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+2 votes
I've heard a lot of scorn towards the Mutualist theory of political economy as laid out by Proudhon, Tucker, Carson, etc, by individualist/post-leftist anarchists as well as by syndies and commies. I identify most strongly with the mutualist position and so I'd be interested in what other anarchists have to say about it.
by (240 points)
It would probably be more fruitful if you laid out what attracts you to mutualism and let us have a go.
In a rough sense I suppose I'm attracted to mutualism on a tactical level primarily because it attempts to replace the state with alternative, horizontal organization in order to make its existence obsolete; this seems to me much more realistic in the modern day than the more popular idea of overthrowing the state via a violent uprising and/or a general strike- it seems to me that that ship sailed a long time ago, and a gradual, evolutionary development of alternative economic institutions, while it might not be quite so rapid and insurrectionary as other methods of anarchist action, is at the same time far less fickle, and rather than moving towards some ultimate goal instead achieves small victories that help to wither away capitalism. What's more, mutualist forms of organization (co-ops, friendly societies, mutual banks, etc) do a better job of empowering people to pursue petite bourgeois creative expression in the here and now than, say, syndicalist unions, which seem more based around trying to improve the conditions for work that is inherently demeaning, keeping people locked into a cycle of unfulfilling labor. Lastly, I find the mutualist means of distribution of the means of production (yeah, yeah) is to be the most sensible, in that it is synthetic and adaptable, as it allows for people to pool resources for their communal good via Mutual banks, friendly socieities, etc, similarly to how communism is supposed to function, but on a much more loose-knit and free basis, where anyone may choose to opt out and individual enterprise is valued and respected.

Sorry, I realize that I'm not making myself terribly clear- my English is less than perfect and I admit I'm not so familiar with individualist anarchism, so I'm mostly comparing mutualism to syndicalism/communism, which I've phased out of in the last several months. I hope you can still get the jist of it?
Here I go making another of my infamously inflammatory, overly-generalized accusations, and I'll need to write it in about 30 seconds:

Individualist anarchism when taken to its extreme is trash. People are shaped too much by their societies to be considered entirely as individuals, and that's not always a bad thing. A lot of individualist anarchists consider practically any kind of social organization or social expectation as counterintuitive to free living, but the reality is that without community, you have nothing. You have a bunch of recluses waiting to die in the snow, convinced that by refusing to cooperate or adhere to any kind of expectations, they were somehow more anarchist than all the other anarchists. It's extremism taken to the point of ridiculousness. Stay tuned for the billion pages of argument this comment will inevitably spur.
lantz:" It's extremism taken to the point of ridiculousness."

Or, you might use your prick as something other than a bookmark in one of Chomsky's novels.
BP, I think mutualism can seem quite attractive within the parameters of the capitalist logic we we've been brought up in and many times express unwittingly. It's a logic of quantifying our living, other lives, and the un-living.
Lantz: "A lot of individualist anarchists consider practically any kind of social organization or social expectation as counterintuitive to free living..."

Is this assessment from personal experience of people you know or have had conversations with, from your understanding of particular well-known individualist anarchists, or just something you thought up in 30 seconds?
i can't speak for individualists but i have three hesitations about mutualism.
one is that it is a label that IRL is a step between anarchists and ancaps, meaning (among other things) that some ancaps call themselves mutualists as a way to continue talking to a broader array of people.
the second is that the tendency of thinking about money/exchange as the basis for new structures/societies seems materialist and marxist in a way that isn't challenging in the way i want to be.
and finally, people who think a lot about the mechanics of how to operate in a new society generally err on the side of reform. i want to err on a different side.

but scorn is not how i would describe my reaction, except in situations where my first point is applicable.
Lantz has come to epitomize what a friend once referred to, in the early days of internet bulletin boards, as "a drive-by poster"; someone who zips into (or even sometimes starts) conversations only to say something provocative (not in a positive sense), and who then courageously* avoids all subsequent (substantial) discussion.

Perhaps even more annoying is his lack of self-consciousness in announcing his clear intention to do so.

*meant ironically, just in case you couldn't catch that from the overall tone.
Another 30 second retort: Max Stirner was a naive idiot who justified his own ideas with his own ideas, just like Nietzsche. The vast majority of the arguments I've heard otherwise have just been more justification of Sternerian ideas with Sternerian ideas, which is a big waste of my time, hence my lack of motivation to respond (though I will eventually).

Though I like the publicity he gives anarchism, I'm not a fan of Chomsky's syndicalism, as that's at the other end of the extremist spectrum. As I've said before, I'm most sympathetic to anarcho-communism.

Finally, as dot said, mutualism IS dangerously close to anarcho-capitalism. This is primarily because mutualism is actually more of a form of individualist anarchism than community-based anarchism. Really, mutualism is just an economic theory attached to individualist anarchism.

The primary problem with individualist anarchism is that, even if it isn't technically capitalist (and often it is, such as anarcho-capitalism), individualist anarchy takes a capitalist attitude towards people, their ideas, and their possessions. Community and culture is GOING to exist, no matter what approach you take to anarchy, and when you take an individualistic approach to anarchy, valuing the individual more than the community, you end up with a capitalist culture, even if your economy isn't strictly capitalist (although it is likely that eventually such a culture would adopt a capitalist economy).

Inb4: "Your ideas might be practical and realistic and all that, but Stirner says that red is green and gravity doesn't exist, therefore you're an idiot."
lantz: "Max Stirner was a naive idiot who justified his own ideas with his own ideas, just like Nietzsche."

This pretty much shows me you've read exactly *neither* given that both authors were fully engaged with other thinkers, currents, ideologies.

lantzing us again: " individualist anarchy takes a capitalist attitude "

Really? So Renzo Novatore who espoused anarcho-communism, is a capitalist now? Oh wait! You like anarcho-communism, too...

Where does this put Bob Black, Alfredo Bonnano, or any one else who's been heavily influenced by individualism and who are most definitely not capitalists? Apparently they either don't exist or they are somehow more capitalist than you are, or...? Crap, even ole Emma G. was influenced by Stirner and Nietzsche. At least she seems to have read them

Yours is a world inhabited by people and animals stuffed with straw.

Edit: typo and addition
If by "fully engaged," you mean cherry picking ideas that suited their own theories and ignoring everything else, then you are correct.

Novatore was hardly an anarcho-communist, he just happened to be associated with a few of them during his early years. He actually had quite a confrontational and storied history with anarcho-communists, due to his individualistic ideas.

Finally, you got absolutely none of my message about the capitalistic tendencies of individualistic anarchism. An individualistic anarchist doesn't have to be capitalist, an individualist anarchist system will still lead into capitalism. Take Bob Black for instance... his childish idea of "play" as work is naive utopianism taken to the extreme. A community based on "play" as work would last MAYBE a year, if they were lucky, before some kind of incentive (because remember that this is an individualist system, and individuals have no real obligation to their communities) had to be provided for people to do real work on real jobs, like cleaning their own feces out of the streets. This has been demonstrated in communities that have already tried this. Any system based on the idea that anarchism will automatically make everyone happy and never have to do anything unpleasant anymore is pretty much doomed to failure.
amor - EG did more than just read nietzsche, according to a piece in I am not a Man, she did a lecture series (the details of which have been lost) promoting him and his thinking.
Each time Lantz insists on pontificating his rigid notions of anarchic propriety he sinks deeper and deeper into a self-referential morass. His notions about Stirner show that he heard about Saint Max once or twice in a fully dismissive context and believed the person he heard/read. Same with Nietzsche. Same with Black. Same with post-left @. He issues proclamations of denunciation that show near-zero comprehension, relying on caricature and misrepresentation, then sits back and congratulates himself on winning the argument.

Guess what, Lantz? These statements of yours are devoid of substance, and are therefore unconvincing. They also illustrate very well your strategy of wanting to shut down discussion and debate (and then when someone calls you on it, you ignore it -- that hardly counts as a success, in case you hadn't noticed):

"naive utopianism taken to the extreme";
"Stirner was a naive idiot who justified his own ideas with his own ideas";
"Chomsky's syndicalism, as that's at the other end of the extremist spectrum";
"mutualism is just an economic theory attached to individualist anarchism";
"an individualistic approach to anarchy, valuing the individual more than the community";
"Individualist anarchism when taken to its extreme is trash";
"the reality is that without community, you have nothing";
"I don't believe that kind of post-leftist over-analysis of essentially meaningless philosophical constructs is productive";
"The closest thing to a foundation they [post-left @s] really have is their rejection of the foundation of the left, which itself doesn't have any real foundation, save for idle philosophical jabber";
""post-leftism is valid because post-leftism says post-leftism is valid. You can't disagree because validity doesn't exist. Validity doesn't exist because post-leftism validly says it doesn't. If you disagree at all with our foolish, narrow minded approach, you must be a narrow minded fool."";
"my point is that post-leftism is a self-referential philosophy. It has no basis but itself and its opposition to leftism"...

These statements are assertions, and mostly ignorant ones at that. When not outright misrepresentations, they are presented as irrefutable facts -- which they are not. You may find your 19th-century orthodoxy satisfying, but your interlocutors here live in the 21st. Time to catch up. Since you're voluntarily mired in college, you might try a class on logic some time. That might teach you how to engage in a debate while avoiding logical fallacies as well as using more objective standards of figuring out the difference between a prejudice, an assertion, and a well-considered conclusion arrived at through critical examination of relevant facts.
EG's Mother Earth was a distributor of every English translation of Nietzsche. And Rudolf Rocker, not known for his sympathy to anything but the strictest form of anarcho-syndicalism, translated Also Spracht Zarathustra into ... Yiddish!
Lawrence: "Perhaps even more annoying is his (Lantz) lack of self-consciousness in announcing his clear intention to do so."

I'm not so sure about that. He seems to be making a shift in that regard...

Lantz: "Here I go making another of my infamously inflammatory, overly-generalized accusations, and I'll need to write it in about 30 seconds:"
lantz: when you take an individualistic approach to anarchy, valuing the individual more than the community, you end up with a capitalist culture

that is so absurd that i have to respond. clearly you include ancaps in your idea of individualist anarchists, which right off the bat indicates a serious comprehension problem. and it is primarily ancap ideas that you seem to be projecting onto individualist anarchists. you are either being ignorant or disingenuous. stop. please.
Funky, I doubt if he can stop being ignorant; he actually seems to be proud of it.
Hey, check this out. All I need is a comment from Amor, and I've got most of the gang here. I shudder to think about how long you guys have been controlling this website, telling each other how smart the other is and inflating each other's intellectual egos...


Lawrence, you are correct that most of those comments are baseless assertions, as are the concepts I was criticizing. As I've said before, all of this is groundless opinion. None of what anybody is saying here has any kind of real foundation. There isn't even any room in this discussion for anything of that sort... However, I don't agree that my statements are illogical.

You guys are constantly going on about how I just don't "understand" all these concepts I'm talking about. But the message I'm really getting is that I just happen to not "understand", that is, "agree with them" as you do.

Although they could technically be fitted into the individualist category, I generally think of an-caps as being extremist libertarians, which is in a seperate category from anarchism altogether.

I think of individualist anarchists as being that self-destructive, naive, utopian, "eat candy all day and never get sick because I don't believe in rules" type of anarchist, the kind of anarchist that has given anarchism such a cartoonish reputation for the last few decades. I refer here especially to the extremist forms of individualism, like egoism.

Here's a quote by Stirner (since apparently nothing I say is ever actually about him) that demonstrates what I'm talking about:

" the egoist only his history has value, because he wants to develop only himself, not the mankind-idea, not God's plan, not the purpsoe of Providence, not liberty, and the like. He does not look upon himself as a tool of the idea or a vessel of God, he recognises no calling, he does not fancy that he exists for the further development of mankind and that he must contribute his mite to it, but he lives himself out, careless of how well or ill humanity may fare thereby."

The upper class have always had the luxury to think like this.  Though this quote might not be capitalistic in a strictly economic sense, it is VERY capitalistic in its attitude. A person with this egoistic attitude, if he/she could be convinced that participation in a capitalistic economy would be best for him/her (something that happens all the time), despite its larger connotations, would make the BEST factory worker, and a really great consumer to boot. Think about a person to whom it is not necessary to pander in any way, other that through a simple cost-benefit analysis. This kind of cultural sociopathy makes humans much easier to treat as machines of profit, as long as you keep feeding them fuel.

Here's another glorious Stirner quote:

"For me you are nothing but my food, even as I am fed upon and turned to use by you. We have only one relation to each other, that of usableness, of utility, of use."

The attitude in these quotes is so conducive to capitalism, it's a wonder the American government hasn't started teaching it (although to some very limited extent, it kind of has). As a result, it would entirely naive to think that any kind of community built on these values would be able to escape the grip of capitalism over time. A form of anarchy built on these values is only suitable as a lifestyle, and a rather reclusive lifestyle at that.

But, you might say, as many Stirner supporters have, "Profit is but one small aspect of personal benefit, and to give up other benefits simply for profit is not actually egoism". To that, I reply, "How wonderful it must be for them that we live in such an exploitative society that links all other benefits, such as sex, food, love, and even the luxury of feeling and self-expression, directly with profit." Truly, the best place for an egoist is at the top of the capitalist food chain. In this way, egoists are no different than the traditional middle class, revolting only until they themselves are at the top of the established system, and then becoming the new upper class, working to keep the system in place. Logically, an egoist should only be opposed to any current system as long as he/she is not benefiting from it. They might say otherwise, but why should they be trusted? To trust an egoist who isn't exploiting you in some manner (and then, you can only trust that they will continue to exploit you) would be folly of the highest degree.

And THAT, is what I mean when I say that individualist anarchism is a capitalist attitude.
like i said, a serious problem with comprehension. your complete inability to discern any nuance at all in the ideas of individualist anarchists (or post-left @s for that matter) demonstrates your commitment to shallow, binary thinking.

one must be mired in the ideology of economics to equate the idea that an individual can refuse to be subservient to *anything* (including society) with a capitalist attitude.
i repeat:

you are either being ignorant or disingenuous. stop. please.
lawrence, i hear you, and i'm not sure why i even bothered. i must retain some nugget of subconscious idealism buried in my misanthropic hatred of the modern world.

or maybe i just find it hard to believe how rigid/closed some minds are. sigh.
actually, while i don't agree with him, i think that it's correct that individualism has overlap with some thrusts of capitalist society. i just think that he gets stuck there.
people who over-emphasize that aspect of capitalism (especially when they deny that capitalism also relies on membership/group-based analysis) are missing, as you say FA, significant nuance.
it's one of the remarkable strengths of capitalism, that it has the capacity to promote/coopt mutually exclusive tendencies in people (the desire to be unique and the desire to be a member of a group, for example).
dot, I don't think the desire to be unique and the desire to be part of a group are mutually exclusive at all. Just like every grain of sand is unique and yet each grain is still part of the beach, all human beings are unique while simultaneously we are all part of humanity and nature which connects us all. I'd say it's more of a paradox than it is those two tendencies are mutually exclusive. Like a band, where each person in the group has a unique voice, instrument, vibration etc., while all are members of the group that functions as a whole.
lantz: "Hey, check this out. All I need is a comment from Amor, and I've got most of the gang here. I shudder to think about how long you guys have been controlling this website, telling each other how smart the other is and inflating each other's intellectual egos..."

Once again, lantz uses his cock as a paintbrush. Finger painting? Not ol' lantz. Guess how he tags a wall (if he ever leaves the dorm)...?

Dude. I'm a total newbie here. Look at my profile. In fact, look at my first post. Read it closely, because in it, you may find that I don't *identify* as any type of anarchist. I *describe* my activity as such, which changes, presumably, unlike yours.

But hey, who says conservatives are the only tin-foil hat conspiracy-theorists? Hey dot, funky, bornagain, lawrence, I'll see y'all down in the secret vault at midnight, k?

lantz: " There isn't even any room in this discussion for anything of that sort... However, I don't agree that my statements are illogical."

For fuck's sake lantz, the forum has been open for you to clarify, to challenge, to even wax poetic, but, instead, you've opted toward deflection and bellyaching. You've made no attempt to engage 'individualism/egoism' at all.

 As for 'logic,' for you it's so dispersed as to be found in the songs of birds and the babbling brook, as long as you don't have play by the rules of a particular system. 'Man, my logic isn't so constraining as any logical system, brah. It's just out there. Can you feel it?"

lantz: Here's a quote by Stirner (since apparently nothing I say is ever actually about him) that demonstrates what I'm talking about:... "

You 'argue' like the conservatives I've encountered who take (imprecisely) from Nietzsche's notes, 'there are no facts, only interpretations' and run  with it, smugly denouncing N as a 'subjectivist,' a 'nihilist' etc. No matter how precisely I quote the posthumous note, give context by what came before and after in all its black and white glory, they simply don't care, because *their* own interpretations and faith are so much more important than what can be seen by all.

You're just as vain, lantz. You've taken two quotes completely out of context of what came before and after, you have no knowledge of the actual terms Stirner used, no understanding that he (like Nietzsche!) was a philologist, which would obviously have bearing on his writing, as form and content. And to call Stirner a member of the 'upper-class' is once again your total ignorance on parade.

Capitalist, conservatives, 'progressives,' the Inquisition, Nazi's, Leninists, and lantz all share the feature of hearing a line and jumping up and down at the victory of their way or another. 'Reasoning' like this, I can justify anything:

"All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." -Tolstoy

We need  a Ministry of Family who can make certain that all families are 'happy.' If we find they are lacking in our happiness we will re-educate them, utilize psychotropic drugs and whatever else is needed so as not to infect Society with unhappiness.

See? Easy. I don't care that Tolstoy was an anarchist and pacifist. It doesn't matter. It eases the sound of my program on the ears of others. It makes them feel better that I'm in charge.

That's the way you 'argue' here.

All in all, lantz, you don't give a shit about reality, complexity, nuance. It's all about your faith, idealism, your preconceptions born of your very limited experience. As a college kid, it may behoove you to callous your hands a bit before typing such ivory-white garbage among people who probably have far dirtier hands.

Edited for clean-up
BAA, I commented on a very similar theme yesterday.

It's something I've given some time to. Perhaps its my inherent hatred for binary thinking which has become unquestioned and axiomatic.
as a anarchist with strong individualist leanings (but not a stirnerite, and i don't really relate to the term "egoist") - and a deep disdain for groupthink - there is no question that placing myself at the center of my world (and refusing to elevate anything above me) does not at all preclude having meaningful and mutually beneficial/enjoyable relationships with numerous other individuals ("being part of a group"?). that is the most obvious example of the "nuance" (can it even be called that when it should be so obvious?) that seems to be missed by those that dismiss individualist anarchist thinking. the idea that an individualist anarchist (by definition) cares about nobody but themselves is a straw man, period. there is a world of difference between being the CENTRAL/PRIMARY person in your life, and being the ONLY person in your life.

baa: the "function as a whole" idea is one that is a mixed bag for me. a number of individuals doing something together because they have all chosen to do so, and assumedly because they all get something out of it, might be considered "functioning as a whole". the potential problem i have with that perspective is the ease with which that "whole" becomes reified into something much more than that particular activity they have chosen to do together. (kind of how someone with particular skills in the task at hand can become reified into an "authority".)

[couple quick edits.]
AF, thanks for the link to your comment. It is quite similar to what I was attempting to say.

Funky, I understand your reservations (I had some too) about the word "whole".  I meant it in the way I described about a band, where there is a sound and expression that only exists as a result of the group, yet retained within that "whole" is the uniqueness of each person. Of course, we've all seen bands where one person becomes the entire (glorified) image. But I think your first paragraph is basically saying what I was getting at. In my relationship with my wife, we are part of a "group" as in being a couple, but we still have differences and unique perspectives that are not lost to our "coupleness"...rather they enrich whatever it is that we are "together".
funky@: Your first longish sentence is spot on and gets to the heart of the matter. What lantz can't understand is that empathy, enjoyment of others, isn't an antithesis of individualist anarchism (or even 'egoism') at all. It just that these intimate relations aren't *reified* and held above and beyond the living. Put simplistically, in the ham-fists of the ideologue, intimacy, sociability, and love, become a nouns beyond rather than verbs here and now.
sigh. yes, i was attempting to short cut, because these walls of small text are not appealing to me and i don't want to add to them.

of course individual and group are not actually at odds. nor are individuality and membership... etc. (please revisit the christianity thread where dualistic thinking is mentioned). i was attempting to make the point that capitalism benefits from, and promotes gross expressions of, both desires.
for example: instead of some appropriate understanding of what it means to be unique, we are encouraged to dye our hair odd colors. instead of interesting, reciprocal relationships, we are encouraged to wear the same brand as other people. these are the shallowest examples, but indicative of deeper tendencies. and they seem to be contradictory, but they exist all around us all the time.
i hope to be done with this thread now. :)
I understand what you were saying now, dot. And I hope to be done on this one as well...some of the stuff was enjoyable for me, but a lot of it feels like swimming in circles, creating a dizzying effect. But as usually been the case here at @101, I appreciate the conversation.
And as one of those contributing to the dizzying effect, I am done engaging with lantz.
That wasn't what you said at the basement meeting last night!

Sorry, couldn't resist. Okay, hitting the reset
That was just the tequila talking.
i will just add (lol!) in the interest of analyzing how people argue, that it's interesting to me that (perhaps because of being pressed to answer the post left question?) lantz has stopped throwing in empty/stupid accusations against post-lefters, and started using egoist as their pejorative of choice.
baa: ok, now i think i get your point about the "whole", particularly when you put it in musical terms! :-)

af: yeah, the cliche perspective on individualist @s seems to ignore everything except the "myself above all else" aspect. and i have to admit, there is definitely some individualist @ writing that can easily give that impression (especially older writings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries). but even a dummy like me can read the nuance. sometimes. :-)

dot: for sure there are elements of both individualism and collectivism in capitalist ideology. though in terms of what makes capitalism so "successful" (ha!), mass society has to be near the top of the list. not sure if that is relevant.

as baa mentioned above, i too appreciate the discussion. and now, on to others...
Sorry to get this conversation back on track...
There are certainly schools of anarchism where the tactical interest lies in replacing the state with alternative organizations. Those would be the more reformist-oriented schools. Those of us who dismiss this strategy will point to the fact that avoiding a direct confrontation with the state (with attacks directed at its points of vulnerability or not) will not mean that the cops won't come after you. If you and your project of replacement is taken so seriously that you and your project start to erode the allegiance of people to the state, the state will attack you. For a notable American example, when Lysander Spooner set up the American Letter Mail Company to compete with the USPS, they sued him, and he spent so much money that he was eventually forced to shut it down -- despite its eventual financial success. Same thing with the various projects to create an alternative currency. The problem with any reformist project is that regardless of any standard of objective analysis about an actual threat to various state monopolies (on creating currency, on taxation, on the threat and use of deadly force), the mere perception on the part of agents of the state is enough to put you in the figurative and sometimes literal crosshairs.
Gradualism, like reformism more generally, is often presented as more allegedly realistic for short-term and longer-term goals of weaning people off reliance on the state. It's a decent argument on its own, so long as you don't try to cite actual historical examples. The status quo of capitalism can ignore/embrace/destroy alternative economic institutions depending on how much they might be perceived to threaten the legal framework of private property and currency. The fact is that capitalists have shown themselves to be diverse and adaptive to any challenge posed -- significantly except for the notion of expropriation without compensation: then the kid glove covering the iron fist comes off...
As a student of history, it seems to me that the only movements that can effectively wither away capitalism are those that *begin* with expropriation rather than respect for its legal sanctity.

While there are some who champion "petite bourgeois creative expression," none of the ones I know of identify as anarchists. If you believe that capitalism is a class-based system, and you want to see its (eventual?) abolition, then why would you want to promote some entrepreneurial spirit?
Most post-left @s (and we're not the only ones either) promote zero work. That is, we do not believe that labor done in exchange for wages can ever be fulfilling or not demeaning. Under a capitalist (or semi-socialist or state-capitalist) regime, labor is never free -- it is always a coerced activity -- if you don't work for a wage, you don't eat. Many people try to convince themselves that their job is fulfilling, but I'd say that a vast majority of the time this is a self-constructed delusion to keep them from killing their bosses or themselves.
Holding property in common is a fine way to pool resources in an economy based on scarcity, but there's nothing inherently challenging to the smooth operation of capitalism in it. In fact, none of the things you listed offers any challenge to the smooth operation of capitalism. Without some form of fundamental challenge (like in how property is protected and transferred), there's nothing much to recommend to anarchists about any gradualist or reformist project.
Lawrence, I admit that petite bourgeois was not the best term to use- what I meant was that I prefer the mutualist notion of empowering people to self-manage their labor in order not to submit themselves to capitalist wage slavery to the syndicalist/communist notion of trying to improve what cannot be improved, IE wage labor.

As to the more general point, I suppose that is a fair criticism- I'll have to do more reading into the history of cooperative movements and what have you but I think you make a good case for why the idea that gradualism is necessarily more stable than outright expropriation (which I don't oppose, incidentally). You've given me a lot to mull over.

I'm still fairly new to anarchism and I've only read by this point maybe seven or eight books on the subject, so hopefully you can forgive me when my ideas aren't terribly well-developed or informed.
Ok, fine, I gotta reply to this apparently, but I'm gonna do it as fast as possible. Here goes:

Individualist anarchism is an ideology, an ideology that will inherently lead to interpersonal competition and capitalist ideals. That's why it's only suitable as a lifestyle. It doesn't matter if some versions of individualist anarchy are different from others, it's the "individualistic" part that is the issue.

Capitalism might include group-based analysis, but that analysis is simply what restricts capitalism from immediately becoming feudalism. I "over-emphasize" the individualistic aspect of capitalism because capitalism is built on very individualistic principles, even though it might include some community stuff as well. Adam Smith could have very easily been an egoist.

The bit about you guys controlling the website was a joke, intended to poke fun at the reality that there is pretty much no real intellectual discussion here, just a bunch of people agreeing with each other, and accusing anyone who disagrees of being close minded. I've been to other anarchist websites, and the ideas spread on this website are totally not taken seriously by a good majority of other leftists who consider other ideas (but then again, that's why everyone loves post-leftism so much, right? Because why bother making sense when you can just claim that everyone else is wrong, and then claim that common sense is wrong, so no one can prove you wrong).

Also, comparing my use of quotes that are representative of CORE Stirnerian philosophies is just a way of diverting attention from the problems I initially raised. There is a difference between choosing statements that were very clearly made by someone and choosing vague statements and forming your own conclusions as you did with Tolstoy. According to you, no quote has ever been valid, because everything else the speaker ever said wasn't included as context. That's typical of relativistic thinking, but it doesn't get us anywhere.

Individualism, and especially egoism doesn't get rid of the idea of a "god" that controls us, it just makes the ego god, promoting the idea that self-interest should direct our behavior above all else. Surprise, that leads directly to capitalism, even if feelings and social connections exist (those things exist in capitalism as well). Turns out we're a social species, and thinking about humans in an individualist context makes about as much sense as thinking about predatory cats in a social context (because they actually are individualistic creatures). Individualism, as I said before, is just that naive kind of "Do whatever I want, because no one else is as important as me" anarchism.
Lantz, I've only been visiting and posting on this site for a few months, but I haven't found that people are coming here just to agree with each other. I my experience, it's been anything but. Lots of interesting stuff and varying perspectives.
Only about superficial stuff bornagain. Concerning theoretical stuff, not in the least, unless you count that question about anarcho-capitalism that everyone jumped on a while back. You'll notice that the vast majority of substantial discussions on this website in the past month have been those that I started, and only then because no one agrees with me, and they all have to tell me why (I'm not claiming that I'm the only one capable of discussion, I'm saying that because no one agrees with me, I'm the only one sparking any of it.)
Those are your opinions, and I don't share any of them. You seem to state your opinions as facts - whether something is superficial or not, whether something is substantial or not - these are your perceptions, not agreed upon by all. I'm not here to tell you you're wrong. I'm saying that your experience is not mine.
Sure, and you're entitled to your opinions. As long as you realize that EVERYTHING here is opinion. Mine might be easiest to jump on, but "Post-leftism is crap"and "The problem with any reformist project is that regardless of any standard of objective analysis about an actual threat to various state monopolies (on creating currency, on taxation, on the threat and use of deadly force), the mere perception on the part of agents of the state is enough to put you in the figurative and sometimes literal crosshairs" (by Lawrence) are both opinion with the same exact amount of epistemological foundation, that is, none. There are very few facts anywhere in this conversation, or anywhere on this website really.

In fact, your post illustrates what I'm talking about. Why not tell me I'm wrong if you disagree? Why not tell me I'm a Nazi pig-dog with mustard for hair and a Southern Baptist's demeanor? It's all equally valid, being not valid at all. Because there is really no accepted form of truth on this website, the only way to ever be "right" is to get the most people to agree with you. It's the authoritarian problem inherent to post-modernism and its derivitive philosophies, he who has the largest following wins. But then again, that's just opinion...
heads up: off topic comment, responding to you-know-who. skip this if you want to read about the original question or answers.

"Because there is really no accepted form of truth on this website"

you are clearly a follower/believer in the church of "(objective) truth". that, i'm afraid, is indistinguishable from ayn rand's objectivism. i am not such a believer. and to be clear, that DOES NOT mean i think there is no such thing as truth. it simply means that i do not reify truth. something that is true for me in one moment, may not be true the next. and something that is true to me, may not be true to someone else.  therein lies a key difference between thinking as an individual and thinking as a group. at some level, a social group must share the same truth, or its entire cohesion melts down.

"the only way to ever be "right" is to get the most people to agree with you."

um, take a look at the real world around you. that, unfortunately, is the primary way almost anyone claims to be "right". well, sometimes volume alone is not enough, having an authority agree with you may be sufficient. from the democratic process to moralism to science to friendly arguments/debates, getting people to agree with you is how folks wind up determining what is "right". i am not saying i like it (i don't), i'm just saying don't point to this website as some exception in that way.

lantz, you write as if you have some intelligence. but your repetitive misrepresentations/misinterpretations/over-generalizations lean in a different direction.

you are a leftist collectivist with a mind at least as "closed" as you accuse folks here of having. and i will say it once again: being and thinking as an unique individual neither precludes "social" relationships that are mutually beneficial, nor inherently leads to capitalism. your critique is shallow and completely binary.

is that clear enough in disagreement?
Yes, I believe in objective truth, but I also believe that it is much more complicated than ayn rand's objectivism. Truth is in the natural world, and our perspectives are grounded in the natural world. I believe that all perspectives are grounded in truth, you just have to use discerning methodology to determine natural truth from opinion. And natural truth is not an all-important, all-consuming concept, it is important for scientific discovery and the like, and it can be used to judge the efficiency and effectiveness of paradigms but it cannot be used to judge people, cultures, or beliefs, because none of those things are contained within the scientific paradigm. It would be like using quantum mechanics to argue that love isn't a real feeling, it's two entirely separate concepts.

Sure, the bandwagon approach and appeals to authority are very common in everyday thought and culture, but that doesn't mean that they are the true determiners of knowledge, they are useless. Just because this site isn't the exception doesn't mean that is justified. This all links back to postmodernism and its rejection of any kind of real knowing outside of oneself.

Finally, yes, I am a leftist collectivist. Being a student of the dynamics of culture and social interaction, I couldn't see myself being anything but a collectivist. I believe in the idea of superorganic, that of society being a concept greater than the individual. That does not mean in any way that the individual is not unique, it just means that realistically, all individuals are unique within their own cultures, they cannot escape the influence of culture.

The collectivist approach allows for the development of the unique individual in the context of society. The individualistic approach allows for the development of society in the context of the individual. Individualism is not a realistic foundation for an egalitarian society, because that emphasis on the individual CREATES a society, larger than the individual, that does not value equality, but competition.

The entire foundation of Adam Smith's "invisible hand" of the Capitalist market idea was based on the idea that individuals acting in self-interest would create a system of social relationships that were mutually beneficial. It didn't work.
lantz, i appreciate your attempt to address my comment. you have once again clarified your position on these topics. i think we all get where you stand.

i have to say in the above comment, except for a boring relapse in the last paragraph, you stuck to just describing your own perspective, rather than pontificating or misrepresenting various tendencies that you dislike. that i can appreciate. seriously.

you and i have hugely divergent perspectives. as epitomized here:

"The collectivist approach allows for the development of the unique individual in the context of society."

the only context i have for the concept of society is what i am surrounded by. i despise it.  i am sure there are other possible ways to define "society", but none of them are any part of my experience. the ways in which i see my life relating with the lives of others i could never possibly think of as a "society". as much as possible, outside society. or better yet, post-society.

but my response to that quote: i find that a more individually focused approach, in fact, best allows for the development of THIS unique individual, *especially* in the context of society. that's MY truth. :-)
I think a lot of the issue concerning the mention of society in contexts such as these is that political activists tend to have a certain idea of society: that society is some foreign structure that oppresses people and keeps them from achieving their goals. And they are right, those social structures do exist, and they do cause those problems.

However, looking at things from an anthropological point of view, culture and society are WAY more broad and WAY more pervasive. Society can NOT be escaped, no matter how you choose to live. The words we are using right now are shaped by society, the alphabet is a social construct, it's a system of communally agreed upon symbols with communally agreed upon meanings. The fact that you see 7 major colors, the ROYGBIV spectrum, is cultural. Some cultures see more, some see less, even though we all see the same light waves in the same range of frequencies. No matter what you do, no matter how you arrange your politics or community, society/culture will always be a thing, and it will always be bigger than you. Individualist anarchists often see that idea as oppressive, but it doesn't have to oppressive in the least, it can actually be very liberating.
believers are always sure that their beliefs - those ideas in which they have deep-rooted "faith" - are not only the right ones, but often the only ones. i am not a believer. i have "faith" in exactly nothing. you don't hear me saying shit like "an individual focus (rather than a social/group focus) is the only possible way ALL people can/should approach the world." i say that is what works for me.

you continue to misunderstand - or at least misrepresent in your words - the individualist leanings of myself and probably others. the fact that society is "bigger" than me has nothing to do with my hatred of it. weather and other natural forces and objects are infinitely bigger than me, and often can feel quite oppressive, and yet i do not despise nature.

and saying this:

" but it doesn't have to oppressive in the least, it can actually be very liberating"

is exactly what every believer says about their faith. every capitalist i have ever had such discussions with - and believe me, there have been many - claims exactly that about capitalism. every statist, every religionist, every scientist, ... those words could come from their mouths verbatim.

like i said, we have hugely different perspectives, and they are not very compatible. i am not trying to convince you that i am right, other than for myself. yet you continue to propogandize for your perspective, not simply for yourself, but for all of humanity (with the exception of most of that one comment above that i pointed out). that is an excellent example of one of the major issues that i (and probably many post-left anarchists) have with leftists and other political activists. you claim to know what is right for everyone. just like all faith-based believers. and like all believers, you would impose it on everyone, "for the benefit of all".

and now i think i have exhausted my ability to continue this discussion.

so lawrence, if you want to get this conversation back on track... :-)
funky@:"believers are always sure that their beliefs"

And none seemingly have 'faith' in being a living body. This is, in large part, why leftists (ex: lantz), capitalists, religionists, many anarchists, etc., will never grasp the deep implications of I@. They seem oblivious that freedom, empathy, love, etc., (as are hate, grief, etc) are not firstly *ideas,* but conditions of living experience.  They become ideas only retrospectively, fictitiously taken out of,separated from, their total context, and in our (post-?) Christian world tend toward the fetishistic for what I think are obvious reasons. Binary thinking (and the valuations presumed within it) is almost required to impress upon others a gravity and singularity which these experiences never hold in any one life, much less as 'ideas' separable from our lives.

Edited for clarity (?).

1 Answer

+1 vote
Proudhon received a direct anarchist critique during his lifetime from the early anarcho-communist Joseph Dejacque. . In that article there are included the reasons for this criticism from Dejacque which included the sexism and support for traditional family forms by Proudhon as well as his adherence to the labour theory of value while Dejacque rejected it while defending anarcho-communism, but in his case flavoured by the influence of Charles Fourier.

From the article "Alain Pengam" Anarchist-Communism

"In 1843, under the Rabelaisian motto “Do what you will!”, and in opposition to Etienne Cabet, Théodore Dézamy’s Code de la Communauté laid the basis for the principles developed later in the nineteenth century by communist and anarchist-communist theoreticians such as Joseph Déjacque, Karl Marx, Fredrick Engels, William Morris and Peter Kropotkin. These principles involved the abolition of money and commercial exchange; the subordination of the economy to the satisfaction of the needs of the whole population; the abolition of the division of labour (including the division between the town and country and between the capital and the provinces); the progressive introduction of attractive work; and the progressive abolition of the state and of the functions of government, as a separate domain of society, following the communisation of social relations, which was to be brought about by a revolutionary government...However, it was above all the house-painter Joseph Déjacque (1822–64) who, up until the foundation of anarchist communism properly so-called, expressed in a coherent way the radical communism which emerged in France from the 1840s as a critical appropriation of Fourierism, Owenism and neo-Babouvism. Déjacque’s work was an examination of the limits of the 1848 revolution and the reasons for its failure. It was developed around a rejection of two things: the state, even if ‘revolutionary,’ and collectivism of the Proudhonist type. Déjacque reformulated communism in a way that sought to be resolutely free from the dogmatism, sectarianism and statism exhibited by those such as Cabet and La Fraternité de 1845...For him, ‘government, religion, property, family, all are linked, all coincide.’ The content of the social revolution was thus to be the abolition of all governments, of all religions, and of the family based on marriage, the authority of the parents and the husband, and inheritance. Also to be abolished were ‘personal property, property in land, buildings, workshops, shops, property in anything that is an instrument of work, production or consumption.’ Déjacque’s proposed abolition of property has to be understood as an attack on what is at the heart of civilisation: politics and exchange value, whose cell (in both senses) is the contract.... Déjacque’s general definition of the ‘anarchic community’ was:

    “the state of affairs where each would be free to produce and consume at will and according to their fantasy, without having to exercise or submit to any control whatsoever over anything whatever; where the balance between production and consumption would establish itself, no longer by preventive and arbitrary detention at the hands of some group or other, but by the free circulation of the faculties and needs of each.”

Such a definition implies a criticism of Proudhonsim, that is to say of the Proudhonist version of Ricardian socialism, centred on the reward of labour power and the problem of exchange value. In his polemic with Proudhon on women’s emancipation, Déjacque urged Proudhon to push on ‘as far as the abolition of the contract, the abolition not only of the sword and of capital, but of property and authority in all their forms,’ and refuted the commercial and wages logic of the demand for a ‘fair reward’ for ‘labour’ (labour power). Déjacque asked: ‘Am I thus... right to want, as with the system of contracts, to measure out to each — according to their accidental capacity to produce — what they are entitled to?’ The answer given by Déjacque to this question is unambiguous: ‘it is not the product of his or her labour that the worker has a right to, but to the satisfaction of his or her needs, whatever may be their nature.’

The ‘direct exchange’ theorised by Proudhon corresponded to supposed ‘abolition’ of the wages system which in fact would have turned groups of producers or individual producers into the legal agents of capital accumulation. For Déjacque, on the other hand, the communal state of affairs — the phalanstery ‘without any hierarchy, without any authority’ except that of the ‘statistics book’ — corresponded to ‘natural exchange,’ i.e. to the ‘unlimited freedom of all production and consumption; the abolition of any sign of agricultural, individual, artistic or scientific property; the destruction of any individual holding of the products of work; the demonarchisation and the demonetarisation of manual and intellectual capital as well as capital in instruments, commerce and buildings... Déjacque’s general definition of the ‘anarchic community’ was:

    “the state of affairs where each would be free to produce and consume at will and according to their fantasy, without having to exercise or submit to any control whatsoever over anything whatever; where the balance between production and consumption would establish itself, no longer by preventive and arbitrary detention at the hands of some group or other, but by the free circulation of the faculties and needs of each.”

Déjacque’s communist anthropology was based on the liberation of needs, including the need to act on the world and nature, and made no distinction between natural-technical necessities and human ends. Although its vocabulary was borrowed from Fourier (harmony, passions, series and so on), it aimed at the community of activities more than the organised deployment of labour power: ‘The different series of workers are recruited on a voluntary basis like the men on a barricade, and are completely free to stay there as long as they want or to move on to another series or barricade.’ Déjacque’s ‘Humanisphere’ was to have no hours of work nor obligatory groupings. Work could be done in isolation or otherwise."
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