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+1 vote
If not, what then?

Based on this question from our friend Anarchiststeve:

"Incidentally, are post-leftists only anti-civ, anti-technology, anti-science, anti-work, anti-socialist (and all the rest of it) just in case we actually succeed in dismantling capitalism and the state?  My guess is that you people would hate to have to stop blowing things up and so choose to hate everything, meaning you'll never to have to stop."
by (22.1k points)

1 Answer

+3 votes
There is no end, there are victories but there is no 'winning'.  

The 'end of history' is a foolish idea whether it's articulated by Francis Fukyama or by an anarchist.  Even if capitalism and the state were destroyed in my lifetime,  it wouldn't be enough,  they aren't the only masters that try to dominate me.  Anarchy is not something that can be achieved on the sixth day, after which we can all rest on the seventh.  There's never going to be a point where we can say 'it is done'.

The crux of it is this - while I think I'd be more free in an 'anarchist society',  I don't think that complete liberation can be achieved socially, and I don't think it can be achieved permanently.  I lean towards the idea that freedom only exists when we're actively 'being free' - when we are doing things that transgress external domination or have no dialog with external domination at all.  Ultimately my freedom will always conflict with someone else's,  and vice versa, so my struggle to liberate myself can have no end.  Imagine a whack-a-mole machine - every time you whack a mole a new one shows up, which demands a response.  

The game doesn't end when someone wins, it ends when your time runs out.


Edited for clarity/formatting/emphasis etc.

Oh and I better just mention that 'still being able to bomb shit after the revolution' isn't very high on my list of priorities.
by (6.2k points)
edited by
One thing that makes our situation different from the whack-a-mole is that civilization needs to grow (ie extract, exploit, use up, etc) in order to survive.

In the past it was popular for anarchists to think that this will cause a 'One Big Collapse' situation. Rightfully so, that tendency was criticized for occupying the christian narrative of good eventually triumphing over evil, similarly to how class struggle anarchists think of 'The Revolution.'

But just because my second paragraph is true doesn't mean my first one isn't. Civilization is literally unsustainable. In might destroy the planet, and it degrade into a bunch of fragmented civilizations, but eventually we won't be able to appropriate the raw materials (especially given the lengths we go to now to get it) necessary for all of its other mechanisms to continue. Civilization has to eventually fall. In pieces, maybe. But eventually it will.
"civilization needs to grow (ie extract, exploit, use up, etc)"

Civilization may need to use materials and energy but that is a long way from saying it needs to live beyond its means, you are thinking of capitalism.  A society built on equality, freedom, and sustainability (rather than vast profit for the few) would need have none of those problems.  Civilization isn't the problem, capitalism (with help from the state and other forms of oppression) is the problem, it shapes "civilization" to suit its own needs (as it does with everything possible).

Besides that, your ability to predict the future is uncanny.  Did you use tarot cards or a crystal ball?
I don't know about flip, but I use bone runes, tea leaves and animal guts.  ;)

To a certain extent I agree with both of you, the civilisation we have is clearly unsustainable, and will at some point disintegrate.  Although I think it's entirely possible that during the process of civilisation's disintegration we could see it morph into many different forms as surviving becomes a higher priority than thriving.  It seems reasonable to believe that some of those attempts at salvaging civilisation could bear strong resemblance to the ideas of permaculture. But I don't think anything like that will emerge without a period of profound crisis, and I don't think that crisis can be an intentional one like an anarchist revolution; capitalism, the state and civilisation are top dog, and they will be until the material circumstances they rely on change - the course of history doesn't change when people convince others there's a better way to do things, I changes when it's impossible to continue with the status quo, and whatever changes happen are a result of our actions not our intentions.  So yeah, I think civilisation does tend to be unsustainably totalising, but I don't think sustainable civilization is impossible.  However the issue of sustainability isn't the focal point of my civ-critical perspective.

In one important way I disagree with both of you.  @Flip - when the mole of civilisation gets whacked, new and *different* moles (masters) will pop up.   Capitalism, the state and civilization are not the only masters that exist now (or that could exist in he future).   @Steve - a society 'building on equality,  freedom, and sustainability' does not permanently guarantee those things.   Our current societies are built on the principles of equality before the law and the freedom to be socially mobile,  but in reality the extent to which the law applies to us is directly proportional to how much we can spend on a lawyer, and social mobility is a joke.  I stand by the point I made that total liberation cannot be achieved socially - a society built on equality, freedom and sustainability like the one you advocate would certainly be freeing compared to what we have now, but it wouldn't preclude domination of the individual.
"Our current societies are built on the principles of equality before the law and the freedom to be socially mobile"

Please don't pretend to that gullible.  You know that societies are not and never have been built on those principles, they've been built on the principles such as "all power to the owners", "all power to the strongest", "all power to the church".  Equality, social mobility, and the like are merely lip-service to sell it to the masses.

"total liberation cannot be achieved socially - a society built on equality, freedom and sustainability like the one you advocate would certainly be freeing compared to what we have now, but it wouldn't preclude domination of the individual."

I'm not even sure what you mean here (examples are often useful).  Within a genuinely anarcho-syndicalist system there is little room for domination of the individual as each individual is free to participate as they wish.

Two huge advantages that anarcho-syndicalism has over post-leftism, in regards to preventing domination of the individual, are:

1) Being part of a (functioning) society affords individuals protection from domination, the community can come to the aid of those who need it.  In an "every person for him/herself" society, the weak, unarmed, and powerless can easily (and most assuredly will be) dominated by the strong, armed, and powerful.  This is another reason post-leftism isn't anarchism (and that goes double for primitivism), it focuses so much on the freedom of the individual that it forgets about freedom from the individual.

2) Education.  Within an anarcho-syndicalist society there would be schools, run according to anarchist principles (teaching how to learn rather than learning how to pass a test, for example).  A well educated population is less likely to be fooled into thinking that blindly accepting the rules of another is a good thing.
Anarchisteve - your two numerated assertions actually need to be proved. You just saying them doesn't make them real. In particular, I don't know any Post Left Anarchists (who are anarchists, even if you don't like them) who claim that anarchy is a war of each against all, as you seem to imply.

Second, are you suggesting we replace the capitalist curricula with an anarchist one that will teach our children right ideas?

I have more questions, but better a few at a time.
I don't have time to address everything you said right now, but just to clarify what I meant about education:

With our current education system (most of it, anyway) students are taught two things; a variety of facts and figures, and how to pass formal tests.  In a good education system students would learn how to learn for themselves.  They would be taught how to find or acquire information, how to critically judge it (and to always do so).  In other words, they wouldn't be propagandized to, they would be taught how to make up their own minds.
@anarchisteve: We are going to teach children how to learn? If they don't already know how to learn, how is our teaching them how to learn going to work? It's a catch 22.

Similarly, it is at best an absurdity, and at worst cultish newspeak, to propose that we school people in thinking for themselves. I would not say that everyone naturally knows how to think for themselves, but I don't see how anything that could be called an 'education system,' no matter how well-intentioned, could achieve that aim.
Take history for an example.  When I was at school we did WWII in history and part of that was being given a photocopied sheet with some clippings of articles (diaries, newspapers, etc.).  We had to answer a given set of questions, each of which required reading the info to find the answer.  That doesn't teach children how to learn, it teaches them how to find information from documents that have been handed down from authority figures.  It actually tests little more than reading comprehension.

The proper way to teach history is to teach the students how to find historical documents and artifacts, how to find alternate points of view (and to always do so, where any exist), how to spot biases and propaganda, and so on.

The current education system is designed to produce obedient wage slaves who will wave their little flags on demand.  In an anarchist society the education system would be aimed at producing intelligent, independent individuals.
Thanks for responding to at least the part about education. Although I am wary of institutions like educational systems (for some of the reasons Anok touches on), I am also happy you clarified. I initially read your first comment on it differently. Reading your later comments, I take away that you are thinking of it as a place to help develop tools for critical thinking, which makes a lot more sense to me.

Even if I don't agree, I think it is helpful to get multiple anarchist perspectives on all these things here, so it isn't just one corner of the milieu, so I appreciate the good faith response.
"The proper way to teach history ... "

ok, i may be reading into that comment, but...

so there is only one "proper" way to teach history. and it is, not surprisingly, YOUR way.

that seems to be the predominant perspective on virtually everything ("this is the one right way to..."). it is the line espoused by religion, science, government, academia, etc.  and it is absolutely opposed to my desires for anarchy. which always take into consideration *context*.
"Civilization may need to use materials and energy but that is a long way from saying it needs to live beyond its means, you are thinking of capitalism."

No tarot cards or crystal ball, just 6000 years of civilizations growing, invading, plundering, and destroying everything in their paths to prove my point. Capitalism is relatively new to that scene.
Well said flip.
you just missed the terminal point:  grow, plunder, destroy,... Die.
Hmm, wonder where we are?
...