Why Anarchists must be pro-markets and anti-capitalism.

The use of the term “capitalism” by Anarcho-Capitalists, Austrian economists, and Objectivists, is quite unfortunate, because it has muddled the discussion beyond redemption, like most discussions between individualist and collectivist Anarchists. This is the major problem with trying to reclaim words: it takes too long to do so, and in the interim time you manage to alienate everyone else who is still using the previous definition.

Capitalism, as 99.9999% of the world understands it, is this statist economic system that we currently have in most of the Western world, a system where there is a synergy between the ruling class and the rich and powerful corporate elements within a society, where they lend mutual aid to each other as much as they can, at the expense of the general population.

As Market Anarchists, we oppose capitalism for many reasons, the most important of these being that we oppose the State as a whole. Capitalism, like socialism and communism, can be best described as a form of relationship between the State and corporations. In capitalism, the State is the ally of corporations, in socialism the State is the antagonist of corporations, and in communism the State takes over all corporations and thus fully assumes corporate power (which leads to the counter-intuitive conclusion that communism is merely the fullest expression of capitalism).

Under Anarchy, there cannot be “socialist structures” or “capitalist structures.” In Anarchy, there is only the market. There can be no question of whether Anarchists should support markets or not, as Anarchy simply cannot exist without markets as economic basis, and indeed all “non-market” proposals made by collectivist Anarchists (like the barter system or gifting) are merely different forms of markets. People are completely free to choose the sort of arrangements they want to live under, as well as to limit that freedom if they so desire. The only real limiting factor is people’s open-mindedness and willingness to go beyond what is “traditional” or “accepted” (such as the current monopoloid “law” system).

Capitalism and the market have about as much to do with each other as Creationism has to do with actual science. Capitalism is based on concentration of power, hierarchies of authority and specialization of labour. Markets have only one of these three fundamentals, specialization of labour. But the other two, the ones that create all the exploitation in capitalist societies, are not part of markets. For one thing, Anarchists are against hierarchies of authority, and that’s what causes a lot of the concentration of power in the first place. The State’s rules and influence accounts for the rest.

Anarchy is egalitarian and anti-hierarchy. Capitalism is classist. Anarchy is individualistic. Capitalism is collectivist.

8 thoughts on “Why Anarchists must be pro-markets and anti-capitalism.

  1. jeremy6d March 1, 2008 at 17:10

    Excellent post! I wrote about the collectivist views that underlie capitalism here. Glad to see another perspective on this idea.

    One side note: it is my personal opinion – and keep in mind that many regard me as a shameless, insufferable asshole – that it’s unwise to use the term “market” to describe all voluntary interaction in society. In fact, capitalism uses market principles to assist in allocating resources for its own decidely unjust purposes. These principles function independent of moral considerations.

    Markets are just a form of organization resulting from some common acceptance of rules for interacting. There’s nothing in economics that says that these rules need to be of one form or another. Capitalism is a market phenomenon; it just has other important qualities as well, such as supporting the State as the rule maker.

    Similarly, there are non-market means of voluntary interaction, such as cooperativism. To try and lump that in with market processes is needlessly universalist and reductionist, I believe. There’s enough room in anarchic analysis for many different types of human social dynamics.

    This is one of my main points of disagreement with agorists, and I recognize that it is, in typical libertarian fashion, definitional and marginal. Just seemed like a good time to bring it up, since I – GASP – *agreed* so much with your thesis. :)

    Again, great post.

  2. Francois Tremblay March 1, 2008 at 17:45

    I have never come across an Anarchist system of economics that was not market-based. I would like to learn more about “cooperativism,” but I really doubt that it can do the impossible.

  3. theconverted March 1, 2008 at 21:41

    Nice post Francois! Very succinctly put. I hope some of the Infoshop anarchist read this and realize we are not their enemy, by their allies.

  4. […] March, 2008 As I have mentioned in the past, capitalism, socialism and communism are words used to designate strategies that the State uses in […]

  5. […] Why Anarchists must be pro-markets and anti-capitalism […]

  6. omadeon October 17, 2008 at 07:04

    I am very glad to have discovered your blog. I have very similar ideas, and have just included your article in the new links’ section of an older post of mine about “Mondragon Corporacion Cooperativa” (in Spain, Basque Region). I am Greek, BTW. :)

    It’s important to make people realize what you elegantly described as follows: “There can be no question of whether Anarchists should support markets or not, as Anarchy simply cannot exist without markets as economic basis, and indeed all “non-market” proposals made by collectivist Anarchists (like the barter system or gifting) are merely different forms of markets.”

    In a few minutes I will place your blog in my blog-roll (although I haven’t read everything else you say). I have a strong feeling, that even if we discover some minor differences, we are on the same path, despite geographic separation!

    Best Regards

  7. Instead of Politics November 26, 2011 at 07:22

    Better still, oppose the state without being trapped into philosophical arguments such as the difference between capitalism and marketism (if their is any difference). After all, 99.99999999999999999% of the world sees “anarchism” as aggression against property and order. The same percentage sees the state as corrupt. Our job is not to disprove the former but to capitalize on the latter.

    “Instead of Politics (Civilization 101)”

    • Francois Tremblay November 26, 2011 at 11:47

      Apparently you think my blog is about marketing politics, not about the truth. What do I care what people think Anarchism is?

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