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.


+1 vote
as i take part in an argument about "leadership", on my part, it suffices to say that it is not OK because it in itself produces grounds upon which different inequalities are formed, and i do not believe that some people have the right to "lead" other people.

but for the most part, the discussion goes to "how it ideally should be" and "how it can be/has been 'in real life'". basically, people say "it would never work". from then on, due to my lack of knowledge, i stick to "well, just because i cannot provide you an example, does not mean it is not possible, and even so, i do not prefer to opt out from what i consider right for the sake of what is possible". and i would like the option to not to do so.

recently i read "how nonviolence protects the state" by gelderloos, and it had helped me to come up with examples when people keep on and on about how nonviolence is not only right, but also effective. in general, i would really be happy if you could offer me some examples that i could read, and then refer to.
by (130 points)

1 Answer

+1 vote
Leadership comes in a couple of forms as far as I understand, one is leaders that are inspirational / role models, these kinds of leaders in my view are not forming a hierarchy they are providing a service of sorts, a kind of division of labour I guess.

The difference is in the form of resource rights/control/access.

In my view the question you have to ask is does one person have rights over another, if the answer is yes you have a hierarchy if the answer is no you have division of labour, the latter in my view is acceptable, the former is not.

With regard to the "nonviolence" principle, it is a principle that is so ambigious and subjective it is of little use (there are many forms of violence passive and aggressive both are massively subject to interpretation). Also it is unenforceable (without threat or use of some form of violence).

In my view there needs to be the value system in place to reduce any motive that might encourage any form of 'violence' against another to a minimum.

EDIT: As for "is it necessary", ants are an example of no leadership, and it massively benefits them, if you research swarm theory you can see how far greater intelligence can emerge out of extremely limited intelligence, humans could learn a lot from this.

Fact is all systems are emergent, hierarchy emerged because it was the most efficient and effective within its paradigm, once another system becomes more efficient or effective it will become dominant.

Hierarchy and leadership has a number of massive issues and inefficiencies, corruption being one, inefficient hierarchical systems will eventually be replaced by non-hierarchical systems, you are already starting to see this with 'flatter' organisational structures especially in highly technical fields, the more intelligent the work the more it benefits from not having leadership or centralized control.

So basically individual or group leadership (in the hierarchical sense) will eventually disappear, it is inevitable, it is just a matter of time, those in such positions of power and influence are however going to fight it every step of the way it is just a matter of whether we destroy ourselves before that happens.
by (140 points)
edited by
i probably should have clarified that, what i mean is when people claim that it is better when there is someone "in charge" who is granted the authority to take the decisions on behalf of people. so the way i use the leadership in the question refers to former.

i mentioned the nonviolence thing just to mean that how great it would be if someone would offer me a text with a title like "how the assumption that leadership is necessary is bullshit". :)

edit: so i'm basically asking whether you could offer me a historical/ethnographic example that i could refer to.
Indeed, as I see it it is a matter of principle  that nobody should be making decisions on anyones behalf (without explicit consent for every such decision).

As for historical examples sorry I do not think I can offer one, simply because historically for anything of significant scale hierachy was necessary, it was just not practical for everyone to have a say, nothing would get done.

That is not to say it never could be, we now do have the technology that would enable everyone a say on all decisions that affect them.

TZM has a model whereby there are no leaders, decisions are data driven, here is a guide ( I think essay 6 or 12 might be closest to what you are looking for but unfortuntately I do not believe there to be significant historical precedence you can use as examples.

Hope that helps?
Open source software development could provide you with a kind of real world example of complex systems that can be developed without leadership, I think that is probably about as close as you can come as far as historical examples.

You have to remember we live in a capitalist society (even so called socialist countries, where there is actually even more pronounced capitalism/hierachy), everything within these societies is subject to the same values and hierachy, you would need 'outside the box' examples and open source software is about as close as you can get as far as I know.
thanks, i will check that.

but i still deny to believe in this: (and it is the kind of argument that i'm trying to challenge with a historical example!)
"simply because historically for anything of significant scale hierachy was necessary, it was just not practical for everyone to have a say, nothing would get done."

it's a common one, but i believe it does not take leadership or hierarchy, it takes organisation/getting organised to get things done.

now it reminded me of graeber's fragments of an anarchist anthology, in which he talks about societies that this or that way may fit into an anarchist vision, perhaps i could take a look at them and see if i can relate it. if societies can and do work, i may claim, so could the revolution/resistance etc.

and in a way it feels like i'm answering my own question, but i feel like zapatistas may work too. though i really have to read more on that.

edit: auto correct: graeber-> grabber-> graeber :)
I guess I was being extreme with the "nothing would get done" statement, it was more down to practicality and efficiency, it would be completely impracticle and not have been viable to guage consensus on every single decision, it would be simpler just to nominate a person (king/queen) or group (government) or CEO etc. to make the decisions on everyone elses behalf, creating a hierachy, otherwise everything would take forever, also the information was not available for everyone to make an informed decision limiting the utility of such a thorough decision making process.

We are still living in an outdated system despite our technological capabilities and that is why it is virtually impossible to get any historical examples.

Technological advancements, most notably the internet, change all of this...

*apparently refreshing the page causes resubmission as an edit...*
anarchy works, also by peter gelderloos, sounds like it might be roughly what you're looking for.
"...historically for anything of significant scale hierachy was necessary, it was just not practical for everyone to have a say, nothing would get done."

B.S. !

Mexican peasants built and maintained elaborate irrigation networks through empire, collapse, conquest, occupation, collapse, ...
These networks were maintained by local communities, cooperating with their neighbors.  No central committees, no masters, no b.s.  Just a thousand years of boring functionality.
And this was mirrored in many different South American tribes.

Gelderloos gives a good overview of current practice.
Kropotkin records some of the historical practice (see esp. Mutual Aid.)

(fmo - i know you comment from good conscience.  The scarcity of examples from history of self-organisation is more a matter of Empire killing any impulse toward self-preservation.  Remember that these charlatans depended on the imminent starvation (through confiscation of agricultural produce) of the populace to preserve their heirarchical place.  Any impulse toward self-organisation was seen as a direct threat toward the existent power structure - because it was.  That any remnants at all of self-organisation remain after all this time should be seen as fitness for its survival.  )
Can I ask, did those Mexican peasant societies have any kind of hierarchy within them? (I imagine there would almost certainly be some chain of command or decision makers, if so they were not anarchies just smaller hierarchical systems)

Hierarchy is hierachy, no matter the scale, historically larger hierarchies dominated smaller hierarchies, hence you have those most capitalist of empires dominating smaller community hierarchies.

It is effectively a hierachy of hierarchies, and right at the top you have the largest capitalist state.

To have true anarchy you have to abolish all hierarchy, that is by definition what anarchy is.
at risk of being an asshat, isn't this more of a comment than an answer? ;)
calling me out for inconsistency is certainly not being an asshat. and you are right.