The Ungovernability of Anarchism
An exchange between Shawn Wilbur and myself is in the comments section.
There is a lesson about anarchism that seems extraordinarily hard to learn, even though we are constantly confronted with it: As a tradition and as an idea, anarchism is essentially ungovernable. As an idea, it is too basic and logical a response to the statist status quo to remain the exclusive domain of any particular class or faction of dissenters. As a tradition, it emerged alongside many of the categories we presently use to distinguish those classes and factions, positing itself, at its origins, as much as an alternative to those classificatory schemes as fodder for their work.
When it is a question of a choice between more-or-less anarchist approaches, we should certainly expect everyone to proclaim the overwhelming advantages of their particular theory or strategy—and if there are certain rhetorical advantages to “no true Scotsman” sorts of arguments, they will be used, and their use may help us to focus on what the real essence of anarchism might be. But let’s be clear when we’re being rhetorically clever or expedient, and acknowledge that there is no question of forcing any fraction of the thought that has a legitimate claim to the title of “anarchism” into the little ideological boxes that most of us favor. That ship has sailed. Anarchism hardly had a name before it had an internal diversity that no amount of spinning is ever going to reduce to a single orthodoxy.
And the more of our history that we uncover, the more irrevocably irreducible it will appear.