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+2 votes
Does it depend on the culture or certain aspects of a culture? How do anarchists even define culture? What about subcultures?

This question is intentionally left vague to keep answers and discussion open

2 Answers

–5 votes
You might have heard what Mahatma Gandhi told us when asked about how he felt about western civilization. "I think it would be a good idea."  As far as your question, I'm not sure if Anarchism is centrally about culture. While defending the individual's right to practice whatever culture he/she chooses to. Hopefully that makes sense.
by (140 points)
Automatic fail for referring to Gandhi by his hierarchical religious nickname.
Okay, so pick at the minutia without any comment about the whole statement.
Okay, here's some comments on "the whole statement."

When speaking of Gandhi, a better anti-hierarchical and anti-religious (that is, descriptive rather than proscriptive) way of referring to him would be to call him Mohandas Gandhi (so he won't be confused with all the other famous Gandhis) or just Gandhi.

You're taking it for granted that "civilization" or "Western civilization" is some sort of refined and elegant culture, otherwise the irony that's part of Gandhi's response falls flat. The partisans of Civilization (Gandhi included) always use the term morally, to mean an elevated (note the hierarchical language), polite, and generally pleasant and positive set of cultural values and practices. Since modern Civilization is an outgrowth of and a contributing factor in the creation and expansion of Capitalism, it's difficult for an authentic radical anti-capitalist to argue for an expansion of Civilization (Western or otherwise).

Anarchism is certainly about culture, so long as we accept the generic definition of culture to mean learned and transmitted patterns of behavior. What is acceptable versus unacceptable, what is considered normal versus deviant. Such attitudes and beliefs are culturally specific, so yes, anarchism, like any other theory and set of practices, is all about culture.

Making any argument among anarchists that relies on the concept of rights (as in your statement "defending an individual's right to practice") is just a bunch of Liberal (in the sense of Classical Liberalism -- think Locke) bullshit. Your framing of the question this way shows that you are wedded to the discourse of that philosophy and its political manifestation in a modern liberal democratic ideal. No insult meant, just being descriptive.

So no, your statement does not make sense, either in the minutiae nor in the whole. Check your assumptions. Check your language.
Understood about Gandhi, though, I would still say that it's somewhat impertinent to the point. But I will remember to use Mr. Gandhi's first name from now on. Only for the sake of "accuracy" did I say Mahatma Gandhi, but lesson learned.
You may have misunderstood my point completely.  First of all, I was not saying that western civilization is refined or elegant at all. Only what Mr. Gandhi was saying which is that the west doesn't  have any "civilization". Also I didn't say that anarchism is not about culture I said that anarchism, as I see it allows people to practice what ever culture they choose to. If anarchism were about one central culture and no one allowed to practice other cultures, I think that would defeat the purpose. Of course as long as the culture you wish to practice doesn't infringe on others. However, I'm in agreement with you, anarchy is certainly about culture. If I may bring up an other Indian philosopher and forgive me for using HIS perhaps hierarchal religious name. Mister J. Krishnamurti forgive me for not knowing a better way to address him. However, In his writings and lectures  he speaks quite clearly against religion and hierarchy. He defines culture as the act to cultivate, intellectually. That is something I'm not sure is done enough in the west.

I'd also like to turn you on to Mark Passio He is an anarchist advocate in Philadelphia and occult student. He discusses rights as a natural entitlement. and if you would prefer not to use the term rights, I think we do have the natural entitlement to practice what we choose to. Emma Goldman also wrote extensively about natural rights. Though, I'd like to thank you for backing up my argument in another thread  that anarchism IS separate from liberalism.

Thank you for your information. I am here to learn.  However though you say no insult meant, It was a little confrontational for my taste which is never productive. Remember that I never attacked anyone.

Just trying to understand where you're coming from here, do you think that people don't have rights?
Rights are granted -- and perhaps more importantly, rescinded -- by legislative or judicial institutions or God. As such, they are irrelevant to anarchists, unless a particular anarchist critic (like Goldman arguing about free speech, or Chomsky arguing about international law) is using imminent critique to embarrass politicians and priests.
It's sad that  institutions like religion and politics  use rights   to attract those attracted to liberty, but do these institutions actually grant rights? If I tell a pig that I know my rights, will he act like any less of a pig and respect those rights?  It makes sense now that it can be used as a weapon against religion and politics, or as a means of holding those institutions to what they claim.

Do you argue that there are no natural entitlements to belief in principles?
There are no natural rights or natural entitlements. All such constructs are based on the idea of a social contract, where certain freedoms (whatever they are) are traded for security from a sovereign. It's all bullshit, smoke and mirrors, used to hoodwink those with no access to power, but who are promised fairness and good will from their superiors.
Solid answers,thanks  Lawrence, So, what do you call the liberty to practice the culture of your choice?
I call it anarchy.
i would say even calling it a "liberty" is nebulous and debatable. what does it really mean to say, eg: "i have the liberty to practice anarchy"? that some/all authority is permitting me to do so? it is difficult for me to divorce the concept of liberty from the concept of some authority (usually institutional) whose role is to grant/deny/enforce that liberty (or lack thereof).
+1 vote
Culture, as I understand it, is not exactly something that can accepted or rejected, and I find it difficult to compartmentalize culture, politics, society, etc. I also tend to think of cultures (plural, or as you suggest subcultures) rather than monolithic culture.

That said, your question brings up notions of cultural hegemony, which is to say the use of culture as a means of domination. Likewise, there are numerous critiques of art as a bourgeois cultural replication mechanism. Culture, to some points of view and using here a more monolithic sense of the term, has historically been co-modified and, of late, has metastasized into a consumerist ethos where icons and brands dominate the cultural landscape. If this is what you mean by culture, then yes, I think it should be rejected, as with other forms of domination anarchism rejects.

I think an anarchist definition of culture would acknowledge that culture(s) is something everyone plays a part in creating, and not something to be simply consumed; culture not as big name stars and best sellers, but as an expression of liberation; in short, a peoples' culture rather than a culture of the elite. This definition brings with it bias, as I work in the cultural industry, and I acknowledge arguments which suggest an ideal anarchist society would have no need for the material trappings often associated with culture, such as novels, paintings, sculpture, etc., and perhaps no need of what is typically called culture at all...

There are a few other questions on Anarchy 101 that touch on elements of this topic. The question linked below has a number of articles/books/resources that might be of interest to you as well:

by (1.0k points)