Anarchism and Democracy: Response to Shawn Wilbur and Gabriel Amadej Reply

By William Gillis

Center for a Stateless Society

Shawn Wilbur argues that “anarchy” and “democracy” are completely distinct principles—philosophically. Philosophically, there is “no middle ground.” However, in actual living, there is “the likelihood that we might continue to have recourse to practices that we think of as ‘democratic.’ It is difficult to imagine a society in which we are not at times forced to…engage in practices like voting.” How often will these times happen?  Perhaps a lot during the “transition” from statism to anarchy.

Shawn seems to want to have his cake and eat it too. He fiercely rejects even the most decentralized, direct, participatory, democracy in the name of anarchism (philosophically). This is combined with a willingness to support actual democratic procedures in solving collective problems (practically).

Let us leave aside philosophical definitions, as well as considerations of what Proudhon and Bakunin really meant (although Bakunin’s anarchist association called itself the Alliance of Socialist Democracy). Does Shawn really disagree with me and other democratic anarchists, in praxis (integrating theory and practice)? He and I are both for as much freedom as possible, both individual and collective—rejecting the state and any other institution of oppression. We both want collective decisions to be as free and uncoerced as is possible. We both accept that there have to be some conflicts in which everyone is not satisfied with the outcome, conflicts which must be managed through democratic procedures of some sort (even if he compares this to cannibalism!). If we can agree on this much, then I am willing to accept that we have differences in philosophy.

Gabriel Amadej also bases his argument on principles developed by Proudhon.  Unlike Shawn Wilbur, his solution to collective decisionmaking is not through democratic procedures but through “the market.” But our societies are so intertwined and interconnected, economically and otherwise, that even decentralization will not end the need for working and living together collectively—and making collective decisions in our workplaces and communities—democracy.

 

Anarchism and Democracy: Reply to Alexander Reid Ross Reply

By William Gillis

Center for a Stateless Society

It marks a nice contrast from Wayne Price’s relatively “aw shucks” disinterest in philosophical critiques of democracy that Alexander Reid Ross brings history and philosophical language to the defense of democracy. Unfortunately, I have a violent allergic reaction to the flavor of philosophical language he adopts.

On the upside, I appreciate that Alexander has injected a certain amount of historical reference to this discussion by mapping some of the ways “democracy” has morphed in its associations over history and in different contexts or discourses. Of course, whether one agrees with the narrative arc Alexander maps with those details is a different story; he certainly excludes the long history of anarchist critiques of democracy, arguably underhandedly painting Malatesta into the ‘pro’ camp and acting like Bookchin didn’t come to realize his politics had always been irreconcilable with the ideal of anarchism. There is, in short, plenty of room for disagreement here, but I find citations of authors largely a distraction. It should matter not if literally every prior anarchist in history was pro-democracy if what is best meant by democracy is discovered to be irreconcilable with what is best meant by anarchism itself. If every heretofore anarchist was patriarchal or nationalistic that should not prove that anarchism is not in fundamental tension with those values.

Where Alexander’s essay is the strongest is pointing out that notions of liberty and equality got tied up with democracy in some wings of the enlightenment, and thus anarchy and democracy have grown intertwined in some respects. But of course it is frequently the case that irreconcilable concepts become intertwined in complex ways through the vagaries of history. And the popular political prescriptions that were attached to the Enlightenment are a place where I feel its critics actually have some kick.

 

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Social, but Still Not Democratic Reply

By Shawn Wilbur

Center for a Stateless Society

As long as there has been something called “anarchism,” anarchists have been struggling to define it—and, as often as not, they have been in struggle against other self-identified anarchists. At this point in our history, this seems both hard to deny and pointless to regret. These are not battles that can be won “once and for all,” since the struggle over meaning is just essentially the process by which meaning is made. That means that there is an element of futility to this sort of debate, but not the sort that would ever let us withdraw from the fight.

It’s extremely easy for these debates to simply become focused on words, or even just parts of words, whether it is a matter of the etymological quibbling so familiar in online debate or the rhetorical wars of position that tend to follow every more significant engagement in the struggle. In order to really come to grips with either the concepts behind the words or with our antagonists in debate requires some combination of clarity in our expression and consciousness of the vagaries of various contexts. So, in our case, effectiveness seems to call for being clear about our own conceptions of “anarchy” and “democracy,” but also being sensitive to the way these terms are being used elsewhere in the broad conversation about the defining characteristics of anarchism.

There have undoubtedly been moments in the history of anarchism when recourse to the language of “democracy” created more or less potential confusion than it does at present, just as there have been times when “anarchy” was more or less valued as an ideal among self-proclaimed anarchists. Our assessment of those contexts, together with the details of our own theories of anarchism, will determine how important we consider the debate. For some of us, this is not the hill we’ll pick to die on, while for others of us something vital to the anarchist project is at stake.

 

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Further Response on Democratic Anarchism Reply

By Wayne Price

Center for a Stateless Society

Having already written three essays on the topic of anarchism’s relation to democracy, I will only present a few comments. These are generally in response to the interesting remarks of other writers in this series.

I do not think that any of the other writers have answered my challenge about how an agro-industrial commune would decide whether or not to build a road. If not by democracy, then how? They tend to write as if people had a choice about whether or not to make collective decisions (especially true of William Gillis). But we live in a world of interconnected industries and technologies, in small and large communities. Anarchists wish to decentralize those communities and technologies and to redevelop them for human scale and the self-management of the working people.  But we cannot hope for a totally non-centralized, individualized, society, each on his or her own. It wouldn’t work. This means that there must be some sort of collective, cooperative, decisionmaking mechanisms.  (Of course, as I said, there are all sorts of issues which are outside of collective decision-making: choice of religion, sexual practices, taste in art, etc. These are the decisions of individuals or small groups. Anarchists have always defended them against majorities.)

Since some form of collectivity is necessary in many areas, then what form of (necessary) decision-making is most consistent with freedom?  Surely it can only be democratic processes, especially small-group, direct, face-to-face democracy, organized into decentralized federations.

 

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Anarchism and Democracy: Response to Kevin Carson and William Gillis Reply

By Derek Wittorff

Center for a Stateless Society

It seems to me as though there’s been two prevailing and conflicting ideas about democracy in this symposium. The first idea is that democracy is irreconcilable with anarchy in principle. The second idea is that democracy can — ironically because of practical concerns — be compatible with anarchy. I’ve made my own position clear.

What’s interesting enough about this division is how those who think that democracy and anarchy are very compatible also believe that consensus is the equivalent to democracy. I’ve heard this before, and I’m sure there’s a history to explain this, but the structural forms are quite different. That alone makes it a pressing and important definitional issue. Kevin Carson raised this definitional issue about my piece, but ultimately went on to agree with my “networked-mode of federalism” that involves consensus-based collectives forming each node. To me, it is a type of federalism that could be practiced by individualist anarchists, but also a federalism that isn’t (yet should be) commonly recognized by social anarchists who prefer the old 19th century delegate model which practices a sort of nested hierarchy. It’s what he proposed, with far more examples, in his initial essay “Democracy as a Necessary Anarchist Value”.

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Robert Stark talks to Giovanni Dannato about The Post Scarcity Economy & The Basic Income 2

The Stark Truth. Listen here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Stark and co-host Pilleater talk to Giovanni Dannato. Giovanni blogs at Colony of Commodus and is the author of A Kingdom For the Introvert. Follow Giovanni on Twitter.

Topics:

On A Post Labor Scarcity Economy
On A Basic Guaranteed Living
Some Form of State Capitalism Is the Future
State Capitalism in the Internet Age
Much US Dysfunction Comes From Post-Scarcity Denial
Urban Land Management In A Post Scarcity Economy
The Leisure Economy
NEETs, Lumpenproles, and the Leisure Economy

Audio Player

 

Anarchism and Democracy: Response to Carson Reply

By William Gillis

Center for a Stateless Society

Kevin objects to my focus on the etymology of “democracy” and brings up the post-left distancing from “the left” as something he finds similarly arbitrary.

This is not a symposium on the post-left and certainly that term of self-identification has been increasingly appropriated by reactionaries, but it’s important to note that the original post-left argument for anarchists to distance ourselves from “the left” was the opposite of some kind of etymological argument that appealed to relatively fixed underlying meanings.

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On the Democracy and Anarchism Debate Reply

By Kevin Carson

Center for a Stateless Society

In “The Regime of Liberty,” Gabriel Amadej advocates the Proudhonian ideal – reflected in the dictum “property is liberty” – of some individual sphere of last resort where means of subsistence are secure from the will of the majority:

“Democracy disrupts this balance and places society under the unaccountable domain of community. An individual’s means of survival thus came to depend entirely on one’s reputation with one’s neighbours. It is, as Proudhon said, the rule of all by all, which includes every individual involved in that sum.

It is under this condition that Proudhon proclaimed that community, too, is theft. Yet never, in any of his works, did he declare that community is liberty. Despite the fact that, just as he famously declared that property is theft, he also declared property to be liberty. Community was just much a problem, an enigma, as property itself….

“Property is liberty” when labour controls its own product and individuals are sovereign over their means of survival. This is a counterbalance to the absolutist domain of community. If this dimension of property becomes a totalizing force, the regime of liberty suffers again.

We can say that pure democracy threatens to make the domain of community universal, while capitalism likewise threatens to make the domain of property universal. Under both regimes, liberty suffers. Anarchy is neither capitalism nor communism. It is self-government; the absolute sovereignty of the individual.

We should not desire a society where every good is bought and sold under the cash nexus. Neither should we desire a society where one’s access to resources is determined by one’s neighbour’s good will.

This dichotomy needs a resolution, and that resolution is Proudhonian mutualism….

Critical to the survival of anarchy is mutualism: the balance of property and community. The market cannot be free without the commons, and the commons cannot be free without the market.”

The commons, in my opinion, is itself an institution for synthesizing community with liberty. It is a sort of platform, outside the realm of state politics. Unconditional equal access rights to the commons amount to inalienable control over one’s livelihood.

 

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Individualist Anarchism vs. Social Anarchism Reply

By Wayne Price

Center for a Stateless Society

This C4SS discussion about anarchism and democracy has been intriguing—even though I am one of only two writers who have regarded them as compatible concepts. The brief essay by Grayson, “Demolish the Demos,” is especially useful. It clarifies what is at the root of the disagreement among anarchists about democracy. The basic issue, I believe, is not what we mean by “democracy” but what we mean by “anarchism.” It is the commitment to an “individualist” interpretation of anarchism which lead to a rejection of radical democracy. I believe that this leads, contrary to anyone’s intentions, in an authoritarian direction.

Social Philosophy

Grayson writes:

“…All should be equal in having…absolute authority over themselves….We…wish for a world…in which all are kings….The demos is the original enemy for an anarchist….It presupposes the annihilation of the individual in the collective….This antagonism [is] between individual sovereignty and democracy….The social should make room for the individual and not vice versa….Individuals act…Collectives do not act….The society we want is one that continually dissolves itself into individuals and only exists as a springboard for unique individuals to interface with each other…”  

Of course, Grayson does not deny the existence of society or societies, large or small. But he regards them as secondary to individuals: something to be tolerated and used as little as possible, until they can be (periodically?) dissolved. (I do not know whether Grayson is a disciple of Stirner or other individualist anarchists, but he clearly fits this category.)

As a description of reality, this is false. There are and can be no individuals without society. Grayson could not think without using language—a social product. A child’s sense of self is developed through his or her interaction with others, from infancy onwards. Grayson’s vision is like saying that a waterfall does not really exist because it is composed of water drops: the drops do the falling, but supposedly not the river’s water. He says that only individuals act, but not collectives. But take the famous example of a group of men moving a piano. Who is moving the piano? If each one acts completely autonomously, will the piano be moved? This is a model for any sort of productive activity from hunter-gathering on to today, no matter how decentralized or crafts-like an anarchist technology would be.

Compare Grayson’s views with those of Bakunin (passages quoted in Brian Morris, Bakunin: The Philosophy of Freedom, 1993):

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Do Fascists and Marxists Actually Exist? Reply

No, says Paul Gottfried.

By Paul Gottfried

The American Conservative

Women’s March, March 2017. Photo by Mark Dixon/Flickr/Creative Commons

During last year’s election season, we were treated to multiple comments about how Donald J. Trump was no Edmund Burke.  As a historian and political observer I find such put-downs ridiculous. No Western politician today is following in the footsteps of Edmund Burke; nor can he.

His associates didn’t care what his views were on “women’s issues,” gay marriage or transgendered restrooms; and he developed a reputation as a reformer because he favored home rule under the Crown for Ireland, a gradual emancipation of slaves in the West Indies, and an end to the mercantile policies supported by his Tory opposition. Burke held extremely critical views about democracy and ridiculed the notion of “human rights,” which has become a pillar of American liberal internationalism. I for one agree with much of what Burke said on many subjects, particularly the French Revolution, but then I’m a septuagenarian political dinosaur who doesn’t belong to any significant political movement or party.

Of course it is possible to claim Burke, Aristotle, Kant or anyone whom a journalist or politician cares to invoke for any cause. One can attribute moderation or favorable intentions to anyone who is no longer on Earth and then maintain that if so-and-so were around, he’d be for Hillary, Obamacare, John Kasich, or sending weapons to Israel or Poland. People in the public eye do this all the time; and when they do, I find myself reciting the biblical passage about letting the dead bury the dead.

A related bad habit that I pound mercilessly in my anthology, Revisions and Dissents, is attaching obsolete labels and associations to contemporary movements and personalities. “Fascism,” “conservative,” and “liberal” are three terms that I would like to retire, since I don’t think they apply any longer to our politics. “Right” and “left” may still have relevance since they seem to me to be existential reference points that can exist independently of passing parties and movements. “Conservative” and “liberal” came out of the nineteenth-century and were centered on the struggle between the landed classes and the rising urban bourgeoisie. (A similar dialectic played itself out in this country in the clash between the Union and Confederacy in the Civil War.)

By contrast Right and Left can be easily recognized even if the social and political battles of nineteenth-century Europe are no longer with us. The Deplorables who backed Trump or the French ploucs who supported the FN, clearly represent the Right. They are rooted in a particular place, oppose globalist ventures and what we in the US call the deep state, and hold relatively traditional views about gender and family relations. The globalist, pro-immigration class, which is situated mostly in large cities, and which energetically backs progressive lifestyles, exemplifies our version of the Left. Describing the current Left as “socialist” or “Marxist” is ridiculous and usually dishonest, because the lines of division between Right and Left are now found elsewhere.

 

I’ve noticed that our authorized conservatives don’t say much about Senator Elizabeth Warren’s cultural radicalism. Instead they berate her and former president Obama as “socialists” and even “Marxists.” What such figures once in power did or would do in pursuing feminist, gay, or transgendered agendas hardly rates a mention from our Republican spokespersons and Fox News All Stars. Far more worrisome for them is how a Democratic president might affect the GNP, or whether Senator Warren if she became president would have the government pay more toward college tuitions.

Although I’m by no means in favor of these policies, they hardly fit the classical criteria of socialism, like nationalizing the forces of production. A really intrusive side of the current (post-Marxist) Left, namely, their drastic social engineering projects intended to overcome “prejudice,” makes little impression on most of the authorized Right. Could it be that these critics are at least partly in agreement with or mostly indifferent to this undertaking? Perhaps they also sense that the Left has already won the cultural battle, and it might be best to limit partisan campaigning to pocketbook issues.

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Keith Preston: Chemical attack warning signals another US strike in Syria Reply

Press TV. Listen here.

An ominous warning to the Syrian government against staging a chemical weapons attack indicates that the United States could be on the verge of another military strike inside Syria, an analyst say.

“It sounds as if the United States may be planning an attack on Syria,” Keith Preston, director of Attack the System, told Press TV.

“We have to remember that the last time the White House came out and made an accusation of this kind against Syria, those comments served as a precursor to the subsequent attack on Syria,” he added.

The Pentagon said on Tuesday the US intelligence services had detected increased activity at Shayrat airfield in the central province of Homs, the same base targeted by a massive US cruise missile strike early in April.

“This involved specific aircraft in a specific hangar, both of which we know to be associated with chemical weapons use,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said.

The Pentagon’s statement gave weight to an ominous warning from the White House Monday night, in which Press Secretary Sean Spicer accused President Bashar al-Assad’s government of “potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack.”

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Spicer also threatened that if President Assad “conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

White House spokesman Sean Spicer speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on June 26, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The April strike on Shayrat followed accusations by US officials that the airfield had been used to launch a gas attack in the town of Khan Shaykhun in the western Idlib province two days earlier.

Syria and its ally Russia said a militant-held chemical arms depot had been damaged in an airstrike on militant positions, causing a leakage of the toxic substance that caused over 80 deaths.

In the days following the missile strike, Defense Secretary James Mattis cautioned that the US was prepared to take further action if Syria launched another gas attack.

The latest accusation, Preston said, “is consistent with the ongoing geopolitical strategy that the United States has been pursuing in the region.”

“While the American government has long been claiming to be fighting ISIS (Daesh) in Syria, that is not certainly the case at all,” he noted. “The United States has actually undermined efforts by other forces in the region to successfully combat ISIS.”

“The primary objection of the United States is the elimination of the Syrian government of President Assad,” Preston said.

Escalation with Russia, Iran 

The latest US threats against Damascus marked a further escalation of tensions in a country where Russia and Iran are also working with the Syrian government to defeat Daesh.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said the White House also aimed to send a message to Russia and Iran that if a chemical attack happens again, “we are putting you on notice.”

“What this seems to indicate is that the Americans are trying to escalate hostilities not only with Syria but also with Russia and Iran even,” Preston said.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that “such threats to Syria’s legitimate leaders are unacceptable.”

Peskov said that despite Russia’s calls, an independent probe into the April chemical incident was never conducted, adding, “That is why we do not think it is possible to lay the blame on the Syrian armed forces.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also posted a tweet in reaction to the latest US threat. “Another dangerous US escalation in Syria on fake pretext will only serve ISIS (Daesh), precisely when it’s being wiped out by Iraqi and Syrian people,” he said.

Anarchism and Democracy: Response to Wittorff Reply

By William Gillis

Center for a Stateless Society

I should clarify for Derek Wittorff that I wasn’t embracing, for example, calling all collective decisionmaking “democracy.” Rather, I was entertaining the more extreme definitions out there. I was attempting to point out how some kernel of “the rule of all over all” lies within each of these alternative definitions — or at the very least how they conflict or risk deviating from anarchism — not to endorse those definitions.

I should also clarify that I have nothing against unanimity, indeed it is often a desirable end. My point was that the way we presently handle consensus process overemphasizes the value of affiliation in a persistent collective organization at the cost of a truer emphasis on freedom of association. Consensus process (done right) encourages people to disassociate and reassociate fluidly. Consensus should ideally be a test applied that dissolves associations and discourages persistent groups just as much as it facilitates the discovery of affinities or detentes.

Unfortunately, the left-liberal concept of consensus has largely won out in activist spaces over the anarchist concept of consensus.

I agree, of course, that we can expect people in a free world to sacrifice some level of agency for the reassurances of persistent structures. And there are certainly problems of economies of scale and externalities in our immediate world that will require all manner of trade-offs, as I openly admitted in my opening essay. There will certainly be situations where accomplishing a task is only possible if people stick together. My point here is that people should consciously decide whether that is the case, and whether the task is worth it. The default right now is almost always to assume that every undertaking requires sticking together in some group, and that such a course of action is worth it. I think we need a much stronger skepticism about the necessity of sticking together, much less in persistent organizations. We must get over our deep-seated fear of disassociation for anarchy to ever flourish.

Where Derek starts to lose me is in treating “agency” like an emotional affect subjective to each person. While the quantification of agency in particular cases is truly forbidding, we can nevertheless speak with some substance of it. An agent locked in a small room from which no information or causal influence escapes clearly has a maximum limit to their agency. And we can clearly say that an agent locked in a bigger box, all other things being equal, has more possible agency. They can do more things. They have more choices and more of the universe is contingent upon their thoughts. (As anarchists we obviously want to go much further than longer chains. We want no chains — the ultimate end of infinite freedom.) Similarly, an agent with 1 bit of information about their world and what choices are available to them has less agency than an agent with 2 bits of information about the same.

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Formality, Collectivity and Anarchy Reply

By Derek Wittorff

Center for a Stateless Society

I found William Gillis’ essay “The Abolition of Rulership Or The Rule Of All Over All” to be a very interesting read. It covered many of the same points as my essay without much disagreement, and in a much less compressed manner. However, there was one notable difference, and a couple of slight disagreements. Addressing these points of departure will hopefully help contribute to the ongoing dialogue.

William’s definition of democracy as the “rule of all over all” actually paralleled my definition of communism. His definition of democracy is appears to be slightly more broad, ranging from the “rule of the majority” to the unanimity of consensus. This essentially gives democracy a little bit more room for compatibility with anarchy (in a very limited space, i.e. extremely informal, small, ad hoc forms of consensus). Although I do not define consensus as a form of democracy, we find ourselves both agreeing that consensus has some limited overlap with anarchism. It appears the disagreement is over how far that overlap extends, or whether formal organizations using consensus have any anarchist applications at all.

Quoting from the section “Democracy as Consensus”:

“There’s a massive difference between consensus that’s arrived at through free association, and consensus that’s arrived because people are locked into some collective body to some degree. Often what passes for “consensus” within anarchist activist projects is merely consensus within the prison of a reified organization. Modern anarchists are still quite bad at embracing the fluidity of truly free association, we cling to familiar edifices. Our organizations reassure us insofar as they function like the state, simplistic monoliths that exist outside of time and beyond the changing desires and relations of their constituent members…

…for consensus to be truly anarchistic we must be willing to consense upon autonomy, to shed off our reactionary hunger for established perpetual collective entities. Otherwise consensus will erode back in the direction of majority rules, individuals feeling obliged to tolerate decisions lest they break the uniformity of the established collective.”

 

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Embracing the Antinomies Reply

By Shawn Wilbur

Center for a Stateless Society

It should be clear that one of the key conflicts in these debates about anarchy and democracy is a struggle over the nature of anarchism. And it is probably safe to say that nearly all anarchists wrestle with the difficulties of defining that term. Part of the difficulty is that anarchism is simultaneously a kind of system and a matter of tradition. It is at once a political—or anti-political—ideology, a social-scientific approach, and a body of practices that have emerged within—and sometimes against—a particular set of social movements. It is no surprise, then, when our discussions of anarchist theory and practice oscillate between, on the one hand, attempts to show logical consistency between given practices and established principles and, on the other, appeals to the practices of certain pioneers.

When anarchist thought is vital, we should expect the two aspects to work together, since ideally anarchism should never become either simply a theoretical construction or a matter of merely copying past practices. At its best, anarchist thought uses elements of tradition to increase freedom in the present, while new contexts in the present cast new light on the insights of the past. But we should probably be honest and admit that we do not always know quite how to achieve that mix.

Looking back over this exchange, it seems to me Gabriel Amadej’s short contribution “The Regime of Liberty” is a good example of how to at least begin to achieve that balance—and one that works with a particularly difficult body of thought. The attempt to propose a market anarchism “in the spirit of Proudhon” is provocative—I assume intentionally so, given familiar arguments about the place of “the market” in Proudhon’s thought—and the claim that he “held his ground and asserted the principles of anarchy” in late works such as The Principle of Federation simply ups the ante, given the tendency to treat those works as some kind of departure from the spirit of works like What is Property?

As one of those who has pretty consistently advised caution in linking Proudhon and market anarchism, I want to explain a few of the reasons for my reticence in that regard, and also talk a bit about the difficulties involved with attaching Proudhon, and especially his mature works, to any of our projects, but then I would like to briefly explore how we might move at least a few more steps down a path at least similar to the one Amadej has indicated. “Sancta sanctis,” wrote Proudhon in The Theory of Property. “Everything becomes just for the just man; everything can be justified between the just.” And let’s take that as a challenge that it is up to us to determine whether “the market” can find its place among the key institutions of an anarchist society.

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Anarchism and Democracy: A Response to Goodman Reply

By William Gillis

Center for a Stateless Society

Nathan Goodman brings an interesting definition of “democracy” to the conversation — and one that I didn’t preemptively critique — openness. Seeking to bridge the oft-stated dichotomy of markets and democracy, Nathan cites Don Lavoie’s conception which essentially posits markets as the truest expression of democracy:

“In Lavoie’s framework, democracy is not something expressed through a state with a monopoly on the use of force, or through elections to decide what such a state will do. Instead, democracy occurs through open discourse, debate, contestation, and interaction among citizens. To borrow a concept from the Ostroms, democracy rightly understood is polycentric rather than monocentric. … If democracy is characterized by openness, then the ballot box is not the epitome of democracy. Instead, democracy is defined by those who, from the bottom up, contribute to an open society. People who film police and expose their crimes do this. Journalists who investigate powerful people, debate ideas, and keep the free press alive embody democracy.”

It’s worth underlining, of course, that Lavoie’s conception of “democracy” as reconcilable with markets obliges an expansion of our consideration from the thinnest economic reductionism, obliging a wider culture of liberty, openness, discourse, and engagement. Nathan is right to crow that this lines up perfectly with the position of “thick libertarianism,” first introduced by Charles Johnson. For too long, too many libertarians have insisted that liberation can be achieved through the narrowest certification of voluntary transactions, with everything else rendered superfluous to securing a libertarian society. Of course, sadly, most contemporary right-libertarians have dropped their self-proclaimed “thin libertarian” act and endorsed a wild array of supposed cultural preconditions for freedom: often supporting extreme authoritarianism as a means to institute such cultural conditions. This position is almost identical to Marxism’s pretenses of being a path to anarchy. These “libertarians” — who think that a stultifying reactionary culture of traditional authoritarianism is necessary for liberation — are now too busy marching with neo-Nazis in intimidation rallies to bother attempting to justify such twists.

 

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