Anarchism Without Adjectives & the Moral Landscape

This is an interesting critique of the perspective of myself and others who favor a broad interpretation of “anarchism without adjectives.” Basically, the argument comes to “anarchism should be exclusive to leftists only” combined with an “anarcho-Sam Harrisism” approach to moral philosophy.

By Ekklesiagora


enter image description hereI’m generally not fond of the phrase “anarchism without adjectives” anymore because the phrase has begun to be thrown around by people on the far right to mean something quite different from what it originally meant. I like the idea of anarchism without adjectives as it was applied by anarchists in the 1880 through the early 1900s. They wanted to eliminate the in-fighting between collectivists, communists, and mutualists within the anarchist tradition. The various schools of anarchist thought all had a lot in common and it was held that anarchists should work together. There was an implicit faith in direct democracy and the ability of anarchists to reach some sort of consensus at the local level during and after the revolution. There may be differences of opinion among anarchists, but people could gather in general assemblies and discuss their differences and come to an agreement, settling for some arrangement that is mutually acceptable to everyone. The kinds of arrangements that arise under anarchism will be diverse. The general assemblies in various communities might each arrive at slightly different agreements. This is what anarchism without adjectives originally referred to—the notion that there might be room for differences of opinion among anarchists and room for various alternative anarchistic arrangements to co-exist alongside one another.

In more recent times, people like Keith Preston, Mike Shanklin, and William Schnack have been advocating a very different sort of “anarchism without adjectives.” These people have been advocating a sort of separatist tribalism without a democratic basis. In their estimation, various propertarian arrangements are equally as acceptable as democratic anarchism. Thus, pseudo-anarchist ideologies like “anarcho-capitalism,” “anarcho-monarchism,” and “anarcho-feudalism” are acceptable under their “panarchism” or “pan-anarchism.” Instead of identifying anarchism with a lack of rulers and the rejection of unjustified authority, these individuals define their “anarchism” in terms of the lack of a centralized State and the push for decentralization. These modern theorists also tend to be hostile to democracy and tend to favor the privatization of the State. They tend to be okay with all the coercive and unjust aspects of the modern State, so long as those aspects are abstracted from the State itself. Such theorists are often okay with structural racism, sexism, and capitalistic property as long as those institutions are upheld by private police and private courts rather than by any centralized justice system. I reject this new “anarchism without adjectives” in favor of the original anarchism without adjectives. All right-wing ideologies are incompatible with anarchism.


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