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–1 vote
Any voluntary actions between individuals can reasonably be seen to be a transaction; likewise, any collection of transactions can be seen to be an economy. If I decided to become employed to an individual on a voluntary basis, would that individual be branded as a "state"?
"Any voluntary actions between individuals can reasonably be seen to be a transaction"

no, i would say that is not a very reasonable generalization at all. that reeks of a myopic capitalist - or more generally, economist - perspective. if me having a voluntary discussion with my friend is a "transaction", then you have completely redefined that word to be absolutely meaningless.
funkyanarchy- This is one of the reasons so-called anarcho-capitalists came to bug the shit out of me. The equation of 'market' with all voluntary activity is, as you say, the myopia of an economist. Sex is no longer a relational activity between individuals who are enjoying it, but a 'transaction.' Etymologically speaking what exactly is 'being made' to 'go over' or 'beyond' what? Anarcho-capitalist are seemingly impervious to what most 5 year old's are privy to: sharing, pleasure, being in the now, etc.The notion of 'transaction' totally reifies a host of relational qualities into quantity.
I am totally incapable of tolerating the idea that all human activity is fundamentally a transaction. This is the kind of massive semantic assumption that gives anarcho-capitalism the briefest sliver of false legitimacy.

There's also the question of what constitutes "voluntary" employment when you factor in social and economic pressures...

1 Answer

+6 votes

1. Your scenario is too divorced from the reality of the world. There never has and never will be employment that can reasonably be seen to be a 'transaction.' There is always an unequal distribution of power between employer and employee. Historically the employing class, the bourgeoisie, is who 'won' the round of late 18th/early 19th century revolutions that solidified this economy. They've always been on top, and your hypothetical situation is ignoring that reality.

2. The existence of the state is not an accident. Employers are united in needing the state to create unemployment, keep people reliant on the wage system, and to protect their property. If employers did NOT create the state, they would be acting against their own interests. Similarly, with the advent of marketing and PR, capitalists work to undermine the consumers' "rational choice" that such market economics bases its theories on. It is in a capitalist's prerogative to undermine the 'free market' in any and every way they can.

3. The exploitation of the wage system relies on the open violence of accumulation to perpetuate itself, and it needs to perpetuate itself to survive. Before the industrial revolution it took centuries of witch hunts for womens' body to be successfully colonized, for their sexuality and bodily autonomy to be destroyed, and for their role as producers of producers to be in full effect. Without the surplus labor that followed, there could never have been an industrial revolution, which relied on low wages and high unemployment. In the same way, this is happening all the time, right now. Open, bare violence is needed to accumulate the resources that capitalism needs to survive. When the 'transaction' that is capital exists, the owner accumulates wealth and further invests it in other things. In this way capitalism "grows." And growth means open violence and accumulation. The world isn't resources, you have to make it into resources.
by (4.0k points)
absolutely flip. one caveat on your very last sentence, which can sound to someone who is confused like you are saying making the world into resources is a positive thing. (ie, if one doesn't have a negative association with the word resources, then the point is not clear.)
i think clearer wording would have been "it must be made into resources" or even better "capitalism requires that it be forced into being resources"... although that does not flow at all. :(
That the wage system relies on violence in order to perpetuate itself, I can easily see. But that it was the historical 'colonization of womens' bodies' that was/is the primary cause of surplus labor seems a bit fanciful at best.

Capitalism formed on the English island and within the context of the greater English Empire. The domestic colonization which provided labor for the mills at home was due more to factors like the enclosure movement and simultaneous vagrancy laws. Colonization abroad was, of course, brought about through good old fashion gun and cannon. The British Navy was the shit during this period and provided the force needed for politically connected companies (i.e. East India Company, Hudson's Bay Company) to open 'markets' in their respective places for their respective interests.

It is no coincidence, either, that Adam Smith wrote his famous (and famously boring) treatise during this time. He was simply observing patterns which had been forming within the Empire for some time, and provided the first apologia for the great bourgeois religio then underway.

I'm not advocating Kevin Carson's work as a whole but his Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand is reasonably well done.
Flip- I would agree with your assessment of the questioner's OP in that it is divorced from reality. Anarcho-capitalists love reductionism in the sense that each individual in their two person 'transactions' completely ignores their individuality. It's as if they have no *qualitative* placement in the world at all: no social, cultural, political, familial, context within which real people actually live.
Dot - I would agree that your caveat is a bit more clear to someone who is newer to stuff or just doesn't think of 'resources' as a bad thing. It might not flow well, but nothing I write flows well so it's all good!

AmorFati - I wasn't aware of the history of capitalism to that extent, though I've heard of the enclosures and such. My assertions come from readings of Marisa Mies' "Patriarchy and Accumulation On A World Scale" and Silvia Federici's "Caliban and the Witch." They often reference them, but add a critical point that said enclosures fundamentally included the taming of women and reduction of the female body into a unit of reproduction for the production of the economy that was being transitioned to.
Both Mies and Federici, like almost every other Marxist, pointedly ignore the origins of the state and other hierarchical institutions that are not (necessarily) directly related to the economic aspect of politics (to say nothing of a non-European context...). You know, that whole Political Economy thing Marxists are so obsessed with. It is certainly true that the control of women politically (through the solidification of a gender-based division of labor) and economically (as reproducers) is an important starting point for the development of (European) capitalism, but there are a few older interlocking ideological underpinnings of plant and animal domestication, which easily yields a denaturing instrumentalism (the reduction of non-human being into resources, the removal of any concept that non-humans could have souls and are therefore worthy of compassion/consideration) and the origins of the State. From an anarchist perspective, this is where Marxists always fall short: in their fondness for analyzing the economic patterns of exploitation that create the conditions for the eventual overthrow of capitalism, they dismiss the importance of authoritarian institutions as congealed in the state. The state is older than capitalism, just as the subjugation of women is. To read either of them exclusively through the lens of capitalism means that the ideological/cosmological assumptions of hierarchy will not be dealt with except perhaps as a minor location of tension.
Can you elaborate on how reduction of non-human life into resources plays into the origin of the State? Do you mean how agriculture is essentially the domestication of life (non-animals and animals alike), and that agriculture needs an administrative state to exist?
I think you answered your own question flip.
gotcha. i wasnt sure if there was some other big point i was missing with that.
Every commercial action is an action of freedom if you understand that you don't fool the other person to pay more for something is worth less or to sell something under its actual value, at the moment you fool the other person it stops being a commercial act and it becomes a robbery and an exploitation action, so what you call a "free market" is not a free market it is a system for stealing the work from others (capitalism)

made into a comment. ancaps do not answer questions on this site.
So...from your comment, all I get is that the difference between a 'free-market' and 'capitalism' is simply the intentions of the parties involved.

This seems to ignore the very structures of a 'market' such as the quantification of every interaction, engagement, relationship, and smacks of moralism/ideology rather than the way we actually live much of the time: qualitatively.
The actual value of a mercancy is determined by the amount of work required to produce it not by the "fetiche" of the objects or services, i thought that went without saying
I gotta call bullshit, and no, it does not go without saying. Even fucking staunch capitalists understand that something can be produced and may have no value to anyone else excepting perhaps the one(s) who produced it.

Seemingly, you believe in magic: because someone 'produces' something a universal 'value' inheres in that action and in the object produced. Water becomes 'holy' because a priest wagged his wand over it. Neato!

*Edited for clarity
So, when one speaks of production, we produce to satisfy a need of something (within the society), alimentation, dressing, tools, and even recreation and pleasure, if something is not produced for society it has no value for society it is that simple, so "every work and every production to satisfy a need of th society has a value to society" and the work of every individual within the society is worth the same (if you know the concept of society it means the grouping of equal individuals) the only thing that changes is the time ones work and the effort so the value should be determined by the real socially necessary amount of work (time and effort) to produce the object or to perform the service not by that BS of demand and offer.
what does "mercancy" mean?
and where does "equality of individuals" come in to the definition of "society"?
I'm sorry but English is not my native language, "mercancy" means: "product" "ware, yes, as i stated society is "the grouping of equal individuals therefore equal rights".
There is no such thing as 'society.' There are activities that we primates have reflectively abstracted from our daily lives which we call 'social,' but activities aren't things. They are relations. 'Society' cannot value or determine anything, because it is nothing at all.

So, what I can gather from your statement is that only certain individuals are considered 'society' while others are not, since the latter doesn't concur with the former in regard to the valuation of work and product. According to your 'society' are these latter individuals anti-social? Ignorant? What?
If society didn't exist or was nothing at all, how can you satisfy so many needs? I explain: a separated man can at the most satisfy a reduced number of needs but nowdays you can satisfy your prior needs and many other if it is on your will for example your need of enjoying a good wine the need of reading a book the need of having a computer, if society didn't exist we were all separated individuals indiferent and not connected to eachothers, in a society (which exists because humans have organized themselves since a long time ago) every individual is connected to the other one directly or indirectly, and there are all kinds of societies small societies (like fishermen who split the fishes and the end of the day or the friendship) and big societies organized to solve the common problems.
You are taking the pill called 'false dichotomy.' It's not black nor white, nor are black and white anywhere nearly complex enough to come to an understanding of our sociability...our ability to act 'socially.' This has nothing to do with absolute atomization vs. absolute interdependence. (Absolute is dead, and we have killed it.)

I already said, clearly in fact, that we act in way we retrospectively label as 'social.' But, this term 'society' is a reification, that is, it is a noun for which there is neither person, place or thing. . A verb cannot decide anything...nor can a reification. 'Society' decides, values, organizes, nothing.

I'm most definitely not saying I don't, or cannot, relate to others. Each 'I' does relate in varying 'degrees.' But, this relation decides nothing in itself, for itself, because it does not exist in-itself, much less anything universal or 'objective.'

Yes, most of us primates learn, that is, evolve to interact with others of our kind (and even 'kind' here is loose terminology) in various ways, but these interactions are nothing in-themselves.

So how does 'society,' being a fiction, decide or value anything at all? 'It' doesn't.
I start to understant your concept of non-existent-society, but I refuse to accept it(not because I'am loggerhead, as a racional being the truth, found by the scientific method "must" be seeked), as I have explained before society is a solid concept, the relations and interactions with others are solid and have purposes and agreements which yes determine much of our behavior, as you say nor atomic nor absolute interdependence but there is a balance much sociability kills the individual but too much individualism limitates the individual (an example of that the pyramids of Giza never could have bieng built by one man, it is just an ilustration example is not that pyramids represent something).
cooperation is an example of society, its truth that everyone works for themselves but they need each other to reach a common goal. the same with all other societies common objectives bring us together as equal individuals.
being able to do something doesn't mean much, tpoth. your off-the-top-of-your-head example is telling, given that it comes from one of the most hierarchical societies in history.
plus, to argue value based on capacity seems like you're accepting a lot of what already exists. ie, there are some things that we can do better in groups, but by learning to operate in groups we don't develop skills that are more solitary (and vice versa). i'm not arguing that either is better than the other, i'm just saying that your argument is not compelling.
on the other hand amorfati, saying that society doesn't exist seems over the top. i don't have good language to talk about this, but groups of people exert pressures in a way that "society" might not be the best way to describe, but is at least *a* way.
and for both of you, i'm confused about how this got to be the topic of conversation. surely the idea of "equality" is the more contentious issue, especially as tpj seems to be insisting that it is automatic/assumed/inherent?
(but perhaps that takes us down a rockier road and i'm too sleepy to see it...)

edited for typos
you may have mistunderstood my example I absolutely reject hierarchy, want i meant to picture was that only an individual is limited to his only "force" an intellect and that is why individuals need to group (in societies) to reach larger and common goals (not controlled or directed by anyone hierarchically), what i mean is society is important for the development of individuals so they can fullfil other needs but I'm not saying either that it is mandatory; choosing to be part of a society is an act totally (or should be) voluntary, free associacion between people (again with commun goals), and obviously free disassociation. (I apologize for my English)
@tpothjuan : "as a racional being the truth, found by the scientific method "must" be seeked"

'Truth' is one of the most oft-used buggaboo words. It appeals to our emotions, but is so fuzzy in meaning as to be laughable. One simple test: Define truth. Truth = _________?

@tpothjuan: "society is a solid concept, the relations and interactions with others are solid and have purposes and agreements which yes determine much of our behavior,"

And this goes straight to our controversy. Above you stated that 'society' determines value and I responded unequivocally that there are those who may share the value of neither the work nor the final product of some given 'mercancy.' I then asked you whether or not these latter people are then part of your 'society.' And you've still not answered.

This is important because what you seem to be doing is supplying the age-old authoritarian formula that the community (the activity and relations of individuals) and its 'cause' is more important than the flesh and blood people who make it up. It seems to me that this only furthers tyranny on (at least) three levels: 1) a flat out majoritarian authority seeking a general consent by way of suppressing conflicting views (those who don't value the same things in the same manner); 2) a morality which seeks to internalize the values of the dominant group on a population through *guilt,* that is, the notion of debt, and 3) an ideology (such as your Giza example) where conflict is resolved through the annihilation of individual, perception, thought and action by way an absolute ideal (in this case as in most cases really, 'society.')

None of this is at all anarchistic in my view. All in all, it is the old story of a dominating class demanding consent by hook or by crook in the name of 'the common good' (AKA 'cooperation-with-us-and-our-class-values). It is a flat denial that real life relationships aren't just cooperative, but also include conflict, which is inevitable among those who develop their critical thought and strength of action. This underlies the difference between *identity* and *individuality* and, respectively, the difference between *society* and *socializing.* 'Society' isn't necessarily a social concept, but is most often an anti-social concept precisely because it is used to manufacture a general consent through coercion from without and within individuals. Here's another perspective from one of my favorite contemporary thinkers, Clement Rosset:

"The fact that any given sentiment can be valid for the person who feels it only if it involves willy-nilly all those who do not feel it is, as is well known, the eternal rule of fanaticism. It should be pointed out that fanaticism breeds on that eminently terroristic idea, presented over the past two centuries as eminently liberal and progressive, according to which all persons are like one another. Nothing could be more disturbing, in fact, nor more dangerous for those who are apparent beneficiaries than this avowal of universal similitude and fraternity. For it follows from the fact that so-and-so must be considered my fellow man that he must think what I think, consider good what I consider to be good, and if he objects, we will force him to open his eyes. This is why the fact of recognizing one's fellow man in someone else always constitutes less a favor than a constraint and a violent act. This is always why every manifestation of humanism verges on terrorism." (Joyful Cruelty 10-11)

*edited for clarity
"you may have mistunderstood my example I absolutely reject hierarchy,"

This may sound like semantic pedantry, but I don't think anyone 'absolutely' rejects hierarchy for the reason that 'absolute' is a, circular, self-contradictoryl (non-) concept invented to justify hierarchy and its binary, oppositional, thought. Rejecting hierarchy is a living process, as is beginning to perceive the world beyond quantities, particularly in quantities of 2.