Is Anarchism on the Left, Right, Post-Left, or Beyond Left and Right?

In Paul Eltzbacher’s classic scholarly work on classical anarchism, he argued that each of the “Big Seven” classical anarchist figures (Godwin, Stirner, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tucker, Tolstoy) represented their own political paradigm. I once heard James Corbett say, correctly I think, that anarchism is not a philosophy but an ecosystem of philosophies. Alejandro de Agosta describes anarchism as “a decentralized federation of philosophies as well as practices and ways of life, forged in different communities and affirming diverse geohistories” which one of the best definitions I’ve heard to date.

I call myself a pan-anarchist or an anarcho-pluralist or an anarcho-ecumenicalist. I would group anarchical philosophies into different categories: proto-anarchisms, classical anarchisms, neo-anarchisms, neo-classical anarchisms, anarchist hybrids, anarchist parallels, anarchist cousins, implicit anarchisms, situational anarchists, attitudinal anarchisms, post-anarchisms, etc.

A big point of contention between different types of anarchists appears to be over the issues of equality vs. liberty vs. community vs. anti-authoritarianism. The main criticism I have of the mainstream anarchist milieu, in its present form, is that it tends to elevate the idea of equality to absurd levels while ignoring or rejecting other aspects of anarchist thought.

Equality means different things in different contexts. The classical 18th-century liberal philosophy was opposed to the systems of ascribed status that existed in traditional societies like rule by hereditary monarchies, aristocratic titles, clerical privileges, indentured servitude, and slavery. When capitalism came to be the dominant mode of production, the issue was the oppression of workers. The civil rights revolution of the postwar period was about the lack of access of historically subordinated groups (like women or ethnic minorities) to basic political and economic rights like education, jobs, voting in public elections. Nowadays, “inequality” is used to mean virtually anything. Sports teams give out participation trophies so less competent players won’t feel left behind. A while back I saw where the Miss America pageant was eliminating the swimsuit competition because presumably, not all women are equally hot in a swimsuit. I’ve seen SJW types cry “racism” because white hairdressers aren’t skilled in styling black hair textures. It seems to be the ethos of helicopter parenting being applied on a social and cultural level. Hence, the fixation on “microaggressions,” “cultural appropriation,” and “indirect oppression” and so forth. This kind of stuff seems to be the latest hobby project for middle-class busybodies, the same way they would have crusaded against the corrupting influence of comic books in the 1950s or something.

What’s interesting however is that while the modern Stepford wives are fixating on all these things, the re-feudalization of the economy and the re-proletarianization of labor is taking place throughout the developed world, particularly in the US. I lean toward the view that the reason the civil rights revolution (and its many penumbras) emerged in the postwar period was that for the first time in history we actually had post-scarcity societies so there was enough affluence where people could afford to devote their attention to other things besides material survival. Hence, the increased concern about ecology, discrimination, deplorable conditions in prisons and mental institutions, etc. that developed in the postwar period. I suspect the present-day fixation on microaggressions will decline as social conditions get worse, although the danger is that social cleavages could become even more pathological and result in real interethnic violence, civil war, and things like that.

Categories: Anarchism/Anti-State

Leave a Reply