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+6 votes

Many of us align with the myriad subdivisions of anarchism, the anarchism with adjectives approach: anarcho-communist, anarcha-feminist, individualist, anti-civ anarchist, etc. Many of these ideas center around how we wish an ideal anarchist utopia to look (wilderness and tribal bans for the anarcho-primitivists, unionized factory cities for the syndicalists, robots creating infinite leisure time for the technophile anarchists, etc).

But how do these doctrines inform your day to day lives?

What lessens have you learned from applying these to the here and now?

What are the strengths and weakness of your chosen branch of anarchism that you have learned through experience?

by (5.4k points)
i think that a lot of people on this site don't identify so strongly with labels (or if they do, don't admit to it in public). it's funny that folks are upvoting but not answering.

edit: this question seems relevant to this discussion too, or maybe just related
yeah, kinda what dot said. i confess i was the first upvote. :-)

my anarchistic ideas, desires, behaviors, etc are informed by several of the strains of thought alluded to in the question (as well as many other things). and because i am one of those dreaded anti-labelites, i have a somewhat visceral reaction to the framing of the question. rather than jumping right into critique, i wanted to wait and see what other, less anti-labelistic folks have to say.

relevant (?) aside: many years ago, i was at the home of an @ comrade during the bookfair/conference. we had just started talking, and very quickly, he said something like, "oh, you're one of those <some label i forget>". i was seriously taken aback. not even because his assessment was incorrect, but because he so quickly, so rotely and easily, tossed me into one of his pre-defined, clearly labeled boxes - based on the most limited of information. it was that moment that i realized how deeply ingrained that tendency is. even (maybe especially) in some of the more supposedly open-minded, anti-ideological folks. i have since gotten to know that person better over the years, and there is no question, he is a "boxologist" - he seems to have the need to place people (and maybe events as well) into well defined, clearly labeled boxes.

while i am sure i am guilty of that myself at times, it is a way of thinking and interacting that i want to reject with every fiber of my being.

destroy all boxes! especially male-boxes and dumpst-hers!

6 Answers

+3 votes
despite my comment above... ;-) i will say that there are some ideas that have dramatically influenced my daily life.

first was the general post-left critique, which helped me understand my own leftist tendencies, and what aspects of those tendencies i wanted to leave behind. that was huge for me, as it helped me analyze why i had bailed on the activist scene earlier.

then came my immersion in anti-civ critique. that definitely changed my life, as it helped me look at and better understand my own visceral hatred of mass society and the modern human condition. it ultimately led to a major change in my own way of living.

as i begrudgingly opened my mind up to the ideas of individualist anarchy, i found a strong affinity with some of those ideas. i would say those ideas influenced my thinking more so than my daily life; my behavior didn't change dramatically, only my way of thinking about it did.

i may have more to add to this later....
by (13.4k points)
+2 votes

I often feel a sense of the retrospective when I read doctrine. When I'm drawn to and share an affinity with the writing of someone else, it's as if some of those strands and fibers which plait together as 'AF' already resonate with the tune being played by writer, at least to some degree. It holds my attention for as long as this reciprocal music lasts. Put another way, these fiber/strands, or 'parts,' have already opened toward and have affinity with (that is, recognize) what I'm reading prior to the relative sluggishness of my cognitive awareness of it.

One of the aspects of the pamphlet Desert which I really related to was the understanding that the process we loosely call 'anarchy' is disparate, variegated; perhaps quilt-like. This is directly tied to the inescapable character , the fate if you will, of embodiment, this flux which always conditions and situates each one and thus always ephemeral and perspectival. We find ourselves perhaps more acutely as 'wheres' more than 'whats.' Desert is perhaps more clear than many other doctrinaire type writings in discerning this facet of 'political life' in that the author recognizes the myriad ways in which people who desire anarchy will respond to their changing conditions in a myriad of ways. If the climates change so will our inclinations (that both words are related offers us a glimpse, once again, of the participation, reciprocity, which we call 'living'). That is, if we're not so alienated from ourselves, fragmented, by giving ourselves to the seductions of fear, the belief in scarcity, the stand alone notions of either 'I' or 'we.'

Doctrine may pull us when we feel a certain part of our lives tense up. We may very well hear its music, learn from it, when we have no clarity and the waters are muddied. It can be quite helpful to hone our ear to those who've gone before us, experienced circumstances which have some similarities to our current conditions and hear how they plied those waters to find out which patterns worked there, and those that didn't.

There is, however, no real need to identify with any of those patterns, and in fact we may find this as detrimental to our ongoing anarchic process. It can all too easily stymie the flowering of our own lives by attaching ourselves to conditions not completely our own and by overlaying the parameters of others upon our own lives by forgeting the perspectival basis for all doctrine...and even more importantly, all living.

In sum, 'doctrine' means 'teaching,' and when we take this reciprocal, participatory, active relation as an object to mirror or fit into, I feel we further alienate ourselves from our own living by way of an attempt to freeze conditions/solutions-not-our-own in creating an ideal of them, forming retrospective justifications, logical fortifications even, to defend that ideal as if 'it' could be more informed than we're capable of. This is ideology in a nutshell, and is perhaps one, if not the, greatest dangers to this living process we call 'anarchy' by sneaking in a disembodied tyrant over ourselves. Thus I cannot choose a 'school of thought' from which to base 'my day to day life.'

edit: typos

by (7.5k points)
edited by
+2 votes
To be truthful, I started hating labels from a young age, I always felt like when someone called me a name it was like they were exercising some sort of terrible power over me. In catholic school, i wanted to be a part of a religion but it seemed pretty arbitrary to me coming from a non-catholic family, a list of beliefs and rules.

However, when i did get into politics, i did clearly define myself as an environmentalist because there were some local environmental issues that compelled me to get into it, i thought "okay, this is affecting me now". I had also previously read "Ishmael" (which for those of you who don't know is pretty much a primitivst/anti-civ book written in the form of a fictional story) in high school because it made me aware that i was pissed off at the world for a good reason! This lead to me identifying with radical left thought in general, but not in the literal marxist sense because that shit would have made me pissed off due to the difficulty of reading it

I never really identified with anarchism until about 3 years ago, after I read individualism/max stirner/egoism writings, i was still in the middle of my radical leftist environmentalist phase. It was like when i read ishmael in high school, except it was actually more liberating at this point...i was intoxicated by these anarchist thoughts/feelings to the point of doing and saying some really stupid fucking things to people...which is fine because i can't imagine it having happened any other way given my state of mind during those times. Now im pretty much out of that stage, and im probably more mentally stable and mature than i've ever been. I wish i could act the ishmael/environmentalist side more frequently, but all the family shit im dealing with makes that pretty impractical.
+3 votes

If we are talking about the nitty-gritty of my day-to-day life, my particular brand of ____-anarchy (or anarcho______?) manifests in lots of little choices, as well as in some aspects of the job I have where I have found ability to explore, even while working a job I wouldn't, given my druthers.

A lot of it is based on the ways that I weigh momentary impulses versus long term goals, the ways I interact with others (I tend to assume good intentions until I don't, which is when concepts of attack might come in to play). This is vague, and I don't feel like dragging up examples, so hopefully it makes sense?

In relation to where I live, I straddle a line of hating the city but not wanting to drop out of society. So I live and am endeavoring to cement continuing to live both in the city and on the edge of it. Which also brings up contradictions of land ownership, but my brand of anarchism doesn't believe in life without contradictions, so I guess that is keeping with it too? (weird feelings?)

At my job (wherein I am allowed to act as a guest speaker with middle- and high schoolers) I have found interesting ways of injecting a total amorality and soberly realistic view of the world, while also finding fun ways of questioning the narrative of life that society has handed them (college, career, etc.) without telling them what they should or shouldn't do.

Also, when I turned 40 I definitely re-escalated my steal shit game.

This really doesn't touch on ideology, and there is lots of explicitly anarchist stuff I like to do as well, but in terms of day-to-day life I am hardly rewilding or storming from one insurrection to another. Nor do I feel that I ought to be.

by (22.1k points)
edited by
Ba@ - You are correct about the subject matter allowing more in roads with teachers. I get the feeling a lot of them like having a guest speaker who comes in and says some things that they couldn't get away with as teachers, some of them not as much.

I F@ and AF - I had totally forgotten about the Teenage Liberation Handbook. I have a niece that would actually be good for, and she lives across the neighborhood from me, so there is no way my sister could intercept it... gonna have to track it down.
ingrate, i would be interested in HOW you teach those kinds of narratives/anti-narratives in the anti-suicide group settings, and what you say to them...


Mostly I ask them questions and then reflect back what they tell me, and occasionally label things that are crazy as such...

(ex. - "what time did you get up today? 6 AM? That is way too early. Why did you get up so early? to be here at school? Why are you here? You have to be? according to who? Parents? Why do they make you go to school? Their expectations? Around what? Grades? Why does that matter? College?"... and on and on.)

I always emphasize personal autonomy (with the bottom line being that ultimately suicide is that person's choice and their actions... we can try to be a support, but we can't take away their feelings or choices).

I also talk about things (not just drugs) from a harm reduction perspective, which, combined with a pretty deeply amoral perspective that has somehow become just a part of the discussion (can't imagine how that happened!) informs the tone of it.

Again,this is hardly some sort of revolutionary message, but for many folks I talk to, they have seemingly never had someone question good/bad, right/wrong moralism, or the social narrative of success and happiness. For the folks who are already feeling like they are on the outside, I hope that seeing me come in and say that all the stuff they suspect is bullshit is so is some sort of suggestion that another way of living is possible.

Also, all this is an illustration of me at work at my best. A lot of days I am at work and I am giving a talk. I am still doing a lot of the stuff I've talked about, but let's be real; I am only in those schools because to some extent I have bought into the social narrative of needing a job, etc. If I had my druthers I'd not be spending time in places that smell like teenage boys (a strange combination of goats and Axe body spray, in case you were wondering), and that means I often am just getting through my work day waiting til it is done. 

im just glad your inside the school system doing that, and i really appreciate the whole "reflecting what people say back at them" that i've learned from the whole post-leftist/nihilist thing, plus im anal and like to know details
Very encouraging and inspiring words, all of you on this answer and comment-string. You are great.
Ingrate: you said you'd be interested in my reaction to Perlman. I put something on the comments to the question "is Anarcho-capitalism really a form of Anarchism?"  Actually screwed up by putting it in the form of multiple comments, so probably annoyed the shit out of everyone with so many notification emails (sorry, didn't think about that !)

I think that in my reaction to Perlman you will see how I live my personal brand of anarchy.  Namely, being an independent entrepreneur, swearing to never hire an employee, and trying to do business ethically (fairly, transparent). I try to only work with other independent entrepreneurs when and if I can. If I have to work with an employee of a company I try to encourage him/her to quit and start his/her own company.

As for the classifications of anarchy and the maturation of the ideas, I am the least mature of anyone on this site.  I felt what I feel and began to live my convictions long before I realized that I was an anarchist. I only decided I was an anarchist about 6 months ago, when I couldn't stop thinking about Islamic terrorism, the US presidential primaries, the existential crisis of the EU...

It was only when I decided to add my voice (and effort?) to all this mess that I tried to figure out where the feelings I already had and lived fit into the whole world of social/political activism. I say activism broadly, including such weak activity as participating in discussions.

Unlike you mature anarchists, I still need to try to understand the ongoing debate about society. I've ignored it for so long. Classifications of ideologies and the use of modifiers is helpful to me.
+2 votes
There are parts of my own question that I also have a hesitancy towards, and my difficulty answering this question is part of why I asked it. On the surface its a straight-forward question and answer: ex: “I am an anarcho-communist, so I live in a communal house with endless house meetings and a shared closet”. And yet...

Like some of you expressed in answers and comments, there seems to be a cringe-worthiness in identifying with “-ism”s generally. Still, the truth is that I do it. Heck, I call myself and anarchist, right? Much the way its difficult for me to say that I “become an anarchist”, its difficult to say that I “became an individualist” or “became anti-Civ” or “become a feminist” - the theories/ideas gave me a language and a connection and a perspective that informed feelings, angst, intuitions that were already there.

I also found that the attempt to apply such ideas to my life, to the here and now, actually lessened my grip on my chosen “anarcho-_____” and “-ism”s. Its easy to imagine the platonic ideal, but life is (obviously) more complicated then that, for a multitude of reasons not the least of which is that we life in world where our sphere of control is actually quite small.

At the same time there a digestion that takes place – the ideas become a part of you and it feels absurd to separate oneself from these ideas. So it becomes difficult to see these as ideology based because we take it for-granted. (ex: I can't imagine day to day life without seeing the politics of gender that were informed by feminism (maybe post-feminist? who knows anymore) at play, so its hard to say where gender politics end and my experience of gender separate from that begins).

Plus, there's the whole growing up thing... ;)

 But, I'll parse out a few of the highlights, since, after all, its only fair to answer my own question.

My DIY-punk -ness manifests in providing for myself minimally-mediated ways. Over the years this has meant lots of gardening, learning useful skills, collecting tools, teaching and doing workshops, sewing, herbalism, etc. Creating friendships where specialties and skills are varied and shared. Finding a job/profession where I can work for myself (whatever that means in this world). I learned the value of working for something - I don't think leisure time is the ideal (in a utopia or now). I still love bad tattoos.

The Anti-Civ in me has informed a general lack of hope in the world but also a connectedness and playfulness with native (or rather, my hopeless-playfulness felt at home in this ideology). It means not having hope in reform for the sake of future generations because we're all doomed anyways (mass die-out is inevitable, after all). It means wanting to have a connection with my bioregion. I hang out at local Native Plant Society meetings, get excited every time I see a favorite native or useful plant, and go on adventures with friends foraging for wild goodies as the seasons unfold.

My Individualism/ Egoism provided me with the permission I needed to embrace some enlightened self-interest.  It created a greater space for me to focus on my own needs, values, desires and give up doing things that don't serve me for the sake of making the world a better place, the anarchist scene, the “community”, etc. It's been increasingly (for better or worse) challenging for me to fully feel at home in larger social networks/scenes (whether work or anarchist...). It taught me to trust the strength of others - ex: my loved ones are strong people, and asserting myself, my wants, my ideas, having a melt-down, whatever it was I needed wasn't going to kill them. My individualist tendencies forced my to come face to face with autonomy in my relationships/friendships, which meant delving into insecurities. This made me love my own autonomy much more. I enjoy time with myself. Again with the job, I chose a profession where I can work for myself and have minimal co-workers.

But perhaps Egoism is where I found my biggest lessens in how I saw ideology in my everyday life. My exercise in navigating an “anarcho-individualist life” brought me to a place where I felt that the greatest expression of these ideas was in the abandonment of them as an ideology. I no longer wanted to look to others for instructions on how to live - not even Stirner or Novatore! I learned the strength and difficulty of finding my own values and needs, paradoxically even if that meant contradicting the Egoist ideals. ;)
by (5.4k points)
edited by
hello KdF-

first, i'd like to say that i've enjoyed your input on this site wherever i've come across it and wondered if you still posted here. glad to see you're still present.

a few things:

naming oneself 'anarchist' need not entail a belief in 'anarchism' any more than 'soloist' entails 'soloism.' the name may be just indicate a perceived pattern of activity rather than an ideology. this is one of those cases where people may be speaking the same tongue and completely different languages since the senses used arise from very different perspectives. very different worlds are expressed although the tongues wag similarly.

for a long time now, i've not believed 'I' to signify an 'entity' at all, but simply a linguistic indication more akin to a place; better suited to a 'where' than a 'what.' when we use 'place' we refer to an approximation, of qualities, of movement, flux, ephemerality...which in my writing i refer to often as 'plaiting.' (and i love braided hair, particularly complex braids)

in stirnerian lingo i sense einzige/eigenthum more or less in this way.

and so all the ideas of each different anarcho-____ism simply highlight a provisional aspect/grouping which 'my' desire draws toward 'me' and moves 'me' toward. this is hardly contradictory since either and both may be said within my 'world' (or as 'emile' from @news might put it, 'the relational continuum'). unfortunately, even some 'egoists' i've encountered still seem to retain the verbiage *and* meaning of cartesian notion: cogito ergo sum (i think therefore i am); and the inherent dualism, sorta an object which incessantly gobbles stuff (cause/effect).

i propose another: 'sentio ergo existere' ( i sense therefore i become) which may be formulated in other ways within a world of relational flux and ephemerality. ex: 'sentimus ergo existimus' - we sense therefore we become...a 'plaited' sense of 'I' where 'my own' may not be thingified (at least as easily within our grammar). thus, so many 'ideas' may become one's own as one becomes, moves, through one's 'life.'
I appreciate how you specifically teased out particular influences in this answer. If I had a do-over, I would totally steal (er, liberate) your method.

kdf, that's a great answer, imo. breaking free from ideology is never easy, and always liberatory.

the label question is a complex one, if looked at deeply. while i try my best to reject labels on individuals as much as i can, there is no question that they can serve a useful purpose in certain contexts. most folks will understand when one says "trump is a racist, sexist, classist megalomaniac", without having to elaborate on the specific behavior he exhibits that lead to one assigning those labels. though seriously, it's pretty fun elaborating on that motherfucker.

and therein lies the point i mean to make, which amorfati touched on in his comment above, and has said even better elsewhere.

anarchist need not be a noun, or a label - much less an identity - for an individual. it could be used strictly as an adjective, to describe behavior and relationships. that is my preferred use for the term these days. i think identifying with predefined labels, however dynamic and nebulous those labels may be, is a key element of ideology. that is why usually, i will tell someone "that seems like ideological thinking" rather than "you seem like an ideologue". to some, there may be little to no difference there; but to me there is a substantial one.

of course, when someone demonstrates ideological thinking (almost) exclusively, then ideologue probably fits. examples might include: jz, any kind of politician (electoral, identity), nationalists, religionists, economists, etc.

an identity (eg, feminist) can be seen as a label that represents one's relationship with a body of ideas (an ideology, eg, feminism). the depth to which they cling to that identity is an indicator of just how much that body of ideas owns them, rather than vice versa.

i have affinity with different aspects of many ideologies. i don't identify with any of them. i have - or try to - an anarchistic approach to my life and way of thinking. and i do not reject the label of anarchist (when used as a noun), which feels a bit inconsistent on my part.

hmmm... maybe i'll start the next movement/meme: de-noun anarchist!



Thank you for your kind words. I am enjoying my slow return to engaging with this site.


Please, by all means liberate “my” methods, that's what anarchism is all about, right. :) . If you feel you have nuance to add to your answer or another answer to give, I'd love to hear it!


I'm into it! De-noun anarchy! De-noun life?

And a follow-up:

I feel like this conversation comes up whenever the idea of anarchist ideologies arise. The argument that “naming oneself 'anarchist' need not entail a belief in 'anarchism'” (or replace anarchist with your chosen -ism). To which I agree greatly – that such titles that distinguish ways of being in the world do not have to mean becoming adherents. But I've seen the reality be that the line between “owning ones ideas” vs “being owned by ones ideas” is not a huge divide by rather a spectrum or on-going journey of maturation. (Not just some linear progression from “just doesn't get it yet” to “matured in their ideas” or “wannbe” to “real anarchist”.) We'd likely all agree “owning our ideas” is the ideal, and of course we all act accordingly. But nuance and honesty usually lead to more interesting answers.

Which is what I was looking for in my question: The exploration of ways in which people have come to own or be owned by our ideas; the ways that our ideas shape our life and the ways that our lives shape our ideas.

Of course you all are right: what we agree on is much more important than where we disagree. If the state can be weakened to irrelevance there will be room to test different social organisations and actually see what works best.

Except of course the anarcho-communists/collectivists, deep ecologists, robot-lovers and egoists will have to be watched closely since their ideas would just lead to the emergence of new forms of tyranny... or worse: boredom.

" what we agree on is much more important than where we disagree. "

i disagree. i think where we disagree is every bit as important as where we agree. looking only at where i agree with someone is easy, and can be (and has often been) quite misleading with regards to true affinities.

also, i would add to your list of exceptions anarcho-capitalists, anarcho-entrepreneurs, and probably some types of market anarchists.


The second part of my comment was just to show how difficult it is for me to accept the first part.

But the first part is true: what wa agree on is most important. Even between anarchist-communists and egoists and whatever I am. What we agree on is that government is not good. We all have different reasons and experiences leading to that conclusion, and I see flaws in the various "schools." I've spent a few minths trying to find my "school" and what I've learned is that weakening the government is top priority in many different, understandable world-views. So it shouldn't be hard to convince vast numbers of people of different philosophies to focus their frustration on government.

That would be good, right? Coming at the same conclusion from many different angles? We just need to help each other be confident in the idea that whatever life without government would be better than the status quo, and leading people to this conclusion, through whatever philosophy they lean towards is a worthy effort all anarchists should applaud. A diversity of arguments in favor of this basic idea is good. Right?
–3 votes
Katherine, here's how my ideas and feelings, which I can only classify as anarchist, influence my daily life:

I work in agriculture. I run an experimental farm and try to help farmers in my area diversify their crops -- and through this activity subtly try to change the way they see their relationship with their most important business partners: plants, insects and microbes.  I saw a social "job vacancy", knew I could do it, knew I could have a lot of fun doing it and be financially "thanked" by people who appreciate it.  It is fun. I feel sorry for people who don't go off on their own; I hate having to deal with people who hate their jobs. Work is wonderful when you are in your niche: non-competitive because unique, ie differentiated; not monopolistic because there are plenty of good (imperfect) substitutes available to your customers. It feels so great I want everyone to be an entrepreneur and I want government and the big business slave-holders it serves to get the hell out of the way.

I recall the moment I decided to quit my wage-slave job and become an entrepreneur:  I was looking for a new wage-slave job, and my father-in-law suggested I just start my own company.  I panicked and asked him: "but I need a boss/manager to tell me I'm doing a good job!  If I have no boss, who will tell me I'm doing a good job?!"   His answer was, "the banker." But the real answer is obvious: the customers and business partners. And suddenly my father-in-law's advice seemed universal. Everyone should go solo and look for meaning in the eyes of a satisfied customer or grateful self-employed partner -- not in the eyes of a manager. Not in the eyes of a banker or politician or bureaucrat. I want everyone to feel pride in their work that can only come with owning it and being fully responsible for it.

Does that answer the question, Katherine? I'm not sure. It isn't really a commitment to anarchy that influences my life; rather, it is a deep love of freedom and the spirit of creativity, flexibility, community and enterprise innate in all individuals of all species that motivates me. It just seems clear that government, cultural norms, formal education and other institutions stifle these things. So that makes me an anarchist.

Plus I don't like paying taxes.
by (600 points)
i receive and give quite often without reciprocation (or "fair" exchange), and i don't feel guilty or frustrated. i usually feel very free and content.

i think the concept of money makes it hard to accept gifts freely.

but also, when i experience generosity, that feeling tends to when i receive something without expectation from another, or i give to someone without expectation, those experiences usually leave me open to receive and give more, but without thinking about exchange value.

i don't mean to imply reciprocal giving/receiving doesn't happen in my life too, but it happens just as often without - and those experiences i desire more.

regarding the idea of "inferiority" and "superiority", i don't see it that way.

when one person wants to give what another person wants to receive, i consider that as the exchange - one wanted to receive it and one wanted to give it - and both people immediately feel loss of "self-esteem" or anything like that in my experience. 

syrphant, you are talking about a (perhaps time-delayed) value based exchange; a transaction, complete with debt (material and moral) associated. it runs precisely contrary to my concept of gift, which has no exchange value, and no moral or economic expectation of either giver or receiver. mutually beneficial relationships need not be based on transactions and debt; i would argue that relationships based on such, while maybe mutually beneficial, are purely economic. a moralistic economics, yes; which is no doubt your intent. i would rather avoid both moralism and economics in my relationships. that is why your "ideal" is a long way from mine, if i were to frame it in that term. again, you seem to be looking for unity where there is none. why try to force it?
Why am I trying to find unity? Question for my psychiatrist. But to save the cost of a consultation I'll just answer: to oppose your view that we are opposed. ;)

i oppose your opposition to my opposing you! devil