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+4 votes
I'm really interested in critiques of anarchism but good ones are hard to find, perhaps partly because people who know enough about anarchism to critique it in an interesting way tend to actually be anarchists...

I think I'd personally be most interested in critiques that address my version of anarchism (I'm not sure what to call that - maybe like Foucauldian insurrectionist or something) or similar ones (any sort of 'type 3' anarchism).
by (8.0k points)
edited by
I perceive at least two subjects of critique here: anarchism as theoretical position and the actually existing anarchist movement. I have yet to find any compelling critiques of the former variety and an over-abundance of the latter.
Yeah I am in exactly the same boat - I probably should have worded the question differently to clarify which type I am looking for.
Although I have definitely come across good critiques of certain formulations of anarchism.

2 Answers

+2 votes
I think the current poll on is actually a really solid collection of interesting or semi-interesting critiques.

a. You have never won
b. People are experts
c. Revolution is a science
d. Politics is about power and you have none
e. Your tactics are futile and your strategy is non-existent
f.  Society!

in case these aren't clear to folks - here is my interpretation.
a. we have never won. this means that we have no proof that things can work in the way that we want them to. intra and inter cultural examples are either on such a small scale, or are so divorced from modern life, that we have no realistic way to know if they would work now in a big enough way to be satisfying to any of us.

b. there are social needs that people fulfill (nuclear protection agencies, police, environmental regulators, etc, to refer to some previous questions on this site), that are necessary for the world not to be destroyed. those roles require the current world that we live in (the kind of specialization and ways of thinking that come from an alienated social form).

c & e. the implication is we don't know what we're doing.

d. we are diametrically opposed to the only thing that would allow us to make the level of change that we claim to want.

f. we are so implicated in the ills of our cultures that we could not actually create anything significantly different.
by (53.1k points)
Pretty much.
Yeah you're right, those are pretty good. I think they're mostly sort of critiques of the anarchist movement and they're pretty easy for me to process because they all assume that we have the right goals in mind, they just point to various reasons we aren't yet achieving them.

With the exception of b.People are experts.  I found that one confusing when I first read it but your explanation makes sense...

I took the 'politics is about power and you have none' in a much more mundane sense: that we aren't likely to win because we don't have the numbers/resources. But your interpretation is definitely more interesting.
i disagree with the practice/theory distinction that you and enkidu are making. i think these criticisms are for both levels of the question... and am not sure how one would realistically distinguish between them anyway.
Well you're probably right that one can't completely distinguish between the two, but I can definitely think of critiques that are more focused on what our goals are.  There are lots of good critiques of (some) anarchists' positive goals, for example, and lots of bad critiques of our negative goals.
0 votes
1) Doesn't present itself as a real solution.  It seeks only to get rid of the problem.  It only deals with the problem but really offers no solution.  As with any problem you must either replace the problematic system with something that works better or have a plan or safeguard against the problem happening again.

2) Consequences of anarchy would cause world-wide chaos and destruction.  The likely scenarios of anarchy are far worse than the current status of society.  At least for most of the world, oppression has been domesticated.   Relinquish the safeguards and any ambitious group can torture, rape, murder, and enslave anyone they can over-power.  Anarchy would be an empowering environment for any egotistical murderer or power hungry individuals.   

3) Offers no systems of order or maintenance for the population.  Order does not mean control.  Order allows the effective flow of processes that maintain the functions of healthy systems.   The processes and functions of the body enable each person to act and to live in the way they choose.  Anarchy could allow people create such lateral systems apart from hierarchy and authority.  As of yet those type of system are undeveloped.

4) Has no real answer to questions of law and protection.   Most likely the biggest gun wins; the powerful will dominate the weak.  In time communities will develop along with hierarchy, then rulers, and finally people will again put themselves under the acceptable slavery of democracy and declare they are at last, free.

5) Has no alternative answer for money as a workable system for the acquisition of goods and provisions.  

6) Does not really answer the question is anarchy better than what we have now.  Isn't the main objective for anarchy the ability to choose how each person wants to live.  How does current approach of anarchy work for them, or are the anarchist values, choices, and self-determination more important than everyone else's?  As far as is stated in the conditions of anarchy, it is for people, against authority.

5) Has not created higher values.  Still focuses on property, governments, and money.  Values are what drives societies.  Values guide the course of humanity.  More is better.  Democracy defends liberty.  Money will solve your problems.  Taxation with representation is ok.  Justice is blind.  Respect authority.  All of these create the way everyone sees the world.  Logical and sustainable values would create a logical and sustainable society.
by (2.0k points)
These are all common critiques that are (subjectively) not very interesting to me.
I am for anarchy, it is the best solution. It has the answers within it, it just hasn't provided the full scope.  If a bridge s going to be tore down it could be beneficial to build a better one.   And if these are so common seems likely there should be some consideration given to them.
"I am for anarchy, it is the best solution."

i don't see anarchy as any kind of "solution". it is merely a way - perhaps many ways - of thinking/being/relating in the world. as such, it is nothing more than a tool, like every other set of ideas/behaviors. different people will often create different things with the same tool(s). calling one of those creations "the solution" - as if it applies to all - is authoritarian, not to mention dogmatic.