Note that the site is in archived, read-only mode. You can browse and read, but posting is disabled.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

Note that the site is in archived, read-only mode. You can browse and read, but posting is disabled.


–7 votes
I've seen people say often that all anarchism is socialist or socialistic. I seem to disagree as there are aspects and ways anarchism can function non-socialist-ly. The biggest example would be Anarcho-Capitalism.
I've seen some talk about how anarcho-capitalism isn't real anarchy because it requires a government to recognize and protect/recognize private property rights, however I have found this to not be accurate the more I learn about it.

So how is anarchy all socialist if there are things like anarcho-capitalism?

edited for tag
edited by
Yeah maybe if you elucidated upon how exactly anarcho-capitalism doesn't require institutions of force and hierarchy to uphold private property, this question might make more sense.

There's also the implicit assumption that anti-capitalism is, by definition, socialist, which is also inaccurate.
The same way you'd uphold personal property, I would assume.
Except personal property doesn't necessarily involve the ownership of basic means of survival, means of production, land and resources that you aren't putting toward any particular purpose, and other shit that everybody needs and shouldn't be forced to work/trade for.

Private property, on the other hand, is all of that. Personal property doesn't require any particular system to protect, because it's on a small enough scale to be handled by individuals and there's not much reason to steal somebody's possessions unless you really want to fuck with their life (or, in present times, because you can liquidate those possessions for money). Private property is potentially large-scale and, within its jurisdiction, requires arbitrary wage labor of some kind that can be traded for basic needs of survival. So how is this system protected from people who say "I don't give a shit if you 'own' this empty building, a need a place to sleep"?
If someone tries to steal your personal property, such as your watch, you wouldn't use force to protect yourself and it?

If someone says "I don't give a shit if you own those second pair of socks you have on. Its cold and I have no socks at all" and attempts to take it, the person with two layers of socks doesn't fight back when assaulted?

If I am a farmer and some bandits and theives attempt to burn my barn down and steal my crops, the same would occur. The farmer would use a shotgun or whatever to protect his personal property (the crops) from being destroyed and stolen.

Per your example of someone entering an empty building because they need a place to sleep. What if a person is attempting to simply destroy the claimed empty building? Is the "ownership/caretaker able to protect it from destruction? Can the neighbors or community protect it?
What if the building isn't empty. What if you live there with a wife and kids and I force myself in stating I need a place to sleep and I don't give a shit who's already here. Are you not allow to kick them out because kicking them out may require force?

I'm trying to understand where the lines are here. Anarcho-capitalism (not all, as there are a few different forms) doesn't always have an institution of force or hierarchy to uphold private property. Ultimately in any system, isn't it the individual who protects their own property, personal or otherwise?

How does anarchism handle if a man builds a fence and claims land for himself. No institutions or groups other than himself defending and attacking anyone who crosses into his one acre.

You are right that I do not know or understand that anti-capitalism is socialism. I am curious as to what a third or more options are?
>"Ultimately in any system, isn't it the individual who protects their own property, personal or otherwise?"

No. For example, many places in modern society do not empower individuals to protect their own property unless there is reason to believe that their life could be in danger, in which case they may act to protect their own life. Practically zero places empower individuals to reclaim property that has already been taken; generally this is the role of police and police alone.

As another example, very few CEOs protect their own wealth and property; they have laws, lawyers, police, courts, prisons, various employees, and entire societal institutions that do so.

>"How does anarchism handle if a man builds a fence and claims land for himself. No institutions or groups other than himself defending and attacking anyone who crosses into his one acre."

It depends on whether there's any reason to come into contact with the man? If the man is self-sufficient and lives out in the middle of nowhere and never comes into contact with anybody, then what's the point of the question? Alternately, if the man lives in a very populated area and builds a fence around a vital acre of fertile land and water, then why would anyone tolerate him?

>"You are right that I do not know or understand that anti-capitalism is socialism. I am curious as to what a third or more options are?"

Many anarchists do not advocate for a specific economic system to replace capitalism. It's possible to be anti-capitalist without being pro-socialist. In fact, it's possible to be anti-capitalist without being pro-anything.

But as for potential alternatives: gift economy, barter, communism, mutualism, any number of gray areas and free-for-alls and who knows what.

2 Answers

+7 votes
Best answer
there cannot be anarcho-capitalism.

ps: also, not all anarchism is socialist.
by (53.1k points)
Of course there can, moron. Since Capitalism is nothing more than the free and equal trade between people, you can't have Anarchism WITHOUT Capitalism. It's the centralized state monopolies of Socialism that conflict with Anarchism, and that fact doesn't change just because the butthurt, pseudoanarchist statist shitbag mods of this site try to delete, ban and censor all information and argument proving it.
I voted this down because the second half of the answer is completely incorrect.  All anarchism is socialist.  Post-leftism is anti-socialist and not anarchist.  Just being anti-state and anti-capitalism is not enough to make someone an anarchist.
Sorry mate but that just isn't true,  not historically, not in terms of anarchist principles and not in the real world right now.  Additionally,  most post-leftists' claim to anarchism is based on more than just being anti-state and anti-capitalist, and your posts here suggest that you're more interested in differentiating yourself from post-leftism the you are understanding it, which I'm guessing is why you've been relying so heavily on sweeping holier-than-thou ad hominem generalisations in your arguments, which contain a shit-tone of assumptions that even a cursory understanding of the basic points of the post left critique would preclude.  Also post-leftism is not on the same side as Anarcho-capitalism, and tarring us with the same brush you use to tar them is just plain hyperbolic stupidity.
I've had quite a lot of contact with post-leftists and so far I've yet to actually see anything remotely anarchist from any of them.  All they seem to be concerned with is making sure that nobody is doing anything to help others.  There primary feature seems to be hatred of socialism.  If they actually are anti-state or anti-capitalist then it is certainly a much, much, much lower priority than doing all they can to prevent activism.
But there can be anarchists who believe in free trade.
@dotnetspec do we want to pick apart these words?
+1 vote
All anarchies are not socialist.  Many are not.  The people telling you this want to make a convenient erasure of what falls outside of their program.  They want to be the Answer, the One True Anarchism.  Many anarchies are neither capitalist not socialist (in the traditional sense of the word socialist).  People like Landauer have used the word socialist in other interesting ways, but for the most part socialism means a commitment to, among other things, economy, politics, bureaucracy, etc.  Many anarchists are against these things and also capitalism.  What socialism and capitalism have in common are an obsession with political economy, and a tendency to frame all of life in terms of economy and production, but there are many who do not care for playing number games and a life of toil.
by (2.3k points)
"I have found this to not be accurate the more I learn about it."

This is a bizarre statement, especially without enumerating one or two examples. There may be something legitimately called "anarcho-capitalism" but I, for one, have never read or heard anything under that rubric that resembles a philosophy dedicated to anti-hierarchical autonomy, the abolition of exploitation, the definitive destruction of institutionalized government (the state), and the generalized liberation of humanity from division of labor, private property, relations of economy...
How can you have an economy without socialism or capitalism? From my understanding, boiled down, socialism is property such as land and resources being owned collectively, usually but not always, by some central organization. Then you have capitalism which allows individuals to own property such as land and resources.

How can an economy be structured other than individual ownership or collective ownership, especially when economics is basically human interaction via trade and manipulation of property?
Well my understanding of anarcho-capitalism covers everything you listed, or can since there are a few different kinds I've come across, but most of them cover the list. I may be mistaken in my understanding of it though but I don't think so...
Well, you could not have a structured economy, for one. Or you could stop theorizing in terms of "economy" altogether.

I guarantee you that if your definition of socialism means an economy guided by some sort of central planning committee, then probably 0% of users on this site are socialists.

(Speaking of which, I also doubt that anybody here identifies as an "anarcho-socialist" either.)
How exactly does anarcho-capitalism abolish the division of labor, private property, and relations of economy?
Seriously SinS, instead of just saying "nope," you might want to start dealing with the several substantive objections to your assertions instead of just repeating them.
Most of my reading it is stems from researching the origins of modern liberalism and classical liberalism. One of the few philosophers I can remember was John Locke. Not exactly an anarchist but he a figure often used, especially in the areas of homesteading.

Also, you claim I said "nope" but I gave as much information as the comment gave. I didn't think I needed to give additional information since a quick google search can be done by anyone looking for gather more information on the subject.

Now again, I'm no expert. Just researching all I can. From what I understand though, anarchism still allows for the existence of personal property.

I'm better with examples anyways so I guess I'll try a bit more here...
Basically, if I build a machine that makes shoes and you have the skills to build shoes using a machine, then we come together and through voluntary agreement, make shoes. Then we offer those shoes to others at fair trade.

It removes hierarchical autonomy and everything else you listed just as much as any other form of anarchism I'm aware of.
I guess here:

I also do not mean to be rude or anything. I'm here to learn and ask questions.
Also the answer lawrence gave here isn't really an answer, but more of a comment.
That's why I said not always by central organization. You can have all resources 'commons' or governed by something centralized but very small, like a local town council type situation.

Isn't a non-structured economy basically a free-market economy?
I'm also not sure what you mean by theorizing in terms of economy all together. Economy is not business or money like many think but basic human interaction and how humans structure themselves (or allow themselves to be structured). So I don't quite understand what other options are there besides a central authority in control of resources, individuals (or small groups) in control, or no control and everything up for grabs.
I was thinking more along the lines of a gift economy or barter economy or some gray area of the two. I imagine a market economy as implying private property ownership and the concept of currency as an abstract representation of value, and therefore in some way structured, but maybe this somehow inaccurate?

Also, if you're going to define economy as "all human interaction" then we're working with very different definitions of economy and it would probably be helpful if you clarified that from the beginning. Then again, I'm not sure how useful it is to define a term that encompasses all human relationships and structures when we could just talk about the relationships and structures themselves.

I don't know whether there are other options than the ones you've presented, in terms of the specific entities that may or may not exert control over resources; it's mostly the relationship between the entity and the resources that I feel you're describing too narrowly. If you asked me, I'm in favor of individuals having control over their own environment, but that wouldn't involve a market or private property at any level.
Generally the bit that becomes less "voluntary" is where the shoe-building machine might require a series of complex parts that are made from resources extracted from hundreds of miles away by people who can either extract resources (for a wage) or die; and also the shoe-builder faces the choice of either entering employment (on terms balanced in favor of the person who owns the machinery, since they're the one with access to the shoe-building resources and technology) or not participating in this "voluntary" society at all and being forced to fend for themself; and then also the people who need shoes in order to protect their feet are forced to work in some arbitrary form of wage labor in order to afford what they need to survive.

Again, how does any of this remove the division of labor, or private property, or relationships of economy (as defined as being related to wealth, productive value, trade, etc)? Everything you've described so far only emphasizes these things.
"Economy is not business or money like many think but basic human interaction and how humans structure themselves (or allow themselves to be structured). "

wow. that statement needs some supporting documentation or something. i have never heard the term economy, or economics, used in any way other than in discussion of the collection, use and distribution of value-based resources.  in fact, directly from

" a social science concerned chiefly with description and analysis of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and service"

"...Economics is the study of how individuals and societies choose to employ those resources: what goods and services will be produced, how they will be produced, and how they will be distributed among the members of society."

equating that with the entirety of human relationships sounds wing-nutty, if not intentionally (and pathetically) manipulative.

sorry, it sounds like you might want to change the basis of your assumptions.

as has been said, socialism does NOT equal anarchy. many anarchists probably identify as social anarchists, or even anarcho-socialists. (not me, btw). and honestly it is easier for me to understand a perspective that encompasses elements of both anarchy and socialism (some aspects anyway), than it is to understand a perspective that encompasses both anarchy and capitalism.  that is a virtual contradiction in terms. a core principle of anarchy: no oppression/exploitation. some core principles of capitalism: profit, growth, private ownership of resources required by all of life.  is there any way (let alone desire) for those principles to coexist?

your seeming inability to frame life in any context other than economic speaks volumes. i don't speak for anyone else, especially other anarchists, but as for me, i want NO economic system in my desired world. any exchanges that happen between me and those i choose to relate with will be based on our individual and mutual needs and desires. which is exactly how i want ALL my relationships and interactions to be, not just resource based exchanges/gifts.  if you want to call that economics, then we have no common ground for understanding each other.
""...Economics is the study of how individuals and societies choose to employ those resources: what goods and services will be produced, how they will be produced, and how they will be distributed among the members of society."

equating that with the entirety of human relationships sounds wing-nutty, if not intentionally (and pathetically) manipulative."

You quote it right there. "how individuals and societies". Groups and individuals.
There are multiple economic fields, that do not just follow goods and services in the realm of production. An example of this would be Public Choice. Which is studying humans behavior in the political realm.

Science of any and all kind chiefly uses descriptions and analysis of anything. It groups things into categories, from complex molecular compounds and elements to basic female and male.

You say my inability to frame life in any context other than economics speaks volumes but that's like saying, "your inability to frame atomic matter in any context other than atomic structure speaks volumes". It doesn't make sense  and again, I am not trying to insult. I'm trying to understand but I get the feeling you don't understand what economics actually is. For instance, what are these other ways of framing life besides how people interact and choose to live?

You say you want no economic system but how do you make that occur? "any exchanges that happen between me and those i choose to relate with will be based on our individual and mutual needs and desires."
That is the basis of economics. That is a description of how you wish to provide goods and serves, isn't it? Based on mutual needs and desires?

I'm not trying to challenge your beliefs, just trying to understand them but its difficult when I'm talking about certain scientific aspects, like parts of anthropology and being told that science doesn't matter in this areas or doesn't apply in a way which it specifically does. But your exchanges and interactions on humans are weighted choices. You choose what you find as need and desire. Well you wouldn't trade someone all your food for some tools or water, unless you were able to gain more food or you'd starve to death. So you'd look at what you have and what you (and others) would be willing and able to part with. So its basic economics but saying its not doesn't answer any questions. I understand you do not want a structured economy like defined forms of socialism, capitalism, corporatism, etc but economics exists when you have more than one individual or group interacting. To ignore this is on par with ignoring DNA as a building block of life.

Just for the record, I am not capitalist or socialism. I am not anarchist or statist. I personally follow the non-aggression principle which originates from a few different philosophies because I do not wish to inflict my will onto others. I am simply researching as many sides as possible so that I may understand them, explain them to others and defend them. I try to gain all side's info, both from source material, specific opposing structures and from those who follow it.

So when I am talking about economics, I am talking about the science of it. For instance I may mention the endowment effect which is a documented occurance in human behavior:

And of course, to point another thing out, it originates from a specific area of economics entitled Behavioral economics:

So even without a set structure, economic theories and analysis don't all go away. So I understand what you mean when you say no economic structure but one will exist no matter what. It won't be a centrally planned or authorized economy but human interact and behavior will always exist with or without a government.

So when you say you want "any exchanges that happen between me and those i choose to relate with will be based on our individual and mutual needs and desires." how does this work? Do you not care where the origin of those items come from? An example to help, if your community (you and those who live around you) suffer from a famine and you need food to survive, what factors come into play? If another anarchist society chose to focus on scientific applications to cultivate food, would you be against it if it were GMOs? Would you feel those interactions should be up front and all information disclosed? Meaning are you fine if they lie to you about its origin, as long as the general category of food is being satisfied or do you think those interactions, to truly be voluntary and void of coercion, require all information to be up front?

Maybe you haven't analyzed it to that extent or perhaps there is some information I am missing. But the information so far hasn't explained to me what I am looking for but has rather been avoiding the issue. Again, please do not be offended. I talk straight forward and normal societal interaction tends to frown on straight forwardness with lack of social hoops jumped through. I only wish to understand. I also want to thank you for engaging in this conservation with me, just in case you are offended and discontinue the conversation. I have appreciated your time.
I think you make a lot of jumps. You assume that the parts I require come from far off places and produced in sweatshops.
What if I can make all the parts needed, thanks to my skills. Or I trade shoes for the parts I need that are created via my community. I go to a repairman and through voluntary exchange, agree to an arrangement for X amount of shoes for X amount of hours fixing and maintaining the machines.
What if, those I hire to work at the shoe factory, through voluntary exchange, own an equal portion of the product or equivalent portion?

Perhaps a non product example is based due to the negative connotations that exist.

Let's say I am skilled at human biology. A doctor or nurse. I offer the use of my skills in exchange for things I need, like food, water, clothing (including shoes :P ) and housing.

Or lets say I am a baker. I need wheat and so through voluntary exchange, agree with a wheat farmer to bake him X amount of bread each week for X amount of wheat aka barter to gain the materials I require to be a baker. I need other things like clothes, water, yeast, etc and setup rates of how much bread for how much material in return.
what you refer to as economics is really just the civilized perspective.  Those phenomenon (gifts and gift giving) exist in the world, -that outsiders (in this case scientists) chose to interpret and frame it through a specific set of values (that all life is economic) is another matter entirely.  Economic life isnt a truism, at least not for everyone.  Even the fact that we call a 'gift economy' an 'economy' is misleading, because its key features are actually in direct conflict with what is generally termed 'economics'.  gift economies are not sciences (in the western sense) and they are not abstractions.  They exist only in the people who 'use' them, and distinct character of them is the lack of calculating and quantifying life that is involved in 'economics'.
I don't see how its the civilized perspective or are all sciences just the civilized perspective of something?

Gift economics is merely the study of how gifts are different then other means of exchange. Again, economics is human interaction which covers primarily exchange. Whether it be exchange of goods or services. Services are one person doing something for another person.

So when you analyze how a gift is different than a barter economy or market economy. It even says gift economics is not like normal exchange of goods and services for money or whatever. Its not even a system in itself like other systems. Merely an analysis of function.

I don't see how scientists are okay when studying other biological organism, but as soon as they study the biological organism known as homo-sapiens, people start viewing us apart from nature.

Also gift economics is a science. They analyse the differences in gifts, such as gifts (aka bribes) that occur in government and positions of power in comparison to sociological effects and functions of gifts. It also looks at how the commercialized gift ideologies different from other gift forms.

To say all gifts are the same is incorrect and if all gifts are not the same, then there is no reason why those differences can't be analyzed through an objective scientific means. Or does anarchism have a part to it that I do not know about that rejects humans as being part of nature or unique to science in some way?

There are also lots of economic fields and theories that are way off. Just because an economic theory exists, does not make it correct or correct in all application. But this is a problem with the data or perhaps the method of analyzing the data. It does not mean the scientific field of economics doesn't apply. I think a lot of people do not understand what economics is. I know I didn't when I began to study a few years ago. Most of the US is economically illiterate so its not surprising so many don't understand it and the word economics/economy has developed a lot of negative connotations due to capitalists and socialists ideological fighting.

I've actually spoken at length with a PhD from one of the world's top economic universities. Because human interaction is so varied and great, you have people with PhDs getting some areas completely wrong. PhDs tend to get their degrees in two or three fields of study. The one I spoke to specialized in Public Choice and one other behavioral economic field. He currently teaches economics in college and the book the college forces him to use has major F' ups. The author had degrees in macro economics and no training in Public Choice so the books section on Public Choice was completely wrong as he confused it for another area of economics.
So major misunderstandings of these scientific fields is common place, even for PhDs since its so grand that no economists is an expert in all fields.

But I do not see how my references to economics is different than what economics is. Its like saying a botanists is the civilized perspective of plant biology. Different terms for the same thing. If I can explain how it may be a misunderstanding or lack of knowledge on economics, I will refer to Public Choice again. Public Choice is analyzing human behavior in the situation of having a democratic governmental system. If we lived in an anarchist state, then obviously, Public Choice would not apply. At least not exactly as it is today. We would have new economic theories being presented based on what economists analyze from people living in an anarchist society. These theories would be tested and time and debate, as well as historical examples would then be used to narrow down the economic theories.

This is also a key difference between positive and normative economic analysis. Most of the industrialized government world uses theories to manipulate and control economic functions and systems, like keynesian economics. These are applied theories and ideas of how to manipulate. These should not be confused with economics which simply analyses 'what is', instead of 'what should be' or 'what a centralized government wants to be'.

I think I have a good short vid which shows the difference in economic theories. :)

Hope these help to understand the idea how economics is used by government and people to manipulate, control and structure an economy but that's not what economics is about. Its the equivalent of quantum mechanics being used to create an a-bomb. Don't let the misuse of science make you think science is bad or evil. It just is and people use it for bad, good or just to understand.
I think the greatest assumption you're making is that, in each of your examples, you assume that exchange is automatically a recognized and accepted activity.

Maybe people don't want to exchange anything for anything. Maybe you're not "a baker" because the division of labor no longer exists and people are capable of being whatever is necessary at any given time rather than specializing into niches because it's profitable. Maybe the wheat farmer won't give you anything because he doesn't like you.
You start off by saying that gift economics isn't what jingles says it is, but this is obviously a matter of semantics. If you want to actually understand the argument, you should probably learn what anarchists mean when they say "gift economy", because it has absolutely nothing to do with studying the notion of giving gifts to politicians.

On the same note, saying that "people don't know what economics really is" is probably also a matter of semantics. The definitions of words and concepts change based on the language of the group you're in. "Capitalism", for example, means completely different things depending on whether you're speaking to a free-market economist or a student of Marxist theory. "Internationalism" is another good example for the same groups. "Science" will be interpreted differently by a neurobiologist than by a primitivist. "Work" has different connotations for a socialist compared to a post-left insurrectionist.

I have to disagree with you that science as the study of "what is" is less bad or more neutral/objective compared to the practical application of science relating to manipulation and control. There are plenty of sociologists, psychologists, environmental researchers, and economists who present their studies as objective truths about the world when, of course, science is always influenced by ideological frameworks.