In regards to anarchy: I get most of my definitions from this book, ‘Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology’ (http://www.eleuthera.it/files/materiali/David_Graeber_Fragments_%20Anarchist_Anthropology.pdf)
I know the very first definition makes it sound exactly like that dickheaded libertarianism thing. I’m aware there’s going to be coercion and manipulation whenever people are working out a deal. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I’m obliged to try and come up with some! Otherwise it’s just a cop out. You can’t criticise a system without offering up an alternative.
I think we need structures which actively resist the entrenchment of power. Take the ancient Gnostics – in order to prevent the entrenchment of power they used to draw lots. They did this to decide who’d do which job for the week – who’d give the gospel, who’d do the baptisms. They made sure no one had the same job all the time. That’s not to say the entrenchment of power is impossible under a system of drawing lots – lots can be rigged! Someone could set themselves up as pope long enough to change the rules so he gets to stay pope.
Someone rigs the lots, they get to make the rules and they make a rule which says they get to stay where they are. That’s how the state arises. There’s ways around this. Firstly, there’s the fact that we make the laws and we can change them if they’re not working for us. We can decide that if someone’s drawn the lot to be pope for the fourth week in a row we can just redraw the lots until he gets something else. Failing that, we can kick him out of the organisation.
Problems arise when someone puts the law ahead of people. Sometimes you’ve got someone with a vested interest in a law being enforced to the detriment of the organisation at large. In any case, the wellbeing of the organisation should come before the law. Take a look at the politics of climate change – we can stick with the law and kill the world, or we can get in there and make sure business isn’t building coal-fired power plants, whether the law likes it or not.
If you’ve got a bureaucracy enforcing law, it’s harder to just throw it out. If the guy claiming to be pope for the fourth week in a row has a squad of police with him, you can’t just redraw the lots. He says that if you redraw the lots you’ll be breaking the law, and if you break the law these police will beat you over the head with their clubs. When he says “I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do about it – it’s the law!”, he is lying. The problem here is the entrenchment of structure when structure should be free to change with the demands of the organisation. The law should serve the interests of the people. When the gap between “the way things should be” and “the way the law says things should be” gets too big, we should protest! The law is not an end in itself.
Bureaucracy is the clearest form of entrenched power. This is why anarchism opposes the state as well as business – there are state bureaucracies and there are corporate bureaucracies. In addition to this, the state and the market are really two sides of the same coin. They’re inseparable! The rich man needs the state to protect him from the poor man and the state needs the rich man to finance it. Adam Smith said that for every rich man made there were 500 poor, that these poor would envy him, and that the rich man needs a state powerful enough to protect him from the poor man. However, any state powerful enough to protect the rich man’s things is also powerful enough to take his things! So the rich man agrees to give away some of his money in the form of tax. Democracy is asset insurance for the rich. These days the state gives him handouts, which he uses to lobby for more handouts and reduced regulation. The state bureaucrat gets lobbying money, or “bribes”, the rich man gets handouts. The rich buy the media and they keep it on the down low. Otherwise we might do something about it!
If you want to know what I think anarchy looks like, protest movements are always great examples. If you’ve been watching the protests in Egypt recently, you’ll notice everyone who wanted Morsi to stay around was pushing the fact that he was elected, as if the will of the people from years back supersedes the will of the people today. It doesn’t matter that he was elected – he broke the contract. Leaders serve at the pleasure of the people, and they always will. If you’ve seen “How to Survive a Plague”, that documentary on the AIDS activists, that’s a perfect example of anarchist organisation as I see it. You can even get a good look at the failings of bureaucracy in the form of the FDA.
Whenever I want to avoid scaring someone off I just call it “direct democracy”, “consensus democracy” or a “people’s democracy”. If anything I’ve written here is unclear, please say so! I need to expose these ideas to as much critique as I can so they’ll end up stronger.
I remember Jung said “the true leader is always led”. He was absolutely right!
I also want to say that the problem of entrenched bureaucracy changes qualitatively with scale – I wouldn’t want to make it look simple.
If you want to know more about the economics there’s some interesting work by this Mexican philosopher called “Manuel DeLanda”. He’s incredible! He’s got some great books if you’re interested. http://www.alamut.com/subj/economics/de_landa/antiMarkets.html
Antimarkets are negentropic sources of market distortion. A negentropic system is one which accelerates the entropy of adjacent systems in order to reduce, stall or reverse its own entropy. All these processes can be described as degrees of reversal. ie. If I eat something, I’m increasing its entropy in order to reverse my own. If I rig the world’s interest rates so I can get a better return on my investments, as in the case of the LIBOR scandal, I’m increasing the entropy of the global economy in order to reverse my own.
A rich man is a negentropic system. Entrenched inequality is a negentropic system. These are systems which reverse their own entropy at the expense of the systems around them. For every rich man, there are 500 poor.