work if they have some kind of ownership stake in a company, but you’re right that people with special expertise are needed and they have to be hired. Management is also required, and there will always be some tendency for personal greed, personality politics, and all the usual human social ills to interfere with the purity of a “bottom-up” system, as TA likes to call it. I guess my point was just that I’m not sure such a form of organization is necessarily going to be more just than the shareholder/management/worker corporate setup that dominates now. I can see why it might be, theoretically, but I’m suspicious about the practical chances for it working.

As for the difference you’re suggesting between libertarian socialism and objectivist libertarianism, I’m not sure I see the distinction you’re trying to make. Is the former somehow more cogniscent of the human value of the individual, is that what you’re suggesting? If so, how?

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Posted: 06 September 2007 11:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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mckenzievmd - 05 September 2007 06:08 PM

How does “democritizing the economy” differ from “free markets?”

It doesnt depending on what context you refer to the two. Have you ever read Adam Smith? One of the things Noam Chomsky hit the nail on the head in his “Government in the Future” speech was that Classical Liberalism and Libertarian Socialism are much more related than modern Capitalism is to Classical Liberalism. Peter Kropotkin also pointed this out though he made a point that Wealth of Nations should have been Wealth of People.

I guess where the two are different in modern terms is free market is more about institutions - the corporation, which is not managed democratically in any way - and not about people, the workers. When I talk about democratizing the economy I am talking directly about changing how the economy is currently managed.

Brennen, I think the comments that there always be cheaters, etc is moot to say the say least. Because, what does the existing structures do to resolve it? Absolutely nothing. I would even say that it perpetuates it. the prevailing economic structures breeds cheating, greed more than I could possibly imagine Anarchism/Libertarian Socialism doing so.

It sounds like you’re essentially talking about the socialist ideal of workers owning the means of production, in which case how do we get there without nationalisation of industries, which hasn’t proven especially effective and still involves a coercive state?

You do it by not going through the state. The examples you refer to that “involves a coercive state” is precisely what the Anarchists warned of. What Kropotkin called Authoritarian Communism and what Michael Bakunin called the “Red Bureaucracy.” Maybe it’s necessary to have a historical understanding of the modern state and how it came about. It was basically an authoritarian take-over or perversion of ideas and movements quote similar to Anarchism.

I’m sorry you dont like the vagueness. But, really, how can you honestly expect some finely detailed set of instructions? Thats not how any progressive movement has succeeded. Slavery or womens rights were not achieved by some group having a manual that says, first step is to do this and that. What you are expecting is impossible to give. All we can do is be clear on our ideals, our goals and desire to work together to achieve that. Honestly, if we want to avoid the corruption that has plagued us that is all we can do. We cant submit the movements to an institution or manual otherwise we will witness nothing but a hostile takeover from greedy, power-hungry folks. Yes, of course we would still have greed, selfishness and thirst for power, but how can you contain that with institutions of power? You cant. The only way to do that is to dissolve those institutions and replace them with free associations that are reduced to the most basic element: be clear on our ideals, our goals and desire to work together to achieve that.

I think you guys are too jaded about humanity and I think it is due in large to the depravities the modern structure of society has nurtured. You dont see what life can be, but what it currently is, and where you would like to see a new world you ask for a blueprint that cant be given and you dont like that there is not a manual to refer to. To a degree I can understand. There is discomfort in not having some kind of security blanket to rely on. Uncertainty is frightening. Trust me, I get it.

In my state, Texas, the state murders people left and right. Some indigent minority shoots a gas station clerk in the face and gets injected with a butt load of toxins for it. We dont seem to ask why middle class and rich folks arent robbing gas stations and shooting the clerks in the face. We dont seem to stop and think that addressing the systemic factors of society that breeds poverty and exploitation helps foster the enviornments for those at the bottom rings of society to resort to drugs, violence, prostitution and crime.

I like to use quotes because these men articualte my thoughts in a way that really inspire me. Im sure you can see how they inspire me.

First, is from Peter Kropotkin:

When we ask for the abolition of the State and its organs we are always told that we dream of a society composed of men better than they are in reality. But no; a thousand times, no. All we ask is that men should not be made worse than they are, by such institutions!

....

It is often said that Anarchists live in a world of dreams to come, and do not see the things which happen today. We do see them only too well, and in their true colors, and that is what makes us carry the hatchet into the forest of prejudice that besets us.

Far from living in a world of visions and imagining men better than they are, we see them as they are; and that is why we affirm that the best of men is made essentially bad by the exercise of authority, and that the theory of the “balancing of powers” and “control of authorities” is a hypocritical formula, invented by those who have seized power, to make the “sovereign people,” whom they despise, believe that the people themselves are governing. It is because we know men that we say to those who imagine that men would devour one another without those governors: “You reason like the king, who, being sent across the frontier, called out, ‘What will become of my poor subjects without me?’”

Ah, if men were those superior beings that the utopians of authority like to speak to us of, if we could close our eyes to reality, and live, like them, in a world of dreams and illusions as to the superiority of those who think themselves called to power, perhaps we also should do like them; perhaps we also should believe in the virtues of those who govern.

With virtuous masters, what dangers could slavery offer? Do you remember the Slave-owner of whom we heard so often, hardly thirty years ago? Was he not supposed to take paternal care of his slaves? “He alone,” we were told, “could hinder these lazy, indolent, improvident children dying of hunger. How could he crush his slaves through hard labor, or mutilate them by blows, when his own interest lay in feeding them well, in taking care of them as much as of his own children! And then, did not ‘the law’ see to it that the least swerving of a slave-owner from the path of duty was punished?” How many times have we not been told so! But the reality was such that, having returned from a voyage to Brazil, Darwin was haunted all his life by the cries of agony of mutilated slaves, by the sobs of moaning women whose fingers were crushed in thumbserews!

If the gentlemen in power were really so intelligent and so devoted to the public cause, as panegyrists of authority love to represent, what a pretty government and paternal utopia we should be able to construct! The employer would never be the tyrant of the worker; he would be the father! The factory would be a palace of delight, and never would masses of workers be doomed to physical deterioration.

I dont see man as some brutish creature who needs force to control him, but I see the concept of that as a propaganda tool used to justify that control. And I think Kropotkin made a great point when he noted that if men needed the rule by others to keep them in line because we would be beasts without them, then how come the beasts are trusted to choose these rulers? And if it was truly a better system then why has there been such a long and bitter cry to dismantle these institutions and replace them with free associations???

But the last quote comes from the American Socialist, Eugene Debs. Brennen, this quote is high on my mind when I hear the requests for a master plan or some leader. Like Debs, I dont like the request because it seems to undermine the very essence of the change being seeked:

“I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition.”

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Posted: 06 September 2007 12:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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Brennen, as I see it, the main diference is that into an organzation rules by the standard capitalist principles every associated has an amount of votes depending on the amount of shares he/she owns. In the libertarian socialism, everyone involved in an organization (shareholder, manager, worker) has right to one vote, because the concept of capital doesn’t exists.

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Posted: 06 September 2007 12:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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The problem is that the concept of capital does exist. It’s independent of the economic system used: mines, railways, aqueducts, and hospitals are all universal examples of capital. You can argue that it’s less important than labor (which Adam Smith does) or that today’s neoliberals overemphasize outside capital investment (which Joseph Stiglitz does, though his main argument is that the Asian countries wrecked by the IMF have enough locally generated capital), but you can’t just wish capital away.

As for worker-owned companies, some of them work, and others don’t. Sometimes there occurs the opposite process, wherein a worker-owned company fails and is bought by an individualist. A coop form of management doesn’t preclude any of the problems of traditional corporate hierarchy. And when practiced on a large scale, as in the Israeli kibbutz, the result is utter failure. Show me a society that can coopt any individual creativity, and I’ll show you a far future utopia beyond the imagination of any science fiction writer.

The dynamic, individualist cities have always needed to chip in to subsidize the planned communes, the idyllic rural areas, and the farms. By the same token, those cities would collapse within days without the proper government regulations. The amount of maintenance that needs to be done just to keep New York’s subway tunnels from flooding is incredible. The only places where private interests can engage even in that kind of infrastructure maintenance are Japan and South Korea, where they do so at the government’s behest and are themselves very regulated by both law and tradition.

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Posted: 06 September 2007 12:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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truthaddict - 06 September 2007 11:47 AM

I dont see man as some brutish creature who needs force to control him, but I see the concept of that as a propaganda tool used to justify that control.

This is a convenient claim, but unpersuasive. Humans, after all, are animals. And while animals do display altruistic behavior (largely towards kin, although reciprocal altruism does occur as well), they also are clearly obsessed with power and dominance heirarchies as a way to reproductive success, and entirely pleased to use violence to achieve their ends when it suits. Humans are no different. Centralized control is never perfect, however it does allow the population under the control to sublimate their own lust for dominance, and willingness to use violence to achieve it, for other ends. It also supplies a manner for controling these power struggles, through the rule of law.

It is precisely these sorts of concerns that lead many of us to believe that anarchy would be a disaster, on the scale of the worst disasters of human history. It would unleash a wanton struggle for control, as has been the case whenever there have been local power vacuums in history. I am aware that these anarchists you quote claim not to support such a form of anarchy. However, it seems to me they are deluding themselves. These quotes are full of inspirational rhetoric, but appear to me largely salesmanship. I don’t see any credible system being suggested that could substitute for the complex society we see around us now—one that could achieve all the same ends and sublimate the natural sorts of dominance heirarchies we should expect to find. What is more, I see virtually no interest in anarchism among the society at large. Hence I don’t see how it could be implimented anyway, except perhaps by force, given that it is at least supposed to be something that springs from the people.

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Posted: 06 September 2007 01:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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dougsmith - 06 September 2007 12:54 PM
truthaddict - 06 September 2007 11:47 AM

I dont see man as some brutish creature who needs force to control him, but I see the concept of that as a propaganda tool used to justify that control.

This is a convenient claim, but unpersuasive. Humans, after all, are animals. And while animals do display altruistic behavior (largely towards kin, although reciprocal altruism does occur as well), they also are clearly obsessed with power and dominance heirarchies as a way to reproductive success, and entirely pleased to use violence to achieve their ends when it suits. Humans are no different. Centralized control is never perfect, however it does allow the population under the control to sublimate their own lust for dominance, and willingness to use violence to achieve it, for other ends. It also supplies a manner for controling these power struggles, through the rule of law.

Doug (or anyone),

But even for rule of law to work, the majority of people must be willing on their own to give up some aspect of self-rule for the sake of the percieved “greater good.” So, since people demostrate such willingess now, why would they not do so for the sake of an anarchist-syndicalist society? I find the false dichotomy of “if government doesn’t do it, no one will” to be unconvincing, because it relies on the idea that no one is willing to tolerate free riders. This is not true. Tell me something currently provided by government that cannot ever be provided either by for-profit or not-for-profit organizations. Whatever example you attempt, I will show you a counter example where a group of people have decided that they want that service so much that they are willing to provide it on their own, without needing support from every person in the society, even though every person in the society potentially benefits from that service.

The “if government doesn’t do it, no one will” meme is about as rational as the “morality can only come from God” meme.

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Posted: 06 September 2007 01:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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WattaQuestion - 06 September 2007 01:29 PM

This is not true. Tell me something currently provided by government that cannot ever be provided either by for-profit or not-for-profit organizations. Whatever example you attempt, I will show you a counter example where a group of people have decided that they want that service so much that they are willing to provide it on their own, without needing support from every person in the society, even though every person in the society potentially benefits from that service.

The “if government doesn’t do it, no one will” meme is about as rational as the “morality can only come from God” meme.

Democratic government is made up (at least in large part) by the will of the people, as expressed through their elected representatives. So this is a false dichotomy.

The government provides those general things that cannot be easily done by smaller groups. To take one example, government regulation often focuses on externalities—such things as pollution, tragedies of the commons, monopolies, market fairness, etc. These are costs to society that are not reflected in profit and loss statements of companies. In order to be a credible regulatory body, the government must have the power to punish those persons or organizations which run contrary to the regulations. What we saw in the chaos that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union was an example of a central government without the taxing power to effectively counter powerful business interests (the Oligarchs) within the society. This led to something approaching anarchy.

To take another example, police forces can certainly be replaced by paid mercenary armies; how that would make a profit I hesitate to wonder, and how the mercenaries would be paid by a not-for-profit I can’t rightly imagine, unless they were supported as a sort of palace guard by the wealthy individuals of the town. But in that case whither the courts? Who pays the judges? Where is the rule of law?

Also for education. Once again, there clearly are for-profit and not-for-profit schools that do a good job, but that system simply is not prepared to educate all the children in the country, nor would we want it to. Were we to expect such a thing to happen, the biggest educators would most likely end up being the churches.

Also for healthcare. One almost need not go into the difference between the for-profit and not-for-profit healthcare system in the US versus the socialized (government) healthcare in Europe. The latter is much more efficient and, frankly, ethical. For one, you cut out all the middle-men of insurance marketers we have in the US.

So when you suggest that for-profit and not-for-profit organizations can take over each of the roles of government, I am really not sure what you are suggesting. Taken as a whole, it is false that such organizations can do literally everything with the same efficiency as a centralized government. They do many things very well indeed, however. What’s best is a balance.

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Posted: 06 September 2007 02:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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The efficiency of government programs is only a preceived one because the actual costs are externalized in exactly the manner you describe above. There is no P&L statement for a government program, so no one really knows if the overall cost is actually lower to the entire market than it would be for a free market version of that service. The cost to a particular consumer is lower at that moment, true, but all government programs are a form of commons where each individual is incenitivized to use as much of the service as they can get away with because their own cost increases at a very minimal rate.

If a particular program exceeds its budget, the government can trasnfer funds from another program, freeze the salaries of the employees in that run that program, borrow, raise taxes directly or raise them indirectly through inflationary monetary policy, so whatever costs are associated with that program can be diffused through the society without any form of rational accounting going on at all.

In order for a system such as nationalized health care to not take over the entire economy, the government has to set limits on how much care a person can get, it has to regulate the commons. And a government incurs large costs on the back end trying to prevent people from rigging the system to their own personal gain. Where are those costs accounted for?

But whatever the government is doing to delive a particular service requires consent on the part of both the recipients of that service and on the part of the majority of those paying for it. That consent is developed over a long time through a socialization process. Such a process could just as easily be put into play to develop an anarchist-syndicalist society. It’s more a matter of inertia than anything else that we have the systems we have now.

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Posted: 06 September 2007 02:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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doug,

you dont see because youre not looking. you repeatedly made claims about not seeing this or that, but I seem to see it all over the place.

I don’t see any credible system being suggested that could substitute for the complex society we see around us now—one that could achieve all the same ends and sublimate the natural sorts of dominance heirarchies we should expect to find. What is more, I see virtually no interest in anarchism among the society at large. Hence I don’t see how it could be implimented anyway, except perhaps by force, given that it is at least supposed to be something that springs from the people.

that whole thing was just loaded with perspective and predisposition. Its not “credible” because of how you feel. the idea that management from below is not credible ignores a huge part of human history. I dont know how many times it needs to be pointed out that progress in humanity is not coming from government, religion or the rule of law, but rather submitting to it when they feel their handle on power is being loosened.

Also, I dont even know what you meant about the “complex society.” What complexities are you referring to and how is that a product of top-down hierarchy and cant be replicted by mutual agreements or collective cooperation? i think it is clear that the point of changing the structure of power institutions is not to “achieve all the same ends.” you “see virtually no interest in anarchism among the society at large”? Are you talking about a label or its ideals? I can do a pool right now at work and Im willing to bet a vast majority will show support for Anarchist ideals of individual liberty, cooperation, self-management, etc. Not finding support for a label that many - and im willing to bet most - dont understand does not in any way show that the public at large does not support its ideals.

And of course you dont see how it could be implimented because of your predisposition, and again what that comment is asking for is some blueprint.

This whole concept of wanting a blueprint is bogus. Ask authoritarians to provide their blueprints. You provide a blueprint of either a new or the existing structure. Even if I entertained you with such a nonsensical thing you could always dispute this or that with hypothetical scenarios! That was somewhat of the point of the Debs quote. If I played with the idea that there could be some blueprint you guys would find anything and everything to argue against. But the whole conversation would be hypothetical. It would prove and mean nothing.

Im not persuaded by yours or anyone elses arguments that centralized authority is needed or has helped humanity. My observation of society, human history is littered with evidence that we earn for something else, something less authoritarian and that we want individual liberty and to cooperate with each other in managing our affairs; anytime I do something freely and productive with others without constraints coming from above I always feel much more satisfied and I notice that about many, many others as well. I know a little bit about management and one technique commonly used is to make the workers feel like they are empowered. I think every argument that has been presented against Anarchism really ought to be levied at centralized authority and top-down management.

[ Edited: 06 September 2007 02:51 PM by truthaddict ]
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