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+3 votes
I have seen references to "Anarchist Community" on this website and other websites (Infoshop forum, Anarchistnews, etc.) I'm curious to what people think of when they hear about these Anarchist communities. My perspective is colored by my interactions as an anarchist in smaller cities.

I originally asked this question in response to the wording of another question:
by (8.2k points)
edited by
Another good example of why I am asking this question, find Jesse Cohn's answer in a vague reference to "anarchist community."
this recent post on @news presents a reasonable critique of the concept of "anarchist community":

though it is too long and strays from the points i find most relevant, the general point has strong resonance with me.

6 Answers

–2 votes
A community is a place where you have friends during rough times (whether with someone from outside or inside that community). A community is a place where you'll be missed when you move away or die. It is very difficult to conceive of anarchists and that kind of real community in the same breath.
by (570 points)
I upvoted this. Why do you conceive that anarchists and a genuine community are two things that do not seem to fit together ?
i voted it down. it doesn't make sense.
"A community is a place where you have friends during rough times (whether with someone from outside or inside that community)."
what does that mean?
and yes, there's no reason to say that anarchists don't miss each other when they move away or die.
–3 votes
A community is a social fabric that holds a collection of individuals within it, like a nation, but is often linked together locally or regionally. An anarchist community would be a collection of anarchist individuals within a locality or region.
by (3.9k points)
I thought it was spot on. Negative voters need to explain their down vote.
i didn't vote it down. but if i had it would have been because a) social fabric isn't much clearer than community, and b) while i appreciate the geographic criteria, i'm not sure i agree with it. for example, i think that traveler kids could be said to be a community, even when their routes don't intersect... on the other hand, saying "often is" doesn't really help clarify, and c) to say a community is like a nation seems off, especially without specifying how they're similar, since presumably all social fabrics hold collections of individuals?
but that's just me and my non-downvote.

edited to clarify a tiny bit.
i also didn't downvote, but i disagree with the perspective.

"A community is a social fabric that holds a collection of individuals within it..."

that seems like it places the cart before the horse. or worse, it may be a reification. to me it is the individuals that make the community, not vice versa. at least that is true of MY idea of an anarchist community.

"An anarchist community would be a collection of anarchist individuals within a locality or region"

i also disagree with that. that defines community based solely on geographic proximity, and i don't like that definition.

edited typo
also, the WIDELY varying degrees of cohesiveness covered by the term "community" makes defining an "anarchist community" fairly vague. people may refer to "the american anarchist community" as all self-identified anarchists in the us. ditto, say, the bay area. pretty meaningless, imo.
Picking at semantics. There is no meaningful definition that will be created here.
+1 vote
"A community is a material web that binds people together, for better and for worse, in interdependence. If its members move away every couple years because the next pace seems cooler, it is not a community. If it is easier to kick someone out than to go through a difficult series of conversations with them, it is not a community. Among the societies that had real communities, exile was the most extreme sanction possible, tantamount to killing them. On many levels, losing the community and all the relationships it involved was the same as dying. Let’s not kid ourselves: we don’t have communities."

This is both a critique of "anarchist community" and a definition offered in the zine The Broken Teapot. Whether or not you agree with the conclusion, I think defining community as a material web is important. It allows "community" to be something different than "scene" or "subculture" or "milieu" (which, arguably, is what the "anarchist community" actually is).
by (240 points)
Um, "interdependence" is one of the reasons the global capitalist system is so worried about things like peak oil, climate instability/change, and other such large scale infrastructure related problems. It's used as an excuse and/or to illustrate how indispensable it all is. Isn't there too much interdependence already? Emotional interdependence is one thing, but shouldn't the material sort be moderated if not minimized? A "scene" or "subculture" can have some rather annoying cliquish or seemingly sectarian characteristics, yet I see no reason not to desire a "milieu" (if I understand the term corectly).
Sure. But at the level of "interdependence" you are talking about we aren't talking about individual human beings either. My neighbors and people I eat with, my coworkers and other people I interact with regularly, I am more in community with them than with people I see twice a year at the book fair. Right?

I didn't mean milieu, scene, or subculture to necessarily be derogatory, just to emphasize a difference between them and community (using material exchange, getting needs met, as a basis).
Move criticisms of my definition to this on as well. The critics want there to be no *useful* definition. Material web means the same as social fabric.
hp: i would never think that "material web" meant the same thing as "social fabric".
so, i guess i'm glad you pointed that out?
0 votes
I like this question a lot.

I think though that before we talk about a possible anarchist community, maybe we should ask, what is a community in the first place?

I have just been reading an exchange between Maurice Blanchot and Jean-Luc Nancy, where they address this question in a very interesting way. What is the meaning of this recurring desire in western politics for a community that has ostensibly been lost? We (people tied up in the political ideologies of the West) say that we want the return of a community, but at the same time we claim to perceive something known as the 'individual' -- a being that by definition cannot be divided.

However, these supposedly 'individual' beings are in fact lacerated by / relational with one another at all times, by virtue of their 'co-appearance' as finite beings. according to nancy, we are always, already, in community.

the political projects of 'community-building,' such as 20th c anarchism, the Bolshevik revolution in russia, german fascism, etc etc etc, all miss that fact;  they all pretend to "make a work" of the deaths that they require. Nancy writes movingly of how death in the name of community to come may perhaps be justified, in relation to this or that form of oppression, yet “these deaths are not sublated: no dialectic, no salvation leads these deaths to any other immanence than that of … death (cessation, or decomposition, which forms only the parody or reverse of immanence)."

In place of this, Blanchot and Nancy discuss the possibility of an "un-working" or "désouevrement" of community. Nancy: “community necessarily takes place in what Blanchot has called ‘unworking,’ referring to that which, before or beyond the work, withdraws from the work, and which, no longer having to do either with production or with completion, encounters interruption, fragmentation, suspension… Community is not the work of singular beings, nor can it claim them as its works, just as communication is not a work or even an operation of singular beings, for community is simply their being -- their being suspended upon its limit. Communication is the unworking of work that is social, economic, technical,  and institutional.”

Some examples of that type of community include, for Blanchot and Nancy, a literary community, friendship, and especially, the community of lovers.

The question for me then, is, to what extent do anarchist "scenes" or "milieus" resemble this type of community, and to what extent do they resemble the self-conscious type of intentional being-in-common that is constantly naming and describing and delimiting itself. like the supposed political community of a nation or a neighborhood or whatever. I think it is probably sometimes one and sometimes the other. it seems though that any time someone alludes to an "anarchist community" they are full of it. when they talk about their friends or their lovers or something like that, maybe they know what they are talking about.

(here are the two essays I am referring to. there's a lot more to them than the little bit that I've tried to describe.

and, in a very similar vein, there is this:
by (8.0k points)
edited by
This doesn't sound like any of the uses of community I've heard. Most real communities, as ini ndividuals thst participate in  local communities that are active in maintaining mutual common interest . Typically the is a shared. culture or cultures with a great deal of crossover. I have no idea why others want community to mean some sort of utopia or dystopia of social connection.
yes, it's definitely idiosyncratic. but I thought it would be a good thing to bring up, since so far the answers have focused on community as a material substance. you said that it is a social fabric, p said that it is a material web… I think though that it is interesting to think of ways that 'community' can be functionless, not coterminous with relations of production, locality, etc
0 votes
I like this question in part because I've used the word "community" to describe something I was looking for the past few years, and during my search I ended up not feeling satisfied with the term. I was surprised to find out how differently people used the word.

So, I'm going to take a crack at this despite (or maybe as a result of) reading all the answers and conversations below, which seem to indicate it's nearly unanswerable. - and there doesn't seem to be many upvotes for any of the answers. :)  Perhaps that's part of the answer - that there may not be a satisfactory definition many people can agree on. Here goes...

To me, a community is a group of people who are intimately involved in each others' lives. They care what happens to others in the group, they are there to help in times of illness, they play together, they create things together, they celebrate together, they talk deeply and openly, they trust one another, they help each other. For the community to hold together, I believe there needs to be some underlying value or philosophy or interest (or something unnamable) that keeps them together.

There doesn't need to be a geographic perimeter, although I believe closer proximity physically would generally make the community stronger. There doesn't have to be a size minimum or limitation, but obviously over a certain number of people, that intimacy and involvement would be difficult. Not everyone in the community necessarily interacts with everyone else, but there would be a general desire to have as wide a range of relationships as possible.

And community is fluid in that people choose to be more or less a part of it based on their life circumstances and desires at any given time - but generally speaking, there is a stability present among the people there...that's part of the desirability of being part of one, I assume.

An "anarchist community" then, would be everything I described with the underlying principle being anarchy. Obviously, it would be non-hierarchical, and I'd imagine people would be wanting to move away from the use of money, the concept of property, and so on. So they would create closer relationships and assist in supporting one another (mentally, emotionally, physically) in living anarchy.

To summarize, a community is a web of people with closely connected relationships, kept together by an underlying belief or desire, in this case, anarchy.

Now whether that exists today, or has in the past, or will in the future, I'm not sure. I don't think I'm part of such a community as I described it, but I desire it. At least for now, while hierarchy seems to be ever present. The funny thing is, I don't use the word "community" any more when talking about that desire, probably because of all the different ways people conceive of it. I'd rather just describe it (and live it) the best I can.

after reading the links in the OP...

The two threads seem to be talking about different things. The first one seems to be about a group of people within a certain geographic location, the second being everyone, everywhere, who calls themselves anarchist, but I'm not sure. So, this has been my definition.  

Okay, have at me. :)

edited: grammar, and to add a couple things.
by (8.5k points)
edited by
Something else came to mind. I suppose if the general condition of the entire population was one of anarchy, an "anarchist community" wouldn't make any sense given my definition of a common desire holding it together, since almost everyone would be living it already. Hmmmm....
+1 vote
clearly folks have very disparate ideas of what "community" means, and i don't really care to try to define it myself. but one of the best postulations i have come across for such a concept is put forth in bolo'bolo by pm.

i definitely have my critiques of it, but i don't think i have come across a better, more comprehensive, well thought out, reasonably adaptable concept of community that could work for more than a just few anarchists.

dramatically oversimplified synopsis: self-sufficient social groupings of up to 300-500 individuals, with cohesion based on affinities. individuals are free to "join" or not, move between bolos (the term used for the "community" itself), etc. there is a very definite aspect of mutual aid that enters into how individuals (i think "ibu" is the term used for individual) interact with bolos.

by (13.4k points)
funky, do you know if that book is available for free online anywhere?
Thanks, dot. I look forward to reading it.
Funny. I ordered a hard copy just yesterday.
yours will last longer than a printed out version. or you can give it as a present!
more bolo'bolo for everyone!
i should point out that if i remember correctly, the author comes across to me as somewhat of (what i would think of as) an anti-state communist. the new forward by the author that is in the printed edition at lbc, if i remember correctly, starts to sound even more typical commie/leftist (almost reformist). i think i found it a bit of a turnoff when i read it. (i'd have to read it again to see what i think now). but the book itself stands well, for what it is.
yea, there are definitely parts of the book that are dismissable. it is good as a prod to the imagination, not as a blue print.
"it is good as a prod to the imagination, not as a blue print."

exactly.  fuck blueprints!
Aw, dammit. I had my saws, hammer-n-nails ready to start construction! ;-)

So many blueprints found in the genocidal heap-o-bodies it astounds the imagination that many still quest for the Holy Blueprint of/for Humanity...:-(