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+2 votes
How are they similar and where do they differ?
by (380 points)

4 Answers

+3 votes
I hope someone else answers this question, but I think this might work for now:

"Individualist anarchism" may not be a useful descriptor anymore unless it's clarified and articulated by whoever is using it; even in the early 20th century (the context in which I've generally heard about individualist vs. collectivist anarchist disputes), it seems like it still incorporated a broad range of views.

Generally speaking, it just means an anarchism that in some way distinguishes itself from the stances of collectivism, whether that distinction is based on economics or morality or something else.

With that said, the differences between anarchism and anarcho-capitalism tend to apply here as they would anywhere else. Anarchists reject the idea that capitalism and wage labor can be "voluntary" and also don't believe in a right to private property (ideally because anarchists don't believe in rights, but sometimes it's only that they don't believe private property is a valid right for whatever reason).

They might be similar in that they reject some of the assertions of more collectively-minded anarchists, but (I would say) this is often for completely different reasons and with completely different goals in mind.

There are individualist anarchists who are also thoroughly communist, and there are individualist anarchists who refuse to advocate any particular organizational form to replace capitalist society, and there are individualist anarchists who advocate (or consider necessary) things like bartering and certain forms of property that aren't strictly "capitalist". There are probably also other sorts. Members of these categories might overlap and collaborate with one another to some degree or not at all.
by (8.7k points)
I see, thank you for answering.
+1 vote
If you accept that anarcho-capitalism is a form of anarchism, then it falls under the larger umbrella term 'individualist anarchism'.  After being involved in discussions on here about ana-cap, and talking with self-declared anarcho-capitalists, I've come to agree with the idea that some who claim that label are actually anarchists, and others are merely extremist neoliberals; the source of confusion being that anarcho-capitalism is coming from a pro-market, usually American perspective, and as such they tend to use pro-market liberal vocabulary rather than anarchist vocabulary.  In anarchist terms, 'capitalism' is an exploitative mode of production that rests on wage slavery; to anarcho-capitalists, 'capitalism' refers only to free markets and possession of property (liberal vocabulary doesn't usually differentiate between personal and private property).  

So it is possible that someone who claims the label 'anarcho-capitalist' is an anarchist, in which case you could describe them, using anarchist vocabulary, as an individualist anarchist, market anarchist, (potentially) natural-rights anarchist etc.

Rice Boy's answer covers what 'individualist anarchism' can mean pretty thoroughly and I don't feel the need to add much more on that.  It might be worth re-emphasizing though, that these different ideological terms are just tools for talking about different ideas that synergize or have some kind of affinity with each other, and what that means to actual people - anarcho-capitalism and individualist anarchism don't exist when we're not using them to describe ourselves and our ideas.

Edit: Oh also, you might find Sidney Parker's 'My Anarchism' ( interesting, it's a short account of his abandonment of social anarchism in favor of egoist individualism, and it's a good illustration of some of the ideas at work here.
by (6.3k points)
edited by
I re-read 'My Anarchism' again last night and, as you said, it is an account of his process toward egoism. One thing that bugs me, though, may be what I'd consider his creeping absolutism. Later in the essay he discusses 'primitive societies' and concludes, negatively (an implied scale of value?), that they may be more "ubiquitous and despotic as  any modern government." This may be the case depending upon the group we refer to, but the kind of absolute egoism Parker seems to indicate would preclude even learning language before one desires to do so, because language consists of a set of norms, a shared worldview, of overlapping indications (concepts, tones, and gesture)...which means the desire would have to be both communicated and understood in some magical fashion. Or perhaps, everyone would create their own private language; the notion of which Wittgenstein totally demolished. Beware the mother who sings to her child whilst breastfeeding as the child may begin to learn the language unwittingly and without consent!

While I find that some of Parker's verbiage resonates with me, I cannot help but wonder if (his) egoism isn't every bit as quixotic as the communism he abandoned and every bit as absolute and Manichean as the proto-@prims and communists he denounces.
Thanks for your analysis on this Amor, it's kind of my go-to text for concisely pointing out some of the problems with domination inherent in social anarchism.  You're right though, and from what I've read of Parker's later work he took the creeping absolutism you've identified here much further, to the point of arguing that egoism is incompatible with anarchism because a true egoist cannot respect the autonomy of others (or something along those lines).  I'd say 'quixotic' and 'Manichean' are pretty apt.

Personally I find it a little ironic; for me much of the beauty of egoism is that it allows and accounts for a world that is predominantly grey, being so solidly rooted in the unique individual and their subjectivity, using that as its primary optic.
yeah, some of parker's writings, including the one where he quotes the shit out of dora madsen (where egoists are  described as archists, and NOT anarchists), are part of the reason i don't use the term egoist to describe myself or my ideas. that perspective on the concept of domination just doesn't resonate with me. (eg, the very growth of all living organisms is considered to be domination. with no acknowledgement of the symbiotic relationship that clearly exists between so many living organisms - who also happen to be competing). clearly the "anarchism" they are critiqueing is not one that i want any part of, either (one that is solely concerned about the domination of the state).

edited to add: i try to give some space to allow for the timeframe those folks were writing in, but i don't really know the context they were living in.
+2 votes
as an anarchist with strong individualist tendencies (as well as a deep-rooted and irreconcilable difference of opinion with the many self-identified anarcho-capitalists i have talked with and read), here's my take. as always this is a very personal perspective; rice boy did a decent job of answering in a less subjective manner.

i am an anarchist (with strong post-left leanings) who simply refuses to place any group or collective (society, commune, church group, @collective, whatever) above myself. i prefer and choose to relate - as an individual - only to other individuals. that is to say, i choose not to identify myself or others as part of a group, whenever i can avoid doing so (which is most of the time). combining that with the core tenets of my anarchist perspective (anti-authoritarian - in which i include all institutions such as the state, economy, religion, science, etc - voluntary association, mutual aid, diy, etc) results in what some would call individualist anarchy.

anarcho-capitalists may well have individualistic tendencies, but they also retain ideas inherent to capitalism which i reject strongly. those have been addressed many times here on this site. most prevalent in my mind is the inability to see the world in anything other than economic terms, with every kind of relationship being reduced to economic transactions. most communists i have known have a similar tendency towards an economic perspective, if perhaps not quite as dogmatically so.

i guess to summarize, my version of individualist anarchy is rooted in anarchy, while anarcho-capitalism is rooted in capitalism - which i find to be undeniably at odds with anarchy.
by (13.4k points)
And for all the hullabaloo 'caps throw out there about 'individualism,' terms like 'labor,' 'markets,' 'consumers,' and 'supply and demand' sound so--collectivist.
indeed, af, i definitely agree. the very concept of "markets" implies a certain amount of collectivism, while it also denotes a good amount of competition (obviously those are not mutually exclusive). in general i see an annoying amount of reductionism in the @cap perspectives i have been exposed to. and while some of the ones i have interacted with definitely exhibit some degree of critical thinking, like so many other ideologues, there are some (major) gaps in that area.

but then again, my own critical thinking may well be lacking too. sigh...
–2 votes
Here is the best answer towards your question:

This is an anarcho-capitalist:

I'm trying to be polite but **hint*hint**nudgenudge* your too lazy and dirty to hang out with.

This is an individualist anarchist:

I don't feel like hanging out with you right now
Perhaps a better illustration: A murder mystery novel.

Both the individualist @ and the 'cap see it as logically consistent. The 'cap walks away believing a murder has actually taken place and that murder has been solved, since logical consistency is synonymous with 'reality.' The individualist@ simply walks away from the novel when finished with it, perhaps elated, entertained, or otherwise, but understands the experience to be both ephemeral and provisional.
i guess i painted a rather judgmental picture of the anarcho-capitalist....