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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Sciabarra et al. on Anarchism and Dualism

A long and fascinating series of exchanges on Chris Sciabarra's argument in Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism that Murray Rothbard's anarchism assumed a dualism between state and market. Geoffrey Allan Plauche, in response, attempted a non-dualistic basis for anarchism at Libertas, based on 1) Alfred Cuzan's argument that we're still in anarchy; and 2) Nock's distinction between government and the State ("Is Anarchism Inherently Dualistic?"). Sciabarra rejoined with "Anarchism and Dualism," in which he pointed out that he had as many problems with minarchy as with anarchy, and held out some hope for a non-dualistic anarchism. Then William J. Beck jumped into the fracas with "Dualing." Beck took issue with Plauche's statement that "[a] government that must rely solely on voluntary contributions... would be one very unlike anything with which we are familiar," and responded that it would be very like something we're currently familiar with: business. In "Anarchy and Dualism Revisited," Plauche took Beck to task for making the capitalist business enterprise a paradigm for all forms of voluntary association:

I think the assumption that in a libertarian-anarchist society all previously "governmental" functions would be run like businesses is too hasty and most probably mistaken. It is conceivable that there might be many services that might be better provided or only provided by non-business institutions, perhaps in some cases instead of but also quite possibly alongside businesses. Take, for instance, unemployment "insurance." Now, strictly speaking unemployment is not insurable.... However, institutions like the family, the extended family, fraternal societies (like America had in the 19th century; see here), clubs, churches, neighborhood communities, and so forth, could provide support for the temporarily and unexpectedly unemployed while having the close proximity and knowledge of time and place necessary to prevent or minimize abuse of the service. Similarly for other services. Even security production need not be exclusively provided by businesses. In no way, however, do we need the State to provide all of these services and, indeed, it invariably does a poor job of providing them (not to speak of the other accompanying negatives).

Finally, Sciabarra brings the discussion full circle with a couple more posts: "Anarchy and Dualism, Revisited," in which he reiterates his earlier acknowledgement that from the Rothbardian perspective it is the state whose coercion creates a dualism vis-a-vis the rest of society; and "Dualism: a Difference with Distinction," in which he defends his use of the term "dualism" against Beck's critique that it was a mere "difference."

Whew! Just writing this half-assed summary of the whole thing wore me out. But it's all well worth reading for yourself. If you like abstruse, involved philosophical debate, then (as Lincoln said) this is the sort of thing you'll like.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you're not suggesting that community organizations like churches don't use coercion. They institute strick regulations on social behavior to make sure members who may ask for services are truly dedicated, and they furthermore discriminate and create a social prejudice against those who do not conform. Which is not to suggest that having businesses fulfilling that function is perferable, it certainly isn't, but there is no perfect solution. Community organizations demand conformity for their services in the same way that businesses demand money and government demands taxes, etc..

September 02, 2005 8:02 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Witholding what's rightfully yours, or setting conditions on gifts that are rightfully yours to give or withhold, as you see fit, is not coercion. Nobody is born with a right to be fed by somebody else's labor (excepting a parent's obligation to support their child).

Anyway, "community organizations" in a free market are likely to include the kinds of mutual aid institutions described by Kropotkin and E.P. Thompson, not just the "civil society" charities that the neocons like to talk about today. When labor keeps its full product without it being bled off to support landlords and usurers, not only will the threshold of subsistence be a lot lower, but working people will have a lot more resources to devote to sick benefit and unemployment societies and other mutuals.

September 02, 2005 10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can give a couple of historical examples here. In ordinary circumstances, those community organisations don't fence people in, although they can deteriorate to that through human fallibility. Benjamin Disraeli's father found the demands of the local Jewish community too great - so he converted. The true constraint came from the internalised value system of Judaism (also called law), but of course the Disraelis kept much of that. Also, the Papal States around Avignon couldn't be statist and in fact offered a way out of France for people nearby. On the other hand, in Italy the Papal States could and did function as a (comparatively benign, for what that's worth) state, after fencing people in. And Israel is Jewish yet oppressive...

September 02, 2005 10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My friend Phil Jacobson had a nice piece about a decade ago titled Three Voluntary Economies about the various forms enterprise might take in a libertarian anarchist society.

September 03, 2005 1:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


I think the organizations Sam L. was referring to were private charities. Surely Israel wouldn't qualify in that regard--especially since it's getting several billion $$ a year from U.S. taxpayers. Maybe that's what Bush means by distributing welfare money through "faith-based organizations."


Thanks for the kind comments. I'm having trouble getting a concrete understanding of how you see the role of time in the various issues you describe. You seem to be saying that both sides attempt to impose a rigid structure on what is a fluid process, and achieve a level of certainty that's not possible--is that it? I think the uncertainty of the time element is exacerbated by organizational size in both the public and private sectors, since those at the top are almost completely detached from day-to-day reality. The current cluster-fuck in New Orleans is some indication of that.


That's a good link. I haven't read Braudel yet (going to have to), but that reminds me of a discussion of a similar "three economies" classification he makes: the informal, subsistence/barter economy; the "market" (i.e. cash nexus) economy, as a bottom-up institution; and the "capitalist" economy (the network of state and protected/subsidized corporate organizations that came to dominate the world economy in the modern era).

September 04, 2005 9:40 AM  

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