Skip to content

Statement of Intent

June 9, 2009

There are three common mathematical arguments for Anarchism that I will tritely state as such:

1. Altruism is pragmatic. cf Kropotkin via Game Theory, Evolution

2. Centralization is inefficient. cf Mises via Price Signals, Economics

3. Collapse is inevitable. cf Zerzan via Systems Dynamics, Anthropology

Each are more or less correct. But even combined they are insufficient at providing a solid inclination, much less moral ought, towards the abolition of rulership. Further all sorts of psychopathy, manipulation and coercion are still possible.

These mathematical realities are supposed to lead individuals to social and political perspectives like so:

1. Collective solidarity is sufficient to meet the individual’s desires as well as the course of action with the most certain positive results. There are far fewer individuals on the margins in an anarcho-communist society, thus from a Rawlsian perspective anarcho-communism best balances our desires with the fullest possibility of their achievement. So, to avoid the drastic uncertainties of statist capitalism, abolish the state and abolish capitalism.

2. Diffuse systems will provide for everyone’s desires better. The rich will get richer, the poor will get richer. If you want to get richer, abolish the state.

3. Extended rigid structures or limited processes applied perpetually are bound to fail. The tension and eventual crises they generate are undesired. Thus, to avoid as much undesired tension as possible, refuse to participate in the state and capitalism, and when civilization collapses don’t rebuild it.

There is a hole in each of these arguments.

1. While the gratification of one’s desires in existing society may be uncertain, an individual might place value in the fulfillment of their desires differently. The possibility of being a millionaire, or even simply petite bourgeoisie in the first world, may be desired so extraordinarily that it outweighs the greater likelihood of being or remaining a prole for life. Lastly, of course, none of us are behind a veil of ignorance and society is already constructed. The benefactors of privilege have no personal incentive to downgrade the satisfaction of their desires. Game theory evaluations that favor mutual aid are premised upon largely uniform or linear value systems. Sociology and psychology teach us that the valuations of the human mind are anything but.

Note 1: Kropotkin had an additional element to his argument — in fact the more significant component — which appealed to human nature. Being altruistic or, more broadly, participating in a naturally composed social ecology, is one of our innate biological desires. Because our evolution was effected by game theory. This is a good trick and pretty much the central patch keeping Social Anarchism afloat. But there’s no reason this natural desire to participate in mutual aid is so strong as to not be individually fulfilled within existing conditions. The giving of charity is a product like any other under capitalism and welfare in the state, maybe even to a sufficient extent to satisfy our biological desire. In short the tendency towards Mutual Aid must compete with every other desire. Humans, like all animals, are born with varying tendencies. Some individuals will barely feel altruistic desires. And as individuals or even just products of our society we have some control over our genetic desires. Most importantly: What’s to stop me from writing mutual aid out of my DNA? Self-improvement (once the core of anarchist thought) is utterly irreconcilable with appeals to biological essentialism.

Note 2: Marx claimed that the proles would inevitably one day have the strength to overthrow the upper classes. Thus it would make sense as an individual to side ahead of time with the winning bloc. If this truly was inevitable or even probable within our life times then it might be possible to set off a chain reaction where differently inclined individuals progressively abandon their privilege to adopt anarcho-communism until all the rats have finally jumped ship. But by all accounts the proles are not going to win, they never were. The very idea is preposterous and utterly disconnected from all history, culture, realpolitik and sociology. As should be obvious after all these centuries, the proles are not the strongest class, they’re unfortunately the weakest class. They can only win if a significant fraction of the upper classes voluntarily side with them. If there’s a state apparatus waiting for them with the promise of more privilege, then such a move would make sense. And historically, in a few cases, did. But it is in no way proven — or even suggested by history — that the upper classes can be sufficiently moved by the desire for mutual aid. Insofar as this desire crops up, capitalism and the state, as we’ve seen, provide them with substantive placebos.

2. While abolishing the state may make me richer, there’s far more frequently something to be said for playing its game. Furthermore, should the state dissolve, it’s important to note that there’s nothing whatsoever dissuading me from taking advantage of others as opportunity avails itself. But even if we take game theory into account and combine with #1 (decentralized market + mutual aid), the same realities apply. We can still find occasion to manipulate and coerce where the counter-incentives are outweighed. Decentralized conspiracy or arbitrary separatism is rewarded. Privilege can be easily re-established in a decentralized, altruistically acting society. Simply keep your knowledge to yourself or closely mind the circles of its transmission. Very quickly power structures can emerge (or simply remain) based solely on information and association. Those who cluster in shared circles create classes, while those who most adeptly manipulate the lines of communication gather self-compounding power. In short relative differences in social strength can reach a point where whatever absolute advances in strength those at the bottom might have made, they can be rolled back.

Note 1: Rothbard makes some ridiculous jumbo about “rights” and “natural law.” This is clearly meant to amuse us. The supposed a priori case for property titles, non-aggression, etc. is sufficiently elegant and grounded in common sense to gain internet fanboys, but as a theoretical physicist I find its assumptions (like the distinction between positive and negative action) about as reasonable as golden thrones in the clouds and holy trinities. My market anarchist comrades will have to excuse me for not mincing words. If property titles are to be reconstructed — or even excused — they must have a more substantive basis. I believe reputation markets offer this, but that’s a treatise unto itself.

3. This is by far the most convincing of arguments, I was a primitivist for a good many years for a reason. Elaborate lies, systems and power structures do tend to eventually fall apart when embedded in dynamic realities. Their collapse is often drastic, unpredictable and of such magnitude as to outweigh any good derived from them. But they do not have to fall within an individual’s lifetime. This is the abhorrent truth and the whole reason Civilization (in the bad sense) caught on to begin with. Crooks can, and often do, die happy. Thus, even if Peak Whatever is set to inevitably destroy Civilization within an individual’s life time there’s no inherent reason to avoid creating separate power structures around oneself. One can detach from doomed existing structures, while still participating in the creation of such structures. Just ones that have a good chance of keeping you in a position of privilege till death.

In short, no matter what in all of these arguments — even combined — there is a slim (or not so slim) opening for manipulation, control, exploitation, privilege and power. The rulership Anarchism claims to oppose. All these mathematical realities do is generate awareness of the broader landscape in which one’s personal power operates. In fact, as is apparent across the Social Anarchist milieu, such knowledge has in most cases only facilitated the spread of power. We Anarchists, being attuned to all these nuances and experienced in a wide variety of settings/procedures, have become the most adroit Machiavellians in the world. (Thank god by the time we develop these skills most of us are trapped in a dead-end scene!) Although detached from the altruistic placebos of the State, we still manage to find useless wastes of time to keep our genes content while opening entirely new vistas of power games.

I intend to provide, establish and elucidate the personal moral ought that is missing from this discussion.

note: don’t expect go expecting a complete work any time soon.

Advertisements

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: