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+2 votes
Wouldn't this be the best example that we could live in harmony without controlling system, institutions? But every example from history seems to show that alternative communities fail big time. Why is that? What would make it work?
by (560 points)
i like the question.

what do you mean by "live in harmony"? depending on your answer, i might question whether that is desirable by all, or even possible.
Well like, free from stomping on other people for resources, no corporate ladder to climb, no fighting due to stress or trying to achieve a more glorified position to boost our own sense of personal worth. Removing all the BS that causes everyday problems.
Are there any Anarchist communities thriving now?
supposedly one or two, one in Copenhagen and one in Michigan I believe
CB: what does community mean to you? how big a group of people does it have to be? what are the parameters of the group?

these are sincere questions. i know of many groups of anarchists who are doing well (ie maintaining their principles in the face of overwhelming odds). that doesn't mean that they're about to take over the world, so "thriving" would have to be defined too, i guess.

1 Answer

+2 votes

I think the existence of forces coercive to free communities has a large part to play in them not lasting, as does the tension of coming from a world where we mostly don't have practice living the way we might want to, and so have to learn on the fly.

The collectives in Spain, the commune in Paris, the anarchist sections of the Ukraine, various utopian societies in the US (for example, Home, which is located very near Tacoma, WA but is now just a small town of beach houses) failed because of having to deal not just with the internal conflicts that will arise in any community, but also to defend themselves from, variously, the state, capitalism, moralism, and other external forces (literally in the cases of Catalonia, Ukraine, and Paris, and more ideologically in the case of utopian communities in the US).

And it is hard. Having lived in housing situations that attempted at living more communal, anarchist lives, the differences in values, long term goals, and priorities, matched with personality conflicts and the majority of us having to still have jobs because, you know, capitalism meant that while there were some shining and wonderful moments of us living and being our best selves (I am uncomfortable using "best", but I think that is the correct word) were punctuated with us being crabby, petty, and falling back in to the ways we were raised. And those were situations with between five and a dozen people. When we start looking at whole communities anthropologist Robin Dunbar put the number at about 150, the speculative utopian book Bolo'bolo places the size of an individual community, a Bolo, ​at between 300 and 500 individuals), the situation becomes even more complicated, as we will all be unlearning at different rates, as well as struggling with our varied desires and visions, even if we are talking about a group with a largely unified set of underlying beliefs or motivations.

I also think it is important to point out that for most of human existence, people lived in social arrangements that were largely harmonious and were mostly free of controlling systems and institutions. Mostly now we refer to these people as hunter-gatherers (gatherer-hunter is more accurate, and some incorporated other ways of subsisting as well). Some still exists, most have been wiped out by coming in contact with civilization (which requires expansion, resource extraction, and increasing degrees of centralization and control), or slowly became civilized through the adoption of agriculture and the related sedentary living arrangements (there are questions on this site where this critique of civilization is explored and when I have time I will try to find those questions and add links, but a good mythopoetic exploration of this process is contained in Fredy Perlman's book ​Against His-Story, Against Leviathan!). 

by (22.1k points)

"we will all be unlearning at different rates"

i think that is huge, and covers a lot of ground. and to the "varied desires and visions", i'd add varied priorities (as distinct from desires). 

years ago, (my partner and) i seriously explored rural intentional communities, staying at several for as long as we could take it. while only one of them was explicitly (self-described as) anarchist, they all promoted egalitarian relations as a core principle. yet an ingrained bureaucratic approach was common to all of them; meetings... schedules... process... oh my. the "anarchist" one was worst of all: dinner together was requested five nights a week, including the blessing/prayer/whatever. 

These are links to questions with a high-level of engagement: 

What exactly are anarchists referring to when we use the term 'civilisation'?

Wildness means “in a natural state; not domesticated, cultivated, or tamed”. It means refusing control, and refusing the role of controller.

A key part of Scott's analysis for anarchists is that the people of some parts of Zomia are willing to use violence against potential rulers [1] moreso than for policing themselves and becoming militaristic, and the ones that don't have that issue don't have that issue.

green anarchy is a broad tendency of anarchist thought, which takes a particular interest in the ecological/environmental impacts of modern (civilized) life, and how it creates and perpetuates institutional hierarchies and oppressions.

totally. Priorities was the word I was searching for when I wrote my response and, for some reason, it had decided to take a vacation from my lexicon.

while I think I get what you are saying about formality funky, if you have a large group of people how can cooperation for common goals exist without.. meeting with eachother, and how could that happen with a large group without agreeing on a certain time
DD - I won't speak for fa, but I think there is a time and place for meeting regularly, or, at minimum having a way to check in regularly if folks are living communally. The frequency, degree and intensity is gonna vary, which I think is what you are getting at. The most intentionally communal living situation I ever lived in we met every other week for an hour. It was boring, but it was helpful in terms of the concept of "seen face": we were showing up together in a manner that was agreed on to be part of that group. Beyond a household, I'vbe always seen this model break down when it is overly formalized. People skip meetings, and that leads to other people deciding to skip meetings, and pretty soon almost everyone doesn't want to deal with a meeting, because meetings suck.

On the other hand, when I did Food Not Bombs (a looooooonnnnggg time ago), we had formal meetings, but we also had weekly dishwashing parties after the dinner where a lot of us had a chance to check in and talk about shit, which helped the social cohesion. It was never a formal thing, and there wasn't an invite list (there was an uninvited list, but that was mostly about the wingnuts that projects like FNB attract).

The upshot of the regular check in is that for a very small and intentional group, it maintains cohesion. It wouldn't need to be a meeting, maybe it is a dinner, with or without prayer (my vote, my prayer, would be without), or another sort of regularly occurring event where folks can intentionally share space. The downside is that obligatory meetings suck, and even when it isn't a meeting, having it be regular and obligatory sucks at least some of the joy out of the experience. Plus, the larger the social grouping, the less enforceable (sp?), and while communal living situations are nice, they don't exactly constitute a full community, as I would understand that term.

On the other hand, less formal check-ins (ala my FNB experience), tend to become increasingly exclusive. As an increasingly coherent, but unofficial, ingroup forms, it is really easy to fall in to quasi-vanguardist organizational models, which are both anti-community, and manifest from a much more intense common cause.

I honestly think the answer (and it will never be a perfect answer) lays somewhere between these, using both or one or none as is appropriate. I'd love to tell you I know the right formula, but I haven't figured it out, and even if I had, the right formula for my circumstances isn't that same as yours might be. If you want to have regular community meetings, do it. I am not coming all (or maybe even most) of the time. Also, if you want to claim community without some sort of horizontal means of communicating and airing concerns, needs, and grievances, I am not gonna be a part of that project.
I once lived in a house of retired train-hoppers. They had made friends from those times. The house had three couches and a good bit of floor space. People would contact my housemates and ask for a place to crash before the next hop-out(?). They would stay. [Sometimes] friends of friends of friends would call. They would stay. There was a caravan in the air. The house was usually messy, women did most of the cleaning. There was a lot of singing and most people had spoons attached to their belt-loop.

Lots of dogs.

edit often to sometimes.