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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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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Dick Martin on Federation

Dick Martin writes, on ATN Discussion:

Federation is a great idea but even anarchists such as Bakunin saw it as a political concept rather than a social one. Federation should not be seen as an elected or delegated process but as a network that involves agreements and accords between working groups.... We need open committees running things not elected officials who deny power and involvement to others.... The network model of federation is the answer to the problems of higher level political organization. We should see a landscape of horizontal connectivity where the connections are able to change according to needs. A network by is nature is able to work around pockets of authority, authority structures in an anarchist society would be isolated and out maneuvered by federative networks. Our job as anarchists is to begin to organize society differently through community based associations, and abolish the board of directors and officers in the organizations we build.


Blogger Lippard said...

"and abolish the board of directors and officers in the organizations we build."

Are there any successful models of functioning voluntary organizations comprised of more than one person which work without a board of directors, officers, or any other kind of formal leadership? The only one that immediately comes to mind is a family, but even families have leadership roles and hierarchy (e.g., usually one person manages the finances; parents exercise control over children).

March 12, 2006 12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you happen to have any more on what he was saying? I don't think I quite get it. What's an "open committee"?

March 12, 2006 2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong Kevin, but it seems to me you're more like the traditional anarchists than you are like traditional libertarians, at least w.r.t. opposition to hierarchy and authority.

Libertarians, even those who don't fall under your (smear?)-term "vulgar", think that authority is ok if people voluntarily agree to it. If I want to type documents for a person and receive a wage in return, and further if while working I am called "the slave" and I have to call him "the master", then I don't see anything wrong with such an agreement if both of us agree to it. True, insofar as it is possible we should work for a world where most men prosper, not just a few. However, if that journey involves, say, many people choosing to live under patriarchy, or even more hierarchy in some companies, would you still oppose it? Because it seems to me that in a lot of cases it might. (I find Stephen Kinsella's argument that limited liability and some forms of IP will still exist in a free society through contract to be very persuasive, for example.)

Part of our disagreement stems, no doubt, from the relative fault we would attribute to the state in bringing about the corporations, land-renters, etc that we see today. But even if you're closer to the correct estimate than I am, it still seems to me that there will be some (maybe a lot) of people who get rich through ability, or get authority through legitimately acquired power or wealth. Paul Graham goes even farther and suggests that without this kind of radical risk-taking and subsequent inequality that technology won't advance as quickly. So while economic "masters" and "slaves" may seem odious in a lot of situations, if there is little past or present coercion then I can't say I find anything wrong with it. Do you?

March 13, 2006 12:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, sorry for the horrendous typo. Of course it should read "... would you still support it?".

March 13, 2006 12:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe someone should tell him the main difference between a Federation and a Confederation. You can leave a Confederation.

March 13, 2006 12:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the record though, I will concede that one thing I like about the extreme Bakunin-type anarchists is that their theory, if true, would allow me to stop paying my monthly rent and just tell the owner of my apartment complex to go to hell (one of those "federations", or "committees", or "unions", or whatever would no doubt come to my aid). Workers of the world unite, indeed!

March 13, 2006 12:55 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Jim Lippard and sparrow,
I'm not sure what the answers to your questions are. That's pretty much the meat of Dick's remarks. I'll forward your comments to him for a response.

I believe that usage is fairly standard among anarchists--especially regarding federation of voluntary associations, rather than states. It goes back to Proudhon's *The Federative Principle*. And if "federation" applies, as per conventional usage, to the American federal union, then we damn well ought to have been able to leave this one.


No. I just think there's a LOT more subordination and hierarchy because of state intervention in the market than there would be otherwise. In a free market, decide for themselves where the shoe pinched. But people are presently feeling the shoe a lot more than they'd tolerate with a less restricted range of options. And the average workplace has become far more adversarial and authoritarian over the past thirty years: real hourly wages have remained stagnant for production workers, while senior management pay has exploded upwards, and the corporate machinery for internal surveillance has mushroomed to meet the rising disgruntlement faced from production workers who know the score.

As Sam Smith said in yesterday's Progressive Review, we live in an institutional culture where everyone is expected to find out what the rules are and adjust to them, or be elbowed aside by those lined up to take his job in an environment of dwingling opportunities.

March 13, 2006 11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, guess the only way out at present is to be independent or become an evil state capitalist oneself...

March 13, 2006 12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah sorry Kevin, of course that was me just now. :)
I'm not sure how you feel about left-anarchists, but at any rate sorry if I mischaracterized your position w.r.t. hierarchy and authority. I suppose mutualism won't let me overthrow my landlord at any rate...

March 13, 2006 12:24 PM  

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