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Posting from the Overlord’s Domain

January 31, 2011

Don’t be fooled…

…by my carefree attitude! I am posting from the depths of Starbucks country. I just finished a princess shift* and I am so ready for a day off. It seems like the longer I work, the less happily I interact with customers. They irritate me a lot, and it’s just repetitive unpleasantries. BUT they really do wear you down.

On To Anarchism!

To answer a request, I will discuss anarchist theory. First of all: because of the nature of the theory itself, it’s next to impossible to make statements that cover the entire theory. Imagine trying to explain communism by only saying “it only works on paper” or capitalism with “it only works without government interference”. Such a simplistic view is, of course, reductionistic, and totally lame. Also, I do not practice anarchism. My experience with the subject is almost entirely theoretical, with occasional sightings and interactions in the wild, and I was told I shouldn’t talk about it until I do it. But I’m going to anyway, because I’m describing things respected writers have discussed so that people like me can start the understanding process.

An + Arch + Ism

While often used as a synonym for chaos or disorder, the word is derived from the roots “without” and “rulers (government)”. Considered in this light, the term takes an interesting turn, because it apparently no longer is constrained to this concept of disorder and confusion, but merely refers to a system the lacks some sort of concentration of power in a ruling class or system.

Drawing on the goal of maximizing individual freedom and decentralizing power, anarchist theory explodes into a crazy amount of interpretations. A common expression in the US is “libertarian” which for us means those guys who like guns and dislike the government, that support government programs less than republicans. Other common attributes include an extreme revulsion of taxes and gun regulation.

In most other countries, ‘libertarian’ means ‘anarchist’.

More or less. At the same time we can see a direct lineage from the classical anarchist theorists and the modern American movement of libertarianism, although modern American libertarians were influenced strongly by the works of Ayn Rand and the politicking of Barry Goldwater.

What is a “state/government”?

The definition of a state is interesting. In the words of Errico Malatesta, the state is

Errico Malatesta, or me when I'm 30

…All the collection of institutions, political, legislative, judicial, military, financial, etc., by means of which management of their own affairs, the guidance of their personal conduct, and the care of ensuring their own safety are taken from the people and confided to certain individuals, and these, whether by usurpation or delegation, are invested with the right to make laws over and for all, and to constrain the public to respect them, making use of the collective force of the community to this end

He defines government to be the personification of the abstract concept of state. What I find interesting is that in the context of anarchism, the term government appears to refer to a specific type of governance–that in which citizens elect to entrust their freedom to govern themselves to representatives, either through a so-called democracy, or through coercion, as is popular with dictatorial administrations.

What does this mean for the people?

A common theme with anarchists is the association of religious authority with political. The case is made in the perspective of the alliance between various religious organizations and governments through history–the Vatican and Italy, the Church of England, and many others. Malatesta argues that governments, as defined earlier, oppress people in three ways: with brute force, as in a monopolization of legitimate use of violence, by depriving people of the means to support themselves-that is economically, allowing consolidation of wealth, and a co-dependent relationship between the poor and the wealthy, and through emotional manipulation as seen by religious institutions. Similar to Marx’s comment that religion is an opiate of the oppressed, so Malatesta claims that the only reason for the propagation of religious superstitions is to defend the privilege of the privileged.

This talk of religion is a reflection of a view elaborated by Michael Bakunin in God and the State. In this pamphlet he argues that the hierarchical system in religion encourages the oppressive mindset of society. He envisions religion as a safety-valve for oppressive systems, where, sanctified by the church, government, economy, and class systems become as god, the people reduced to automatons in the face of the infinite autonomy and free will of the divine. In this way, the religious and governmental systems, even if unassociated, generate a closed-loop feedback system against critical analysis of society.

Expanding this general claim, Bakunin transfers the discussion to that of a government based completely on science. He argues that the tyranny of science would be equal to, if not greater than, that of religion. Arguing that people who are promoted to a position of authority, no matter how altruistic, will become first a politician, second a scientist and humanitarian. The result: unjust authority. Therefore, Bakunin defines anarchism as:

In a word, we reject all legislation, all authority, and all privileged, licensed, official, and legal influence, even though arising from universal suffrage, convinced that it can turn only to the advantage of a dominant minority of exploiters against the interests of the immense majority in subjection to them.


Anarchism: not necessarily chaotic, just decentralized power. Government: bad! The contextually rooted definition describes a system that is the personification of the state in which people give the right of self-governance up, in exchange for other people doing it for them. Oppression: 3 general ways, physical, economic, and emotional. Religion: safety-valve to protect the oppressors.

In order to understand the theory I read a few papers and a couple books. Unless I started a completely new Anarchist blog, I can only scratch the surface. Hopefully these few words clarify some aspects of the theory, but hey, an anarchist would probably want you to decide for yourself!

And Finally:

I figured I’d show another side of Malatesta than the grumpy photo:

little-known side of Malatesta, swing-dancing!

*princess shift: a short shift lasting only a girly 5 and half hours…(I’ll discuss the gender stereotypes associated with terms such as this later)

Next up on the Anthroblog!

In which I discuss the Teachings of Don Juan Da Fish o’ Love!…wait, that’s not quite right…An Adventure into the field of ethnography as seen through the eyes of Carlos Castaneda!


8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 1, 2011 4:03 pm

    i think this was very good 🙂

  2. Cities of the Mind permalink
    February 2, 2011 12:39 am

    You will be a crazy man with a crazy beard someday.

  3. Orion permalink
    February 2, 2011 4:45 am

    I wonder what you mean exactly by practicing anarchism. And I hope it wasn’t an anarchist telling you what not to talk about.

    With religious institutions declining in power over the 100 years since Malatesta and Bakunin wrote, they get significantly less attention from most anarchist writers these days. Not to say that emotional control is gone at all. After all, we have ADVERTISING!

  4. Stephanie permalink
    February 2, 2011 7:20 pm

    A few things… First, some of your co-workers mentioned you were avoiding me at the good ol’ house of coffee and green! I hope that I am not becoming one your annoying customers you are forced to interact with! 🙂 Secondly, if you ever feel up to tackling some fiction, I really think you might enjoy “The Secret Agent” by Joseph Conrad… Just a thought…

    And lastly… since I have now given you the sought after link above, I believe I win that $20 bet?

    • February 2, 2011 7:39 pm

      actually, that’s one of the sites I found, believe it or not, and since I didn’t get back to you on which one I thought was yours, I’d call that a draw! I’ll have to check out this joseph conrad character!

      • Stephanie permalink
        February 4, 2011 2:26 pm

        Fine… We can call it a draw. If you want, email me and I’ll send you think links for the free Joseph Conrad and other books…

      • March 19, 2011 5:19 pm

        Dude! So apparently you came through the drive through about 30 seconds afte I left!

      • Orion permalink
        February 4, 2011 4:27 pm

        You most certainly should check out Conrad. If we haven’t talked about him before, it must be because I took for granted you knew him. He’s the Jack London of the sea.

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