Economics/Class Relations

Anarcho-Communism vs Individualist-Anarchism

By Wayne Price, Anarchist Library

Kevin Carson is attempting to resurrect anarchist economic theory. This is interesting because most current anarchist political economy is speculation about a post-capitalist, post-revolutionary, economy—what it would look like and how it might work. There is little or nothing of an analysis of how present-day capitalism functions. For that, most anarchists either rely on some variety of conventional (pro-capitalist) economics or they look to aspects of Marxism. The latter is the strategy I used in my book (Price 2013)—with the subtitle, “an anarchist introduction to Marx’s critique of political economy.” There have been anarchists using Karl Marx’s economic views—while rejecting his statist politics—beginning with Michael Bakunin. (And there has always been a minority of Marxists who look toward the more libertarian and humanistic side of Marx’s work, whose politics are close to anarchism.)

Carson seeks to revive the anarchist economic school of “mutualism” (the theory of P.J. Proudhon, the first person to call himself an “anarchist”). It was developed further by the 19th century U.S. individualist anarchists (J. Warren, L. Spooner, and especially Benjamin Tucker). He acknowledges, “Unfortunately, individualist anarchist economic thought has for the most part been frozen in a time warp for over a hundred years.” (xvi) Within anarchism, it was overtaken by anarchist-communism. It died out, with remnants being assimilated into alien theories of “libertarian” capitalism and so-called “anarcho-capitalism.” To attempt to revive mutualist theory, Carson derives ideas from capitalist economics, including “libertarian” capitalist economists, and a great deal from Marxism (he frequently cites either Marx or Marxists).

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