How would anarchism actually work in real life Part 1




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So! That's the first question most people have about anarchism, it was certainly my first question. Without government, wouldn't society just descend into chaos? How would anything get done? How would resources be distributed? And how would we make sure that people stay safe? Now, before I explain how I personally think anarchist society might function, let me first admit that nobody really knows for sure how anarchism would work out in the real world. At this point, it's all pretty theoretical, since there's just never been a large-scale and sustained anarchist society during peacetime and that does not mean that anarchism is just a silly, fantastic pipe dream, just because it's never been implemented. When the United States was founded, it was considered a great experiment by the framers of its constitution and it took over a century and a catastrophic civil war before it settled into anything resembling a stable regime. Anarchism would require similar experimentation. Even among anarchists, there's a wide range of opinion about how best to organize society and design democracy. And for people who are exploring anarchism for the first time, it can be really difficult to wrap your head around basic questions like: Who will take out the garbage and how would we stay safe without police? Especially when the blanket answers to such simple concrete questions is to google Murray Bookchin or read the Bread Book. I agree that there is a wealth of great information buried in classic anarchist literature, but asking people to read complex tomes to find the answers to basic questions is uh... Maybe a little unreasonable and it's probably already scared a lot of people away who might otherwise have become anarchists. So all that being said, what I'm going to present in this video is my personal take on how an anarchist society might work in practice. I hope that this will inspire other anarchist writers and youtubers to share their ideas for how stateless socialist societies might take shape, so that we can give people better and more digestible resources when they ask that question. So... The most fundamental idea of anarchism in my mind is that of consent. Anarchists believe that all human interactions must be consentual in nature. The opposite of consent, of course, is coercion. Anarchists seek to dissolve the state and capitalism because these social systems are held together through coercive forces. Capitalist republics like the United States of America may carry all the trappings of freedom and liberty, but beneath the veneer of democracy is a political structure that's fundamentally coercive in nature. "And when you want to take over, use military equipment, they were saying you couldn't do it." "You know what I said: That was my first day. You can do it." As a citizen of the United States, I am forced to pay taxes that go to unjust wars and violent political actions. I was forced to register for the Selective Service, which means that the state can force me into the military service at any time. I am forced to literally buy into a system that exploits, abuses and unjustly ends the lives of millions of people every day. I'm involuntarily complicit in a regime that locks up innocent working class people and separates them from their children and forces them to live in uncertainty and terror in indefinite detention. Then there's the complete lack of democracy in the workplace. The profits that are produced by workers are siphoned up and seized by wealthy capitalists and workers can be laid off or have their salaries and benefits cut at any time for virtually any reason. And what can we do to change these unjust and harmful aspects of society? Not much, it turns out. The representative democracies of capitalist states can scarcely be described as truly democratic. What we have instead are plutocracies, where the very wealthy and powerful have almost complete authority over the legal system. In the U.S.A., it's been found that politicians are really only influenced by the demands and opinions of the wealthy elite. The capitalist class has a massively disproportionate measure of power in our governments and input of the working class is woefully indirect. Especially when you take into consideration things like Super PACs, the electoral college, poorly designed and implemented voting systems and so on. And some people, like undocumented immigrants, former prisoners, the severely disabled and millions of people who are still incarcerated for victimless crimes will never be able to cast a ballot to protect their own interests. An anarchist society would seek consent and consensus of every member of society as the top priority for any system of government that we might put into practice. We must develop voting methods and representation models that count the needs and opinions of every single citizen with equal weight and consideration. In a previous video, I talked about how the Borda count ranked voting system and liquid democracy might lead to better input for voters. Other systems that anarchists may consider implementing include consensus democracy, which seeks to way as broader range of opinions as possible. "There is no...!" *Crowd* "THERE IS NO...!" (2x) "Hierarchy!" *Crowd* "HIERARCHY!" (2x) *Crowd cheers* And sortition, which is literally just random selection of representatives from the population at large. Now, I don't think there is any one single magic bullet solution that'll just automatically give us the best possible democracy, it's gonna be a work in progress. We'll have to try to find the best systems for each application and make improvements along the way, with the goal in mind at all times of improving representation and giving voters more input into our democratic systems. "When you want to show support to something that you're hearing, you twinkle." For all the lip service capitalists like to give to individual liberty and social mobility, the system they advocate is in reality based on rigid hierarchy. State hierarchies ensure that a privileged class of lawmakers, lobbyists, lawyers, law enforcement agents, military officials and state executives have power over the rest of us. Economic hierarchies give capitalists far-reaching power over those of us with less money. Workplace hierarchies give the owners of companies tyrannical authority over workers. Social hierarchies give disproportionate power and privilege to people of certain races, gender, religions and so on. These hierarchies extend Internationally as capitalists from wealthy, powerful states impose upon smaller, poorer countries through military intervention and capitalist imperialism. Anarchist societies would seek to eliminate all hierarchies unless they're proven to be absolutely justified and necessary. An example of a hierarchy that's perhaps justified and necessary might be the crew of a ship. Sailing is a complicated and dangerous endeavor, after all and out in the high seas, it probably does make sense for the less experienced sailors to follow the directions of their more experienced shipmates for the purposes of safety and pragmatism. An example of a hierarchy that is unjust and unnecessary would be the way most coffee shops are run. At a cafe, there's no imminent danger. Nothing that happens at Starbucks is so pressing that the workers couldn't organize and run the business themselves through democratic processes. Even in situations where hierarchies are perhaps justified, anarchists would seek to flatten hierarchies and make things as democratic as pragmatically possible. In our ship example, perhaps the crew could elect the captain and officers and the less savory work chores could be rotated around to make things as fair as possible. It worked for pirates. It's a hook. Under capitalism, society is fundamentally organized around the nation state. The state has ultimate authority over the way laws are written and designed and enforced and the state apparatus uses its monopoly on violence to ruthlessly enforce established power structures. This is why anarchists seek to abolish states entirely. We don't want someone's class or any other social category to give them that kind of violent and oppressive power and authority over anyone else. So how do anarchists plan to organize society? Well again, this depends on your brand of anarchism. But in my mind, the primary unit of social organization would probably be the anarchist commune. The size of a commune could be pretty flexible, but it should probably be small enough that everyone who lives in the commune could have functional and local input into the commune's government and organization. Communes might take a variety of forms depending on geography, population density and other factors. So a commune might be a collection of rural farmsteads or a single small town or a specific bureau or district of a larger city. It'll ultimately be up to the people who live there to decide how big or small a commune should be and where to draw the borders. But as a rule of thumb, I think a commune should probably never include more than... maybe around 10.000 people. Now, where did I get this number? Well, from this guy: Robert Dunbar. He's an anthropologist who studied the organization of a wide variety of human societies and he's determined that the largest number of people that can functionally work together as a team is about 150 people. Any more than that and important human social elements such as trust, familiarity and a sense of belonging begin to break down. "Why is it limited at 150?" "The answer is twofold, actually." "Partly, it's a cognitive challenge just to keep track of more people." "The other side of it is it's just a time budgeting problem." "You just don't have time in the in everyday life... to invest in each of those people... to the extent where you can have a real relationship with them." So a commune of 10.000 people could be split up into about 60 or 70 smaller communities, we can call those 'wards', and each ward could have two representatives that they send to the commune's governing council. Through the power of basic arithmetic, we can see that this commune consul would have about 150 people. Dunbar's number. These numbers are a bit flexible and following them exactly is not really necessary. What's important is that we develop our societies using a methodology that centers on maximizing the potential participation and input for every voter. Within a ward of 150 people direct democracy can be practiced. It'd be a simple matter for ward members to vote directly on any major decisions and the council of about 10 ward members could oversee the day-to-day affairs of the neighbourhood. And how would word council members be chosen? I think this is probably a good use case for sortition, random selection. Council members will be chosen at random, say every three months or so. This would allow every adult member of the community to serve on the ward council once every three or four years or so. So in summary, the basic idea of the system is this: Individuals self-organize into small wards of about a hundred and fifty people; the wards will then self-organize into communes of about 10.000 people and these communes could in turn organize into larger unions of communes that could have millions even billions of people. But essential sovereignty would be pushed as far down that structure as possible to the commune, ward and even individual level. Local government will allow for the most consensus and will allow us to prevent coercion that occurs when large, centralized states have power over sprawling populations. But how would individuals and communes be able to self-organize? Well, the same way corporations do it today: By contract. We'll discuss contracts, as well as rights and responsibilities of individuals and security and military defense issues in part two of this series, which should come out in about a week or two. So click Subscribe and keep an eye out. In the meantime, if you like this video, you might want to consider reading my fiction series: The Newcomer. It takes place in an alternate timeline, where the western half of the United States became a collection of anarchist communes in the late 19th century. It's free to read and there's a link in the description. I'm Emerican Johnson, this is Non-Compete. Thanks for watching.