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+2 votes
Do anarchists want to end it? Or is it out of scope? I imagine views can differ according to the type of anachism each one practices or likes.

Note: by poverty I mean not being able to satisfy basic needs such as eating well, having a home, access to potable water, heath care, books, being able to leave in a healthy place (non poluted, in peace), having a computer and internet access, clothes, shoes, heating in winter, FREE TIME, etc. (I'll add more as I remember).
by (530 points)
edited by
Perhaps turning the question sideways? "What do anarchists think of capitalism?" Private property, profit, the production of commodities, a monetary system, and wage labor are the main reasons for the existence of poverty. Or are you getting at something else?

i like the way lawrence restated the question. i hate living within a monetary system, and love to live without it as much as possible. i think the concept of poverty comes from the ideology of a money system. you need food, water, and shelter to live, and you either have them or you don't to varying degrees - but poverty comes from lack of money to buy water/food/shelter.

also, i wouldn't consider a computer or internet a basic need. i sometimes vividly imagine smashing my laptop to pieces.

to take baa's last sentence a bit further, i think several of the things mentioned in that last sentence of the original question are not specific to "poverty" at all. there are some assumptions embedded in there about what "basic needs" are (if poverty is seen as not being able to meet one's basic needs).

i also like lawrence's rephrasing, but i would replace "capitalism" with "economic system" (or similar). i don't see capitalism as the only context within which poverty has existed (or could). unless one labels every economic system since the imposition of civilization as capitalism of one form or another. and there might be an argument for that.
Lawrence, ba, funkyanarchy, I promise I'll rephrase the question in a future thread, but only if you answer it as it is. Or are we so involved in capitalism that can only imagine imaginary needs?

We can't revert time, so the starting point is the situation as it is now, not as it could ou should have been if this and that hadn't happened, I think.
@whatever, i intended my comment to reflect the present/now.

but to answer your question, i don't think about "ending poverty". i think about moving away from the economic system, and the institutional conditioning that leads to framing things in terms of that system. i don't think about how everyone could get more money, so as to not "be poor". so, i put a lot of my energy toward living without money, and toward relating with people in non-economic terms.

if i don't have food or water or shelter, i feel hungry, thirsty, or tired, or cold (which of course, could lead to illness or death). but i don't feel "poor".

I wouldn't consider someone lacking some of those objects as a basic need for life or as poverty. A lot of what you wrote seems arbitrary or based on some sort of western standard. Hence i'm confused by the question.

3 Answers

+5 votes
i think that poverty is caused by a) not allowing people to meet their own needs without the mediation of the market and b) cultural hegemony that makes people think they're poor if they don't have the newest pair of nikes edit: or newest iphone.

i guess i'm using the word poverty not just in a "we're hungry tonight" way, but to mean, "we're hungry but our neighbors aren't" and especially "we're hungry but our neighbors aren't and we're ashamed of that."
by (53.1k points)
edited by
Hi dot, I would call b) (lack of) simplicity . By poverty, I mean real basic needs, hunger, ilness, isolation. I have the feeling they wouldn't disappear with the market, even those that were caused by that same market.

There have been several cases in which well intended people managed to change their political system, but then they had been so focused in that aim and belived so much that afterwards things would be better, everybody would be serious and fair everafter, helping each other, that they then failed completely in dealing with reality. So, I think things should be discussed :) Imagine that somehow we got rid of state and corporations. How would we deal with these extreme problems?
well, i'm not sure what you mean by "how would we deal"? my anarchy is more about getting out of people's way, and letting people figure their situations out, than it is about trying to keep/make everyone happy.

that is, i would be one of those starving folks who's lived in a city their whole lives and doesn't know how to eat withOUT a grocery store. i'd be working on muddling through with my friends, more than trying to figure out how everyone (in the city? in the state? in the country? maybe i could deal with my neighborhood) could have enough to eat. but maybe i'm misunderstanding your premise?

edit - adding an important "out"
I'm just affraid that simply removing what we think is causing the problems (state and corporations) would result in yet a(nother) kind of darwinian jungle. Weaker people looking for protection from (perceived) stronger guys, and these getting more and more used to having power, and so on, all ending up in a system not very different from what we have. Perhaps I'm just not very optimistic today.
@whatever, it seems that you either desire a "system", or you think people can't live without one. what do you think?

to me, desiring anarchy means not wanting systems that dictate how people will interact or eat (much along the lines of what dot said).
whatever, yea, i hear you. it is a scary thing to imagine. the state has successfully sold itself as being a protector of the weak (successfully selling means that sometimes it does actually do that, at least for a figurative minute).

as i have said before, i don't think anarchy is a utopia. messed up things will still happen. the main difference i see is an issue of scale, which is, i think, a huge deal (pun may be ignored or celebrated).

you mention darwin, and of course the one who always gets pitted against the popular understanding of darwin is kropotkin. cooperation is at least as important to us as competition is, no?

whatever, i do understand the fear you express about not being able to rely on the institutions that we have all been completely indoctrinated into believing are absolutely necessary to prevent a descent into some diabolical "darwinian jungle" (aka, chaos, or - dare i say - anarchy). i think most would have some of that fear, at some point, if they are truly exploring the possibilities of a life without such institutions. exploration (at least any that is very interesting to me) implies the possibility of fear; looking at that fear, trying to understand it, and deciding what you will do with it, is the real challenge. for far too many, that fear is crippling, preventing any practical (as opposed to theoretical) exploration from happening.

one constraint i see on many folks trying to do such explorations, is the dogmatic clinging to the idea that society takes priority over the individual. with that perspective, one must concern themselves first and foremost with "how will everyone eat and stay warm", rather than, as dot points out above, "how will i and those i choose to share my life with eat and stay warm".

some call that selfish; i call it realistic. 

+4 votes
ok, i will take a shot at answering the question as it was asked.

this anarchist thinks the concept of "poverty" is a purely economic one. and i want no part of economic systems. it is economic systems (particularly capitalism) that have so ubiquitously defined what "basic needs" are - hence the list enumerated in the original question (which i find hugely problematic).

individuals have widely varying "basic needs", even outside the context of economics and public relations (ads/marketing). people are different, with different desires, different skills, different priorities, different levels of comprehension about what it means to live without institutional authority.

if one lets go of ideas like security, equality, fairness, justice... (which are rooted in dogmas that i want gone from my world), then you are left with the opportunity for a liberated life as a unique individual with unmediated, fully voluntary relationships. as dot mentioned, nothing about that is utopian; folks still need to figure shit out, including how to meet their basic needs. nobody - or very, very few - will be able to do it on purely their own. hence, relationships. authentic, individual-to-individual, reciprocal, trusting relationships. imagine that!

if the answer being requested is one that systemically eliminates human suffering (due to hunger, illness, etc), then you are asking for another system; or at minimum, a prescriptive program. this anarchist wants no part of any of that. saving the world is simply not on my agenda; and in the world i would love to live in, that concept would be as meaningless as "industry".

let the systems and institutions fall, and let the individuals that remain figure it out for themselves. yes, there will still be human suffering and death. no big difference (from the current world) there. but here's a choice that i wish everyone had: live in a world where institutions protect and provide (and destroy and lie and ...); or live in a world where individuals - and their relations - do that for themselves.

if only...
by (13.4k points)
funky, great answer!

"if the answer being requested is one that systemically eliminates human suffering (due to hunger, illness, etc), then you are asking for another system;"

the elimination of suffering from life is called 'death.' this is one surefire sign that the ideology in question is life-negating, joyless, in the most basic way.
thanks, af.
+3 votes

I too would like to separate the term poverty from the idea of having basic needs met. I agree that poverty is a relative position, and often a subjective one. People often relate to themselves as poor or in poverty based on what they believe they should have access to, sometimes that is food or wellness or shelter or internet or a new gadget or clean water or time off work or safety or whatever. A large part of that perception is the current social and economic system placing a moral value on "having", i.e. the system is fair and looking out for you, and anyone who plays the game and works hard enough will have what they want and need, and if you don't you are personally culpable. Like dot said, there is an element of shame.  Anarchy does not solve the problem of whether or not people will get their basic needs as they interpret them met, individually, in a chosen group, or as a larger social system. People will still be hungry and cold and sick and dying and other people won't be. The idea that can change is our sense of entitlement, a.k.a the idea of "rights". Perhaps accepting that people and animals and plants and everything really experience times of lack and times of plenty resource wise would remove some of the self inflicted suffering related to "things should be different then this". While it's a shitty awful personal experience to feel bad its a very very unavoidable one. The difference between now and anarchy is the why people suffer (lack/want/need/etc), and the distribution of that suffering both among human social classes/groups and human vs non human species and ecosystems.

by (1.5k points)

i particularly like how you brought up "rights" in this context, i think there is a subtle, but definite, relationship between those two concepts (rights and poverty), and the "shame" that dot (and you) mentioned.
Shark, thanks for your answer. Could you elaborate on your last sentence?

I meant to say that in our current world the reasons some people are hungry or homeless or sick etc. is because of capitalism/the state/society. Resources are distributed along lines of class, race, nationality, power, acquiescence, etc. Also the resources that we (humans) have to distribute are acquired or extracted at the expense of ecosystems, plants, and animals. I think suffering and poverty are results of that system of distribution.

In "anarchy" some people would continue to "not be able to meet their basic needs" some of the time, but the reasons would be different. Kind of like how there have been mass extinctions in the past that I wouldn't describe as sad or terrifying conceptually because they weren't intentional. Today's mass extinction is both those things because of the root cause of the climate shifts that propel it.

I'm not saying I wouldn't mourn the loss of friends, family, species, or ways of life if they were due to "natural" causes, but the despondent rage thing, the sense of powerlessness and "injustice" is an emotional process that correlates to our system.

Does that make more sense?