T Nation

Anarchist Roll Call


I've been deciding on what my senior project should be and so far I've come up with the idea of Anarchy. After researching this for a while,

Here"s a part of the article I found- Check it out.

Anarchism is Philosophically Justified
The first reason, accepted as a basic concept by anarchists of all political stripes, is that anarchism is philosophically justified. Although the debate within the field of political philosophy will never be resolved to everyone's satisfaction, the anarchist view that state power can never be morally justified--even in its American representative majority-rule variant-- finds impressive support within academic philosophy (see, for example, Wolff, 1970). Anarchists on the left and on the right agree that political arrangements such as the US Constitution, agreed upon by a small unrepresentative minority two centuries ago, can lay no moral claim on individuals today. That most philosophical anarchists do in fact conform to the demands of their political state is a matter of practicality, not ethics, in much the same manner that a decision to hand over one's money to an armed mugger is often the wisest course of action.

The key point is that individuals are morally bound only by decisions that they themselves participate in making, and anarchists consequently approve of decisionmaking procedures that move towards consensus and direct local control while allowing dissenters to preserve their autonomy. Psychologists who are interested in the nature of personal values, in moral judgment, and in issues of freedom and authority and personal responsibility would find much in anarchism that is relevant to their concerns.

Anarchism is the "Natural" Form of Human Society
The second reason to consider advocating anarchism is that, in the view of many anthropologists, anarchism is the "natural" form of human society. Although the term "natural" may not deserve the quasimystical reverance in which some people hold it, it is important for psychologists in particular to be aware that, as anthropologist Harold Barclay (1982) noted, it is the small egalitarian anarchist community that is "the oldest type of polity and one which has characterized most of human history" (p. 12). Ashley Montagu (1981) cited the anarchist (and biologist) Kropotkin as one of the rare few who long ago recognized the importance of "love and cooperation" (p. 93) in the evolution of humanity, and anthropologists in general have concluded that a combination of tradition, communal interdependence, peer pressure, and direct intervention by the community as a whole has for the most part been enough to maintain order and provide for basic needs, without any strong hierarchical institutions. It's clear to many anthropologists that early human society was vastly different from the Hobbesian image presented in Hollywood movies, wherein so-called "primitive" life is generally depicted as having been an eternal struggle dominated by all-powerful dictatorial chiefs.

The lesson here for psychologists is that the transition from small face-to-face egalitarian communities to large mass society has been extremely rapid in terms of human evolution, and the consequences of that transition need to be examined in more detail. Anarchist thinkers can make a reasonable case that human beings are still adapted only to a small-community existence, and that, simply, what we find around us today is clearly a maladaptive--and perhaps short-lived--deviation (see Crowe, 1969). It's interesting to note that, perhaps because of their greater exposure to cultural variation, it is anthropologists more than psychologists who have proposed widespread alteration of global political and economic structures; both Sol Tax (1977) and Marvin Harris (1981), for example, have called for "radical decentralization" in one form or another.

Anarchism is Psychologically Healthy
The third reason that psychologists should advocate anarchism, which follows from the view than anarchism is natural, is that anarchism is psychologically healthy. This central psychological claim, called by Sarason (1976) "the anarchist insight," holds that as the state becomes more powerful, people find it more difficult to fulfill their needs for both personal autonomy and a psychological sense of community. Anarchists such as Bookchin (1971), Chomsky (1973), and Goodman (in Stoehr, 1980) argue that only in a decentralized society of autonomous face-to-face communities can these often-contradictory individual needs be met (see Fox, 1985). The evidence from social, community, personality, and environmental psychology does support the view that people are generally more satisfied in small cooperative nonhierarchical groups that maximize individual controllability and predictability, where there is mutual trust and the development of communal bonds; this is clearly related to the recent increased concern with social networks and support groups, and with attempts to recreate communities for the benefit of their members (e.g., Edney, 1981; Stokols, 1977; Tyler, Pargament, & Gatz, 1983).

The key element in the anarchist view of healthy psychological functioning is the desirability of attaining a balance between what Bakan (1966) called agency and communion; this view lies also at the core of the notion of androgyny (see Deaux, 1984). Anarchists advocate a decentralized society in which both autonomy and a psychological sense of community would be attainable, and they argue that only such a society can provide for that balance on a large scale. The analysis of anarchist philosophy by Alan Ritter (1980) makes it clear that, despite its popular "do-your-own-thing" image, the ultimate goal of classical anarchism is not simply unlimited "freedom" but instead what Ritter calls "communal individuality." Psychologists who take notions of such balance seriously, who seek to specify the kind of society that would best meet human psychological needs and values, have little choice but to consider the anarchist claims, following the example of Maslow (1971) and, even more clearly, of Erich Fromm (1955), who argued three decades ago that in order to create a "sane society," we need to choose between what he called the "robotism" of both capitalism and state communism on the one hand and "humanistic communitarian socialism" on the other.

Anarchism is Ecologically Necessary
Finally, psychologists who are concerned about global problems related to world peace, resource scarcity, and other manifestations of widespread disequilibrium will find that an examination of the anarchist literature has much to offer. A strong case has been made by Bookchin (1971) and others that anarchism is ecologically necessary: Only a federated, decentralized society that places a greater emphasis on local autonomy, regional resource development, and face-to-face communication and decisionmaking can enhance both the level of cooperation and the transformation of individual materialistic values that are necessary to ensure that global resources are not depleted. Yet, all too often, psychologists have fallen into the trap of advocating more centralization and stronger state control as a solution to tragedies of the kind discussed by Garrett Hardin (1968; see Fox, 1985). Greater attention needs to be placed on the anarchist argument that only radical decentralization can avert global catastrophe without making things worse for individuals and, also, on data that do show that small, local, interacting groups are in fact better able to manage limited resources (e.g., Stern & Gardner, 1981).

I have so far very briefly outlined four arguments: that anarchism is philosophically justified; that it is the natural form of human society; that it is psychologically healthy; and that it is ecologically necessary. I have tried to point out that there is a large literature that comprehensively if somewhat unsystematically argues that only an anarchist society can resolve world-wide problems while enhancing individual fulfillment of needs for autonomy and a sense of community in a morally defensible manner that is in keeping with the evolutionary path of human development. Yet despite all this, you may be excused for wondering what the point is. Surely anarchism is not possible. Isn't all this just utopian fantasy?

Perhaps. Yet dismissing anarchist views because they are "utopian" may be a luxury we can no longer afford. Moos and Brownstein (1977) point out that utopia has now become a necessity if we are to resolve environmental crises, and advocates of widespread social change who are concerned with the dissemination of humanistic values would do well to consider anarchist approaches. Political scientist Richard Falk (1983) in fact argues in a series of essays on the possible forms of world order that, despite its obvious difficulties, a move toward an anarchist world is one that is more likely to bring about lasting peace than are any of the alternatives.

Although it is true that even "impractical" utopian speculation is useful, as Maslow and many others have insisted, it is important to get beyond mere speculation as an intellectual exercise and begin to actually attempt to change society. Nelson and Caplan (1983), for example, discuss "enlightenment" approaches to social change that have the look of anarchism: The methods proceed from the bottom up rather than from the top down, and they stress individual autonomy, egalitarian relationships, and decentralization of control. Combined with a general systems approach that examines complex interrelationships among different aspects of society, Nelson and Caplan's model offers a basis for social change that should be useful to psychologists and others who seek to preserve humanistic values in an era of increasing centralization and isolation.

Elizabeth Campbell (1984) recently proposed an eight-point approach for humanistic psychologists that is compatible with anarchist philosophy and anarchist methods of organization. Among her other points, she called for a healthy, personal self-examination, including "looking at the effects of our actions collectively" (p. 25); she pointed out the need to "address structural issues that are basic to human survival" (p. 25), including peace and world order, human rights, redistribution of world resources, and environmental issues; she cited the need to build support systems in order to create a sense of community and to work collaboratively with others; and she urged us to "hold a positive vision of the possible future, while grappling with hard realities" (p. 26).

The challenge before us, as Campbell recognized, is to create a better world. As psychologists concerned both with individuals and with society as a whole, we cannot simply dismiss calls for radical change that do happen to be in accord with psychological knowledge. It would be to all our benefit if we could first agree on the long-range goal of a humanistic anarchist society--a goal that is clearly desirable on psychological grounds--and then begin to work together to determine which methods will help us bring such a society about. Perhaps examples such as the Israeli kibbutz system, a federated network of small, democratically managed collective communities with a history of both successes and failures, would be relevant as we begin our work.

In any event, the time has come to advocate a positive anarchy while there is still a chance of avoiding total chaos. Although the media may confuse the two, it is important for us to be aware of the difference.


As an anarchist, I agree. The best way to "attempt to change society" is to just ignore those in power and start advocating the importance of free and unfettered markets.


Nothing scary about it.

After all, nobody is scared of libertarians.


Wow - I am agreeing with Lifti and Varq!! Anarchy99!!


I love that picture.


Maybe I don't know enough about anarchy, but I don't see it as being the same as libertarianism. Good discussion though. How would each feel about or implement :

Local Police, Fire, roads, ect.



Am I missing anything that may be a little different?


I think all the services you mention can be handled just fine by market forces. There are already private enterprises that handle much of what you list.

As for the military and self defense all I have to say is: The American Revolution. That was not a state organized military but rather many different militias working together for one common agreed upon objective. For all intents and purposes it was nothing more than free people organizing to defend themselves which is the way all defense should be.

Morally, we cannot force other people to defend our interests. I also believe that all military forces are nothing more than a political tool that has nothing to do with "national defense". This tool is always used for the benefit of the power elite and not for the common man. It is the common man who always gets to pay with his life -- for no damn good reason.


dhickey, the really ironic thing is that your avatar, the Gadsden flag, embodies perfectly the anarchist ideology.

Anarchy as I understand it isn't about dismantling society, or blowing up buildings, or creating chaos.

It is nothing more or less than a commitment to not initiate force against another, and expect the same courtesy in return.

Just like the rattlesnake doesn't seek out human victims and attack them unprovoked, but is prepared to strike if trod upon.

I believe that anarchy works best in relatively small societies (say, 100-500 members), and only among people who are capable and responsible. A small group of capable, responsible people can build their own roads, put out their own fires, provide for their common defense, and police their own malefactors. I've seen this work in Indonesia and Japan. No reason it can't work anywhere there are capable, responsible people.

It is only the irresponsible and the incapable who need governing.


Don't forget me.

Ever notice how there are all these ruins of great cities of the past? One question, why did they all die? I'm gonna go google the oldest functioning city on earth and see what it is. Should be interesting.



I'm not scared of scrawny punks either.


Here is what I found about the oldest functioning cities. Now i'll try to get a better idea of how life is lived within one of these cities.

In spite of controversy, a list of the oldest cities might resemble the following:

Byblos in present-day Lebanon may date back as far as 5000 BCE and is considered by many to be the oldest continuously populated city.

Damascus in Syria has existed at least since 3000 BCE.

Varansi in India also dates back further than 3000 BCE



Good stuff V - is there any way to list the systems of governance those particular cities have existed under and are they really in exactly the same place? (not just having the same name)

I'll do some searching on this too . . .


Looks like Byblos was a small city, probably would be considered a town by most, but it kinda just existed as a trade port on the mediterreanean and stayed out of danger by being small and evidently valuable. So even when it was conqured a couple different times it was always just kinda left in tact and it just kept on existing as a trade port for whoever seemed to be in control of it at the time.



The San bushmen of the Kalahari have been living under the same system of non-governance since the Paleolithic times. Granted, they haven't developed technology, they don't wage war, and until recently they didn't even practice agriculture, but they are the best example of communalist anarchy that we have.

I would say that civilization itself is the cause of death for cities.


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This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.


Hey, cities are the cancer of this earth. With their infrastructures and logistics, the way in which they destroy land around them, they are like cancer cells. It's a japanese that presented this thought, but I can't recall his name.


There are actually some powerful arguments FOR world government:

"So could the European model go global? There are three reasons for thinking that it might.

First, it is increasingly clear that the most difficult issues facing national governments are international in nature: there is global warming, a global financial crisis and a â??global war on terrorâ??.

Second, it could be done. The transport and communications revolutions have shrunk the world so that, as Geoffrey Blainey, an eminent Australian historian, has written: â??For the first time in human history, world government of some sort is now possible.â?? Mr Blainey foresees an attempt to form a world government at some point in the next two centuries, which is an unusually long time horizon for the average newspaper column.

But â?? the third point â?? a change in the political atmosphere suggests that â??global governanceâ?? could come much sooner than that. The financial crisis and climate change are pushing national governments towards global solutions, even in countries such as China and the US that are traditionally fierce guardians of national sovereignty."

(Dude blogs in the London Financial Times)

In addition, the ability of small groups to inflict tremendous damage is rising exponentially. Only an all-powerful all-encompassing government with absolute power could crush such groups. As long as the ability of small groups is rising, anarchy would be a disaster.


Agreed. Humans should NOT live in cesspools...er, cities. Modern cities make humans think like ants and adopt Socialism, which inspires them to vote for criminals like Obama.


Its a dam pour mined that cant thank of moor thin won weigh two spill a whirred.