Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

Anarchy, Libertarianism, and Socialism

Posted by   + Show Post

These subjects have been coming up in the group lately, and I recently read a very interesting interview with Noam Chomsky that talks about these topics. Here's an excerpt:

Michael S. Wilson: You are, among many other things, a self-described anarchist — an anarcho-syndicalist, specifically.  Most people think of anarchists as disenfranchised punks throwing rocks at store windows, or masked men tossing ball-shaped bombs at fat industrialists.  Is this an accurate view?  What is anarchy to you?

Noam Chomsky: Well, anarchism is, in my view, basically a kind of tendency in human thought which shows up in different forms in different circumstances, and has some leading characteristics.  Primarily it is a tendency that is suspicious and skeptical of domination, authority, and hierarchy.  It seeks structures of hierarchy and domination in human life over the whole range, extending from, say, patriarchal families to, say, imperial systems, and it asks whether those systems are justified.  It assumes that the burden of proof for anyone in a position of power and authority lies on them.  Their authority is not self-justifying.  They have to give a reason for it, a justification.  And if they can’t justify that authority and power and control, which is the usual case, then the authority ought to be dismantled and replaced by something more free and just.  And, as I understand it, anarchy is just that tendency.  It takes different forms at different times.

Anarcho-syndicalism is a particular variety of anarchism which was concerned primarily, though not solely, but primarily with control over work, over the work place, over production.  It took for granted that working people ought to control their own work, its conditions, [that] they ought to control the enterprises in which they work, along with communities, so they should be associated with one another in free associations, and … democracy of that kind should be the foundational elements of a more general free society.  And then, you know, ideas are worked out about how exactly that should manifest itself, but I think that is the core of anarcho-syndicalist thinking.  I mean it’s not at all the general image that you described — people running around the streets, you know, breaking store windows — but [anarcho-syndicalism] is a conception of a very organized society, but organized from below by direct participation at every level, with as little control and domination as is feasible, maybe none.

Wilson: With the apparent ongoing demise of the capitalist state, many people are looking at other ways to be successful, to run their lives, and I’m wondering what you would say anarchy and syndicalism have to offer, things that others ideas — say, for example, state-run socialism — have failed to offer?  Why should we choose anarchy, as opposed to, say, libertarianism?

Chomsky: Well what’s called libertarian in the United States, which is a special U. S. phenomenon, it doesn’t really exist anywhere else — a little bit in England — permits a very high level of authority and domination but in the hands of private power:  so private power should be unleashed to do whatever it likes.  The assumption is that by some kind of magic, concentrated private power will lead to a more free and just society.  Actually that has been believed in the past.  Adam Smith for example, one of his main arguments for markets was the claim that under conditions of perfect liberty, markets would lead to perfect equality.  Well, we don’t have to talk about that!  That kind of —

Wilson:  It seems to be a continuing contention today …

Chomsky: Yes, and so well that kind of libertarianism, in my view, in the current world, is just a call for some of the worst kinds of tyranny, namely unaccountable private tyranny.  Anarchism is quite different from that.  It calls for an elimination to tyranny, all kinds of tyranny.  Including the kind of tyranny that’s internal to private power concentrations.  So why should we prefer it?  Well I think because freedom is better than subordination.  It’s better to be free than to be a slave.  Its’ better to be able to make your own decisions than to have someone else make decisions and force you to observe them.  I mean, I don’t think you really need an argument for that.  It seems like … transparent.

The thing you need an argument for, and should give an argument for, is, How can we best proceed in that direction?  And there are lots of ways within the current society.  One way, incidentally,  is through use of the state, to the extent that it is democratically controlled.  I mean in the long run, anarchists would like to see the state eliminated.  But it exists, alongside of private power, and the state is, at least to a certain extent, under public influence and control — could be much more so.  And it provides devices to constrain the much more dangerous forces of private power.  Rules for safety and health in the workplace for example.  Or insuring  that people have decent health care, let’s say.  Many other things like that.  They’re not going to come about through private power.  Quite the contrary.  But they can come about through the use of the state system under limited democratic control … to carry forward reformist measures.  I think those are fine things to do. they should be looking forward to something much more, much beyond, — namely actual, much larger-scale democratization.  And that’s possible to not only think about, but to work on.  So one of the leading anarchist thinkers, Bakunin in the 19th cent, pointed out that it’s quite possible to build the institutions of a future society within the present one.  And he was thinking about far more autocratic societies than ours.  And that’s being done.  So for example, worker- and community- controlled enterprises are germs of a future society within the present one.  And those not only can be developed, but are being developed.  There’s some important work on this by Gar Alperovitz who’s involved in the enterprise systems around the Cleveland area which are worker and community controlled.  There’s a lot of theoretical discussion of how it might work out, from various sources.  Some of the most worked out ideas are in what’s called the “parecon” — participatory economics — literature and discussions.  And there are others.  These are at the planning and thinking level.  And at the practical implementation level, there are steps that can be taken, while also pressing to overcome the worst … the major harms … caused by … concentration of private power through the use of state system, as long as the current system exists.  So there’s no shortage of means to pursue.

As for state socialism, depends what one means by the term.  If it’s tyranny of the Bolshevik variety (and its descendants), we need not tarry on it.  If it’s a more expanded social democratic state, then the comments above apply.  If something else, then what?  Will it place decision-making in the hands of working people and communities, or in hands of some authority?  If the latter, then — once again — freedom is better than subjugation, and the latter carries a very heavy burden of justification.

Read the whole thing here.

Do you agree with him that anarchy (as he describes it) would be the most just form of societal organization? What do you think about his take on libertarianism? Social democracy?

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.

by on Jan. 1, 2014 at 8:56 AM
Replies (11-16):
Aestas
by Gold Member on Jan. 1, 2014 at 2:37 PM


Quoting Clairwil:


Quoting Aestas:

Which systems do you think would be most able to self-repair?

In practice, the best we've found so far is multi-party democracy with a wide franchise, among a well educated electorate with an active civil society (non-governmental organisations).

Known failure modes are extreme economic depression (leading to giving political leaders a lot of power to fix the problem, which they then use break the system), military coup, civil war (extreme fractionalism, often based on ethnic or religious grounds), and pandering to the masses through bread and circuses (a breakdown in education).  Possibly one could add to that list "take over by an ogliarchy who pay for votes", but that's not yet been proven.

And in terms of economic systems?

coolmommy2x
by Gold Member on Jan. 1, 2014 at 2:38 PM
Pathetically this forum seems to operate that way. It's always us vs them with us always being right and them always being wrong. If you (general) don't agree with what is being said, you are stupid, ignorant, or apparently the worst insult of all, liberal. God forbid you be open minded and try to actualy learn something or engage in two way conversation. That's frowned upon.

Quoting idunno1234:

  See, this is what I don't get.  Here is an opportunity to have a nice, meaty, intelligent.....even, dare I say it, potentially fruitful discussion and you throw out a shot without backing up exactly why you feel that way.  Why do you have to view everything in a black and white, we're right, they're wrong, ideological constraint type way?  Its complicated, never simple.  No one has all the right answers. 


Regarding the OP (sort of):


Societies that emphasize individualism I think can only be an ideal.  Its a retreat from society and societal obligations and I can't imagine that being a leap forward. I personally believe that in order for humans to move past the misery we inflict upon one another, there has to be a recognition of our connectivity and commonality, not an emphasis on our individuality and continued differentiation.  The things we tend to slaughter each other over are, in the whole scheme of things, stupid idiotic shit.  The things we all have in common....the need for food, shelter, safety, love for our family and friends and wanting them to be safe, fed and happy.....that's what should be binding us together.


There are enough resources on this planet for every man, woman and child to be fed, have access to clean water and shelter.  The reason why so many suffer is because there are those who allow it, even encourage it to be so while the rest of us ignore it, even excuse it.  Misery isn't always about personal choices, its about others willingness to inflict or allow suffering of others. We have the ability to make an almost paradise on earth but humans continue to insist on imposing shit on each other and ignoring those who suffer as a result.


Its important to respect individual differences.  I have had a lifelong repulsion of groupthink since I can remember, sometimes embarrassingly so.  That is why I would never register for any political party.  Respecting differences to me needs to include using empathy to gain insight into various perspectives.  There is nothing to be gained by keeping our thoughts in a neat, tidy little bubble.  That's not expanding the mind, its stiffling it, something that so many people willingly fight to do.  I find that maddening.


Quoting yourspecialkid:

 Oh, so someone wants to change the definitions of long established words to fit their own purpsoses.  I must say I am shocked.....................


 


 

Posted on CafeMom Mobile
Clairwil
by Ruby Member on Jan. 1, 2014 at 3:10 PM


Quoting Aestas:

And in terms of economic systems?

Anarchy is no more an economic system than democracy is.

AdrianneHill
by Platinum Member on Jan. 1, 2014 at 4:30 PM
1 mom liked this
while it's not a textbook definition of anarchy, it isn't really that far off the mark. It's a much better definition than a post I saw a day or two ago where all political and economic systems were redefined to fit in to the very Americanized terms of left, right, liberal, and libertarianism. And even then the definitions were wrong.
But it does show that Americans have a dangerous habit of trying to overlay words and phrases that are particularly American in definition and usage over all political and economic systems in the world.
I did think his view of American libertarianism was pretty apt. If it was actually implemented as its followers desire, America as a nation would cease to exist. It would be filled with petty warlords and their fiefdoms while the corporations are allowed to pilfer and pillage unchallenged because they have money which is the same as having the right. Oligarchy and tyranny of the wealthy would be complete. We already have a system where corporations feel they have no obligation to follow laws or ethical mores because they are self proclaimed "job creators" aka gods among men and laws are for those who can't afford to be above them.
While some say that is where we already are in practice, America still pays lip service to protecting the minority from the majority and still allows the majority to take the lead if they are willing. I honestly don't know how deregulating businesses will lead to a more just society because capitalism has shown us many times that the business is making money and there is nothing in capitalism that encourages businesses to do anything but make more money as cheaply as possible. All of the supposed safe guards that are in place only work in a perfect system so might as well claim socialism, anarchy, and fascism have just as much possibility at creating and sustaining a healthy and sustainable system. Even when big business shouts about how they are giving back to the community it's the tax write off or undoing previous bad press that encourages that philanthropy, not anything inherent in capitalism that pushes businesses to put profits behind anything else because they work on short term gratification.
We've had an economy with little government oversight before and you still can't eat the fish from those rivers a hundred years later. This country makes regulations to protect itself and in the same bill, writes exceptions that protect the worst offenders from being affected by the laws written specifically to rein them in. Other than moving to a parliamentary system that allows more than two parties to hold power at a time, I can't think of anything that can undo the corruption our system encourages.
Aestas
by Gold Member on Jan. 2, 2014 at 1:41 AM


Quoting Clairwil:


Quoting Aestas:

And in terms of economic systems?

Anarchy is no more an economic system than democracy is.

Yes, I know, but I'm curious as to what you think works best.

Clairwil
by Ruby Member on Jan. 2, 2014 at 4:03 AM
1 mom liked this


Quoting Aestas:
Quoting Clairwil:
Quoting Aestas:

And in terms of economic systems?

Anarchy is no more an economic system than democracy is.

Yes, I know, but I'm curious as to what you think works best.

That's a big question, and deserves a thread of its own.

But here, I'll add a pointer to Anarcho-Capitalism, since that's at least slightly related to the OP.  :-)

Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

close Join now to connect to
other members!
Connect with Facebook or Sign Up Using Email

Already Joined? LOG IN