Talk:Anarchism/Archive 2

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There is an archive of old talk from this page at Talk:Anarchism/Archive1. It contains a lot of useful discussion, which should show you why the page looks as it did up to the end of 2002. -- Sam 10:55 Jan 18, 2003 (UTC)

Okay, after certain changes, the external links section looks absurd. We need to cut it down. We shouldn't be linking to every anarchist site on the web.

Also, the addition of green anarchists, eco-anarchists and cyber punks to the 'master list' of anarchist theories goes against a lot of what we've tried to do with this page in the past. (See the archive.)

There are a number of problems with this page (and related pages) that keep coming up. One of them is this: every now and then, someone comes along and completely changes everything, or makes small changes that are in fact very significant. See the history of this page: [1], [2]... Of course, there's nothing wrong with all this upheaval: we've got a good article out of it. (Or is that depsite it?!) But I suggest we have a statement at the top of this talk page, stating clearly what we're attempting to do with this page, which is disambiguate the various theories, and find a way to include all the "57 varieties" (heh) in an easy-to-follow article. For as far back as the history of the page goes (october 2001), the solution has been to identify three strands of anarchism -- libertarian socialism, anarcho-capitalism and individualist anarchism -- and to fit everything else in that format. We want this article to get to the point... and to disambiguate between some very different theories.

Sam 10:55 Jan 18, 2003 (UTC)

The external links

Following is the entire external links section that left in [3]. I think sie took some out too, though; they can be found in the history. These are my (main) issues with this list:

  1. Many of them (probably all of them) are only related to one form of anarchism: mostly libertarian socialism, I think. Those should be on the page relating to that form of anarchism specifically.
  2. The list is far too long. Look at it! It would waste so much space on a printed article, and it doesn't even look managable on screen.

See below for more comments on the criteria for including external links. These are, of course, up for discussion. Here's the list...

External links:

There are a number of anarchist organizations and projects as well as anarchist-relones...

I've just posted a link to an FAQ which deals with both 'left-anarchism' and 'anarcho-capitalism'. This is an example of the sort of link that I think should appear here: it has no particular affiliation, and disinguishes between the different forms of anarchism in the same way that this article does, so it avoids confusion.

The page currently refers to cyberpunks as one of the "major branches of anarchist theory". This is blatantly inaccurate. -- Sam

Should part of this (below) go on anarchy? I suggest a longer version goes there, or on the wiktionary, and a more succint version goes here, with an obvious link to wherever the longer discussion is. -- Sam 19:59 Jan 20, 2003 (UTC)

The word anarchy derives from the Greek roots an- (without, not) and -arch (ruler, authority, first; cf. -archy). More precisely, the term comes from New Latin anarchia, which is from Greek anarkhia, from anarkhos ("without a ruler": an-, without; + arkhos, ruler). In English, the term anarchism is taken to mean "without rulers", "without government", or "without hierarchy" -- as opposed to "no rules", which some might see as the more correct translation. The first known usage of the word can be traced to the French Revolution, when it was used as a derogatory term against the left; the French philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon then became the first to call himself an "anarchist", the first positive use of the term.

Because there is no central definition or authority on what anarchism is (in part due to the anarchist philosophy which opposes such authority) there are a number of different versions and definitions of anarchist theory; while two people may both call themselves anarchists, their ideologies may differ immensely.

I don't think the emphasised comment above really portrays the real situation. Anarchists don't oppose the academic type of authority, but the hierarchal one. This highlights something that should be discussed later on, though, before or after the various anarchist theories are discussed in comparison -- ie. a paragraph or two on why there are so many different strands of theory. -- Sam

Whose authoritative academic definition of anarchism do you feel all anarchists accept? Dietary Fiber

None, that's why I put the original comment in myself ("Because there is no central definition or authority on what anarchism is,..."). What I mean is that although there is no academic authority on what anarchism is, that is not because anarchists reject authority: I feel that wording is misleading. It may be because anarchist philosophies advocate autonomy and a lack of hierarchy. It is this, I think, that leads to differing opinions on what anarchism is.
To say that it is "due to the anarchist philosophy which opposes such authority" suggests that anarchists are against all forms of authority, including academic authority, which is not true. I'd say anarchists reject coercive authority. Do you see what I mean? -- Sam 18:09 Mar 25, 2003 (UTC)

Right, but by opposing centralized authority anarchists do not have a centralized group of people who can speak for all anarchists and define what anarchism is. There is no Anarcho-Pope or Anarcho-President or Anarcho-Council of Elders. Anarchists reject coercive authority, this is true, and I ask how is academic authority not coercive? If anarchists accept academic authority, will they give up anarchism when that authority determines that the republic is the best form of government?

In any case, you stated:

  • anarchist philosophies advocate autonomy and a lack of hierarchy. It is this, I think, that leads to differing opinions on what anarchism is.

which of course is what I am trying to explain. You are trying to re-write it, as I see, to state, "anarchists oppose all forms of authority except academic authority", and my understanding of anarchism is that authority is to be questioned (and of course to question authority is to oppose it).

I ask:

  • What is the anarchist academic authority? What is its viewpoint on the capitalism vs. socialism/communism debate?

Dietary Fiber

I think you might be talking at cross purposes. It doesn't seem to me that Sam thinks that there exists an anarchist "academic authority" that could legislate on the meaning of the term. But I also don't think that the variety of opinions concerning what anarchism is has anything to do with the anarchist opposition to authority. To wit - is there a "Liberal Pope" or a "Conservative Council of Elders" which decide what these ideologies mean? Certainly not. In this sense anarchism doesn't differ from any other -ism.

Perhaps I can offer another way to look at it. Anarchism doesn't have a fixed meaning because, like all political concepts, it is essentially contested. This means that the very complex webs of meaning that are involved with any political term are subject to continuous debate and even struggle. Political ideas don't come down from the sky. They are human creations that reflect ongoing political processes and the ways in which people try to make sense of them. There is an ongoing push-and-pull among different people and tendencies who all try to decontest the concept and fix it with the meaning that they think is right/useful.

Think, for example, of the term "equality". Does equality mean that everybody whould have the same inccome, or the same level of well-being, or the same opportunity to achieve what they want, or the same degree of access to resources and other things that they want? There is no "correct" answer to these questions in the sense that it is the undisputed "truth". Rather, there is a continuous debate on the meaning of equality that changes over time and with the surrounding social conditions. This does not imply that nothing means anything. Firstly, because we do have some common ground on every concept. We all know that anarchism, for example, is not "the practice of wearing a blue shirt on Wednesdays". How do we know this? Because there is some kind of boundary to every concept's "field of meaning" that we do agree about, even if we're unable to articulate it. Secondly, if we are able to argue about the relative merit of different uses of a concept, this must mean that we have some reasons for thinking a certain use is better. For example, because it helps us explain more things about it in a neat way. Or because we fill that it better reflects certain realities - historical, political etc.

I think it is useless to try to define any ideology in one statement. I thnk ideologies are more complex creatures than that. One way to look at ideologies is as a set of lower-order concepts, that are affixed different meanings and arranged in different relationships to each other. For example, both conservatism and socialism will tell you that they endorse equality. However, each one has, first, a different meaning ascribed to each concept (say, equal formal rights and equality before the law for conservatism, and social and economic equality as well for socialism), and, second, a different understanding of the relatinoship between equality and other concepts like freedom or community. We could look at what different anarchists have said and written on these concepts and see what they have in common with each other and not with other ideas.

Another way to look at ideologies is as the sets of ideas that accompany political movements. For example, people who we consider spokespeople of ideologies did not operate in a vacuum. People like Locke, Mill or Rawls that are considered among the main liberal thinkers were involved in, or closely following, certain historical developments - the English revolution, Industrialism, the welfare state - and were interpreting them and judging them morally. This is true of all ideologies, and especially true of anarchism - its life in the realm of ideas was always a reflection of concrete struggles that people were involved in. People who we tend to call anarchists were almost invariably also political actors - revolutionaries, agitators, organisers etc. So we could look at anarchism from a historical point of view and, instead of trying to define the concepd in a fixed way, just follow its development and admit that there is no one good way to define it simply because it always changes.

Hope this might shed a new light on the debate.

Oh, and by the way: Historically, not a single one of the people associated with individualist or capitalist 'anarchism' ever referred to themselves as anarchists, nor were they refered to as anarchists by anyone except those who wanted to discredit them. This is true of Benjamin Tucker, Max Stirner, Ayn Rand, Robert Nozick or anyone else you'd care to name. Maybe this fact means something about the way to judge what is anarchism and what is not.


Thanks, Uri, I think you've put something down that needed to be said. Hopefully, Dietary Fiber can now see what I was trying to say. The fact that ideologies are contested seems to be evidenced over at Capitalism too -- all of these articles have some statement along the lines of "What some call XXXXXXism may differ from what others call XXXXXXism, though the varying meaning do share some features." Both articles then compare and contrast the varying idealogies that are called Capitalism and Anarchism, and their relationships to each other as well as other ideologies. I think this format coems naturally from the Wiki way of writing: there is no authority to push its own meanings and interpretations, so the contesting comes right to the surface and must be dealt with clearly.

Perhaps we could come together on ideologies somewhere like Wikiproject:Ideologies, and put out some guidelines or a basic statement summarising what Uri said above? It seems it would save a lot of time and conflict on the various ideology pages. -- Sam 09:03 Mar 30, 2003 (UTC)

Dietary Fiber,
I just removed your (see also: hippy) comment after the mention of pacifist anarchists: mainly because the hippy article makes no reference to anarchism and the reference to hippy is not explained here. -- Sam

But do u disagree that the same culture that has lots of pacifist anarchists is also the same culture where hippies can be found?Dietary Fiber

I couldn't say. If you think so, then say so in a clear way in the article, not just "see: hippy" -- that implies that pacifists are hippies, which isn't necessarily true -- and even if it is, "hippy" has prejudice and conotations that can cloud what you're trying to say.

I found the following setence within the article:

  • One popular perception is that the anarchist movement has suffered, and continues to suffer, from internal divisions and conflicts. Partly such conflict results because most anarchists reject the idea of vanguard groups and political parties (as they are argued to be authoritarian by nature).

I believe it expresses what I tried to convey earlier, that is, the notion that anarchism has no central definition (beyond being de-centralized) because it is, by nature, decentralized.

Dietary Fiber

Before you edited it, it read:

  • One popular perception is that the anarchist movement has suffered, and continues to suffer, from internal divisions and conflicts. Partly because most anarchists reject the idea of vanguard groups and political parties as authoritarian by nature and useless as a strategy to achieve anarchist goals, there is much visible conflict over strategy and tactics.

I realise that this sentence was unclear, and I think you attempted to make it clearer, but I think you changed the meaning slightly. Perhaps the following revision will clarify what I think it should say:

  • One popular perception is that the anarchist movement has suffered, and continues to suffer, from internal divisions and conflicts. Such conflict is visible partly because most anarchists reject the idea of vanguard groups and political parties, as these are authoritarian by nature and useless as a strategy to achieve anarchist goals. It may be contended that anarchists don't suffer from more disagreements or divisions than any other social or political movements, but allow and encourage such dissent to be expressed, leading to an appearance of disunity. However, it has been noted among some anarchists that "we argue too much about the 5% we disagree on, rather than concentrating on the 95% we agree on." [quote paraphrased from one Freedom writer]

I think anarchism has no central definition, not because of its decentralisation, but because of what Uri explained above, that it is a contested term, like capitalism and other idealogies. -- Sam 20:26 Apr 12, 2003 (UTC)

The above edit is acceptable Sam. Dietary Fiber

I don't know what happened with all the reverting on this talk page, but it looked pretty pointless to me. Oh well. Thanks DF, I will find the proper reference for the quote from Freedom and add the pargraph in to the article, and perhaps try to improve further. -- Sam 11:34 Apr 14, 2003 (UTC)

Faré 15:24 Apr 27, 2003 (UTC): I'm sick of there being a big page full of controversial contents. Over the next few days, I'm going to trim considerably this article, by migrating anything that is not to-the-point to other pages of some sort, possibly as Anarchism/something. The motto for this page will be as follows:

Perfection is reached, not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.
: -- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Everything must go!