A few months back, I took a stab at responding to one of the most commonly asked questions about anarchy and anarchism–namely, is it really possible? I tried to engage some of the scholarship surrounding the issue in order to answer the question, but in every day conversation, my response essentially consists of two basic points that I think are worth elucidating.
First–and this is a point on which many anarchists might disagree with me–I’m not sure that the question of possibility is the best question to be asking. Quite simply, I don’t know if anarchy is possible. As I noted in the previous post, it has been attempted with relative success on a small scale in the past, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t know if it would or could ever happen on a global scale (and by global I mean a world comprised of many, many small anarchist communities and federations). However, I’m not really interested in speculating on whether or to what extent it is possible. Possibility and impossibility are, I think, largely contingent on what we take to be possible or impossible. (More on this below.) As I mentioned before, the most important aspect of anarchism for me is that it is the endless pursuit of justice and freedom from all forms of oppression, coercion, domination, etc., whether in the form of the state, capitalism, patriarchy, racism, homophobia, environmental destruction, or other forms. In short, it is the pursuit of a society in which the inherent value, dignity, and equality of every human person is radically affirmed. Is such a world possible? I don’t know, but it would be foolish not to try for it.
And secondly, I think it’s important to remember that we have a say in what is possible and so long as we continue to convince ourselves that certain social, political, and economic ways of organizing are impossible, they will be. So long as we stubbornly hold on to the belief that “human nature” (an oppressive, fictitious concept, in my view) just is such a way that it will never allow us to live in a radically antiauthoritarian, radically egalitarian society, it will be impossible–we’ll never even bother to try! How fatalistic! How nihilistic. And yet, it seems that, the same folks who talk this way about anarchism, will in the next breath praise the founding fathers, the American Revolution, and our Constitution as great leaps forward in human history. If the democratic (read: bourgeois) revolutionaries of the 18th century could achieve what was at the time considered by many to be utopian, why must we assume that we can’t do the same–and maybe even more–in the 21st century?
All of this to say: I’m not interested in discussing the “possibility” of anarchy; I’m interested in action*. And I’d rather fail in the pursuit of justice and equality than to never try at all. It would be an experiment, of course, but the American government was an experiment as well! Why should we not continue trying to do better?
*As should be abundantly clear to anyone who reads this blog, the action I advocate is nonviolent action.