I rarely talk about anything but moral principles and general systemic issues on this blog. However, I do get the occasional question that forces me to think about more pragmatic concerns, the kind of thing that an ordinary interested person might ask. One that I got recently is: “how would Anarchism be beneficial?”
There is an easy way to answer such a question, and that is to turn it around to the asker. What could YOU do in an egalitarian society that you can’t do today? If you were free from mores and laws, what sort of life would you want to lead, what sort of relationships would you want to have? If all jobs were paid relatively equally and you as a worker had decision-making power over your own working conditions, what sort of work would you want to do?
If one wants to know what effect Anarchism would have on society as a whole, the question becomes rather vast. For one, Anarchism prescribes processes, not outcomes, and as such describing an Anarchist society runs directly counter to our intents and purposes. One cannot describe the institutions that would inhabit it, or the kinds of work organizations that would exist, or the specific political entities that would emerge. One can, however, describe the goals of such a society.
Anarchists aim to eliminate hierarchies, that is to say, structures of domination and obedience. Anarchists aim to establish an egalitarian society, where every individual has total decision-making power over his own life, and as much decision-making power over society as everyone else in that society.
All other aims are corollaries of this basic principle. All benefits accrue from this basic principle. Any deviation from this principle is counter to the aims of Anarchism, and therefore counter to individual freedom and social equality.
The fundamental sustenance of hierarchies is indoctrination. It should therefore be obvious why Anarchists attack the mass media, schooling, government propaganda, and other sources of indoctrination. The role of indoctrination is to divorce the individual from his own innate values, compassion and happiness, in order to channel his energies towards devotion (or at least grudging obedience) to some hierarchy. Reclaiming those energies is the first benefit of becoming an Anarchist; reclaiming one’s true self takes a lot more time, but is also far more profoundly beneficial.
The alternative to hierarchical institutions is the concept of institutions based on mutual aid. Such institutions, which have existed for centuries, no longer exist in our societies. Voluntary institutions have all but disintegrated, and communities ceased to exist long before that. What we can call society in the strict sense, therefore, does not exist, and the individual is railroaded into either accepting a form of subservience to the existing power-based institutions or to find that his life is without social meaning.
While the individual is born good, he necessarily molds his sense of self into the framework provided by his community or society. One of the roles of society is to provide meaning and purpose to the individual’s life. A society which, in its very organization, prevents or hinders the formation of meaning and purpose will engender dysfunctional relationships, general vulnerability to ideologues and tyrants, high levels of suicide, high levels of fanatic religiosity, and so on. At a psychological level, it will produce atomism, constant self-doubt, and an anxiety about the freedom that one does possess.
Anarchists aim to eliminate hierarchies, which dictate their subjects’ way of life and destroys that of others. Our objective is to open the door to freed individuals to express their creativity fully in deciding how they want to live and cooperate with others to achieve that goal.
Being as we live in a capital-democratic system, it is the deconstruction of democracy and the deconstruction of capitalism that provide this door-opening. Starting from the premise that representative democracy claims to provide the means for people to govern themselves, but blatantly doesn’t, we want to destroy hierarchies of power and actually put the power in the individual’s hands to decide his destiny. Starting from the premise that capitalism lures people with the possibility of being prosperous, but is in fact a system of domination, we want to give everyone the possibility of being prosperous through an egalitarian labor-driven economy.
There are many other areas which we could look at, such as justice, schools, jails, the media, and so on. But the same general principle applies: hierarchies can be destroyed, and their principles deconstructed and reconstructed, for the benefit of all. The framework of capital-democracy, which railroads people into submission, can be abolished and replaced with mutual aid, cooperation of people as equals, as associates, leading to the kind of society where the individual’s desire to improve his own condition is fully aligned with the good of the society as a whole.