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Anarchism and human nature: Will people be motivated?

+2 votes
*NOTE: This is not my own question. I am re-posting questions I find interesting from reddit. Original here: http://www.reddit.com/r/Anarchism/comments/obb6x/anarchism_and_human_nature_will_people_be/

The most compelling argument that I've heard against a stateless society or one without economic classes is the issue of motivation. The argument is simple and common. You've probably heard it a thousand times.

"Why would someone be a doctor in a society without capitalism? It takes an extensive amount of training, work and education. The high risk and effort it takes to be a doctor or a surgeon is off-set by the economic reward."

The doctor is a classic example for this argument. It's an argument I've thought about a lot and I'm interested in hearing what the answers or rebuttals are for it. Here is something I've thought of on my own this morning. It's probably really stupid so keep that in mind.

We all had childhood dreams of our careers. We wanted to be firefighters, police, doctors and veterinarians to help people. It had nothing to do with money. It was about curiosity, challenge and generosity. Over time, that way of thinking is eroded. The public education, mass media and society teaches us that the goal in life is monetary profit. We are taught happiness results from monetary profit. In a society in which people are NOT conditioned for obedience or to simply chase dollars, will these dreams make it through the amount of effort and work it takes to be, for example, a doctor?

Is it human nature to want to acquire wealth in currency? If there is no state or capitalism, what kind of reward could offset the risk and effort of being a doctor/engineer/etc.
asked Jan 10, 2012 by anok (19,100 points)

2 Answers

+4 votes
 
Best answer
Humans are not simple survival machines, we do things all the time that do not benefit or directly contribute to the survival of any one or all of: ourselves as individuals, our populations, our species, or other species. For whatever reason (culture, genes, hormones) we have appetites for meaning, what some may call a will to power. Survival does not entirely explain why people enslave or liberate one another, for example. We seek some balance between comfort and convenience on the one hand, and purposeful effort and useful behavior on the other, which may vary by individual. Material conditions and the culture around us shape structures, outlets, incentives, and obstacles relating to motivation.

I believe humans have a process of self-actualization: we need to feel a sense of agency in decisions that affect us, a sense of belonging to a group, a sense of participation in a culture, a sense of effort achieving reward, a sense of competence in our abilities, a sense of recognition of our contributions, a sense of confidence in our place, a sense of respect from our peers, and a sense of engagement (losing oneself in a task). Certain exceptions might exist, especially for preferences for duration, frequency, and intensity, but for the most part ignoring these appetites leads people to insanity, misery, and death.

Human evolution has shaped us to find a place in face-to-face communities; rarely do people without severe trauma or an inhospitable culture focus totally on their own individual self, and rarely in history has anyone ever lived only for themself.

Various anthropological ethnographies, and sociological and psychological studies, as well as many peoples' lived experiences outside of the dominant culture, refute the assumptions that humans inherently seek hierarchical power and attempt to maximize their consumption. The books "Limited Wants, Unlimited Means" and "Anarchy Works" address these specific issues.

Societies determine whether individuals' efforts will achieve zero-sum rewards. Class stratified and competition-based societies create zero-sum relationships of parasitism. For example, the more healthy I am, the less money pharmaceutical companies can make; they profit off of my continued sickness. In egalitarian societies, individual contributions can create mutual aid; the healthier my comrades are, the more opportunities and gifts I may receive from their livelihoods, therefore I have an incentive to ensure their health or at least aid in such efforts as best I can. I might also just love them. We also make voluntary "sacrifices" because we feel a sense of purpose in doing so, losing leisure and hobby time to comfort loved ones on their deathbed. Even in the dominant cultures this exists everywhere it is not actively suffocated by the logic of official authorities, competitive markets, specialized separation of roles, a mass society of strangers, and other destructive institutions or dynamics.

Also, I have never seen a child without curiosity and playfulness, at least before school destroyed those. If we allowed these traits to flourish rather than suppress them, I believe they would create opportunities for socially-beneficial behavior meaningful to the individual intrinsically. The book "the Continuum Concept" covers this ethnographically, and the essay "the Abolition of Work" deals with it more theoretically.
answered Jan 11, 2012 by AutumnLeavesCascade (8,890 points)
edited Jan 11, 2012 by AutumnLeavesCascade
+1 vote
When people ask questions like this, I wonder how prepared they are for a serious answer. Asking about motivation is really asking someone to explain what they believe the forces are behind human behavior in general. Among the various models that can be used for giving an answer are astrology, demons and spirits, cognitive behaviorism, and pop psychology. There's also a lot of concepts that would need to be examined more when someone wants you to tell them about how human beings become doctors or fill other complicated social roles. Then to top it off, a lot of answers might seem dodgy or unsatisfying.

So here's a list of related questions, to begin with:

Are the forces people claim to motivate them the forces that truly motivate them?

How much motivating force comes from how someone is raised, their personality, their life-history, etc.?

Are there different forms of motivation that can be distinguished from each other?

What knowledge and practices go into these various roles people are likely to privilege?

How is one role related to other roles?

How are these roles created by social conditions now?

How many people performing these roles would a hypothetical anarchist society require?

Alright, so here's my answer...

People will be motivated to carry out the sort of social functions that are now professionalized; but, this could happen in many different ways depending on the forms of knowledge, education, child rearing, decision making, and such take. Everyone has fundamental reasons for being motivated to learn about medicine, nutrition, technologies they rely on, their minds, and their environments. The difference between most people and a professional is usually more a matter of how extensive that knowledge is, how it is put into practice, and how frequently it is used than a basic difference in motivations.

That being said, I think that an anarchist society might try to reduce the need for professionals to begin with through education. If there is still a need for some people to specialize in this or that expertise, motivation could come from many sources: social status, sense of purpose, etc. A lot of this may just be determined by how sufficient a society feels their knowledge, technology, and culture is. If people's needs are pretty well met though, I think it's likely that they'll be motivated to solve other problems that affect them personally or their community in general.
answered Jan 14, 2012 by Squee (2,470 points)
absolutely to the first and third parts of your answer.
but
"The difference between most people and a professional is usually more a matter of how extensive that knowledge is, how it is put into practice, and how frequently it is used than a basic difference in motivations."
i am having a strong visceral reaction against this sentence. i may be reacting to something you're not saying though... so here is my reaction and you can tell me if i'm way off base.
i think what you're trying to do is de-emphasize (demystify?) the knowledge of professionals, which is fine. but as far as i can tell, there is a really big difference between people who go to school for years and people who don't, and it includes entitlement (class), specialization (in its negative connotations - including blinders, inability to relate to people, over use of jargon, inability to use common sense, lack of real life experience, etc), and so on.
The psychiatrists (tons of schooling including medical training) i have known personally, for example, have been the most fucked up people, and have had the most dysfunctional families (like, their kids hated them, they were controlling and nutty), of anyone i've met, and have dealt with people outside of their routine worst (homeless folks, when i was doing social work).
eh. i think i'm overreacting. but i guess it's still worth posting this. schooling fucks people up, is all i'm saying.
I was trying to think a bit beyond the forms of knowledge that are privileged in this society, the way education functions, the power related motivations that are related to the perceived authority of professionals, and the privileges that reduce the barriers for someone to learn more. So partially an attempt to demystify that knowledge; but, also trying to take things a lot of things that would probably be different without capitalism/the State/etc. I'll explain a little more on that because I think your reaction is definitely worth noting about the way people are motivated now and I don't want to be confusing.

I think a lot of the professionals that exist in this society wouldn't have a place in an anarchist one, that their practices and their knowledge would become obsolete. Or, the orientation of that knowledge and its application would be so changed dramatically. I also think that whatever sort of educational methods communities adopted would be a lot different than the compulsory school system.

I can only be vague about what I think education would be like in an anarchist society because I think a lot of it would depend on the relationships people would have to growing their food, homes, health, levels of technology, etc. Most of us don't build our homes or grow our own food now, so we're alienated from a first-hand knowledge of our environments and our nutrition/health... if that wasn't the case, there would be some strong motivations to learn more about ecology, biology, architecture, chemistry, physics, etc. Most of us don't make our own clothing, so we're alienated from a knowledge of the materials and how to use them to clothe ourselves (or, the technology that is involved with the production of textiles and fabrics). Ok, so there's more complicated science when it comes to flight, space travel, engineering, mechanics, electronics ...and, there's a lot of different histories... art, politics, culture, etc. etc. But, a lot of that stuff could be annexed to whatever institutions people come up with to apply it... taught in the Summerhill, Free Skool, or something like that style, available to teach oneself about, etc. Instead of pop psychology and pseudo science, a more intellectual culture of knowledge may develop without the drive to just put out books, magazines, bad journalism/news, etc. to make money.

anyway - that's my rant. When I think of cultures where everyone knows how to make a cob home by the time they're 6, people understand the species they live with, etc. - I don't worry too much about whether people will be motivated to learn the shit that will make their lives better and in an anarchist society I think it would be much easier to provide that enriched knowledge to everyone for free (without compulsion).

edit: sorry, I'm a bit discombobulated this morning
four years later!

what you say here is fine, but then i'm not sure why you used the word professional, as surely that word (and its associations) don't fit particularly well in the scenario you sketch?
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