Anarchism Without Adjectives

Interestingly, Carson may despise me personally but he seems to agree with me on most substantive topics. I could have written this myself. Most of what Carson says in this essay from 2015 directly contradicts his public embrace of the totalitarian humanist paradigm.

By Kevin Carson, Center for a Stateless Society

Schematic designs for a new society seem to be really popular among self-described anarchists of all stripes. On the Right, we have Rothbard’s model for an entire society modelled whole-cloth on a “libertarian law code” deduced from axioms like self-ownership and the non-aggression principle. Within the historic anarchist movement of the Left, we have uniform templates like syndicalism or Kropotkinist communism. And the same tendency can be found among quasi-anarchistic libertarian socialist models like De Leonism and the World Socialist Movement; the latter assumes the creation of a communist society by persuading all the countries in the world to vote in their precise model of social organization through the political process, within a short time frame. And if all this isn’t bad enough there’s Parecon, for god’s sake.

The “anarchism without adjectives” position was a reaction to this kind of doctrinaire model-building, and the resulting conflicts between the proponents of various totalizing blueprints for society — most notably the late-19th century conflict between individualists, represented by Benjamin Tucker, and communists, represented by Johann Most. Although the term was first used by a couple of Spanish anarchists, Ricardo Mella and Fernando Terrida del Marmol (whom Voltairine de Cleyre met in London in 1897). Errico Malatesta and Max Nettlau adopted the position, and de Cleyre and Dyer Lum became its most visible American proponents. The basic idea was that anarchists should stop feuding over the specific economic model of a future anarchist society, and leave that for people to work out for themselves as they saw fit. Economic ideas like Proudhon’s mutualism, Tucker’s individualist free enterprise and Kropotkin’s communism were complementary, and in a post-state society a hundred flowers would bloom from one locality, one social grouping, to the next.


Categories: Anarchism/Anti-State

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  1. I added him on Facebook recently. I was hoping to read anarchist economic theories and applications of them to current events, instead I got him bitching about Trump 24/7, with the occasional interesting post about unions and landlords. A particularly depressing, milquetoast snippet from last week:

    “So we’re apparently at a juncture where any undermining of faith in the centrist establishment, or criticism of it from the left, is objectively aiding the fascists”.

    Pretty demoralizing. By the way, if you want to debate a left-anarchist on PC/totalitarian humanism, maybe try Brenton Lengel again, debates are pretty much the focus of his channel right now. The previous debate you had with him wasn’t structured very well I don’t think in terms of specific topics of disagreement.

    • Yeah, the main disagreement that I have with both Kevin and Brenton is that both of them seem to embrace the “anarcho-Democratic Party” or “anarcho-social democratic” paradigm to a much greater degree than I would (although to any degree at all would be more than me), and they obviously buy into the “social justice” religious/moral paradigm in a way that I couldn’t possibly care less about. I don’t think either of them is as bad as Alexander Reid-Ross or Spencer Sunshine, both of whom have essentially created a Protocols of the Learned Elders of Thule mythology, or Goofy Gillis, who is a cartoon character parody of left-anarchism. I think Bellamy Fitzpatrick’s critique of “World Domination Anarchism” summarizes pretty well what is problematic about that perspective, at least on a basic level.

      For me, the fight begins with the recognition of the global capitalist empire as the primary enemy. Hardt’s and Negri’s analyis of this from 20 years ago still holds up pretty well, although I think it needs to be supplemented with Van Creveld’s and Lind’s analysis of the decline of the state and the emergence of fourth-generation warfare. Additionally, the techno-oligarcy/new clerisy/financier alliance described by Kotkin is the rising ruling class of the developed nations in a way that is eclisping the traditional industrial bourgeoise and even the 20th century managerial elite to some degree. We’ve moved from Henry Ford to Jack Welch to Bill Gates. This rising ruling class is the equivalent of the industrial bourgeoisie of the 18th and 19th century. Totalitarian humanism is the self-legitimating ideology of this new rising ruling class, not anachronisms like “white supremacy,” traditional religion, old-fashioned social conservatism, or conventional bourgeois patriotism. In its more benign forms, totalitarian humanism is the social purity movement or moral majoritarianism of our time. In it’s more malevolent forms, it’s the new Bolshevism/fascism/Khomeinism. Anyone who doesn’t recognize this is out of the game before it begins.

      The real alternative to all of this is not to vote for Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump but the real dispersal of power, which in turn means real diversity, not only in the usual ways but in terms of ideologies, philosophies, lifestyles, value systems, cultural norms, etc. (like the many, many thousands of indigenous tribes that existed before the world came to be dominanted by imperial systems). That’s going to include plenty of “non-wokeness.”

      • I have a correspondent who I think recently summarized this problem fairly well.

        “I know two people (a couple) who I would politically describe as non-voting libertarians, who are pretty good on issues of state power, war, abuses by the police, etc. but who are also borderline religiously dedicated to the woke stuff. They identify as vegan feminists, and whatever their views of the state in an abstract sense, seem primarily concerned with spreading wokeness (using the right vocabulary and gender pronouns, refusing to watch or financially support any films or media that feature any kind of objectification of women, fighting rape culture and the patriarchy of old white men, etc.). They see a world poisoned by all those evils, and it can be exhausting trying to have a conversation with them that doesn’t brush up against and then totally devolve into that stuff.
        What I found interesting though is that they were both more or less taken by surprise by the selection of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s running mate. They don’t like her, and can see her as the top cop she is — and I don’t see them coming to her defense should she become VP, except perhaps in the narrowest sense of perceived sexist treatment by others in certain contexts. I had a conversation with one of them the other night about how the state always needs a legitimating ideology, and for the Democratic Party and much of the ruling elite, that has clearly come to heavily feature (as you point out) “pretending to be the champions of the cultural left.” I had mentioned similar things before, but I think for the first time he recognized the co-optation to be as deep as it is.
        I think in their minds they had cleanly separated the state / evil old white patriarchy on one side, and then all the social justice stuff on the other, and took for granted that their views, as they gained popularity and currency, would somehow not be poached and start to be worn by the powerful for their own ends. And while they might not get snookered into going to bat for Kamala and her ilk, there will probably be many who will. That’s the danger, I think, of perceiving the culture war to be the same as the war.
        And for the record, the same goes for libertarians who were taken in by Trump’s anti-war posturing and now slavishly go to bat for him (“oh he’s trying to end the wars, he’s really trying!”), or for the conspiracy-theory-prone paleoconservatives who seem to think liberty just means the liberty to make sure your kid doesn’t turn out trans, because the evil globalists are the ones making everybody trans, or something, and Trump is fighting that somehow.”

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