Saturday, June 06, 2009
Anarchism: An Autobiography of an Ideal
Anarchism is best understood by many people to be associated with punk rock music and mass chaos.
But as Anarchism in America explains, Anarchism is very different. Anarchism is actually a political philosophy based on the complete absence of government and the violence that so often proves necessary to maintain it -- and often employed even when it's unncessary.
It's remarkable to note how many people can't seem to provide any kind of defninition of anarchism at all -- let alone a correct one.
More than anything, anarchism is based on a social ideal that can never be achieved.
Anarchism depends on the ideal that people will always act in the best interests of society without the organizing capacity of authority.
The film recounts the Spanish Civil War, and notes that fighters in the anarchist militias came and went as they pleased. Without any kind of authoritative system to ensure effective fighting groups to oppose General Franco's fascist forces little question remains as to at least some of the better reasons why the anarchists lost.
Anarchism is a political philosophy that is utopian and revolutionary. It represents a fusion of the ideas of positive freedom and negative freedom that Adam Curtis presents in The Trap. It asserts that positive freedom -- the freedom to transform oneself through the incessant pursuit of self-fulfilment -- can only be achieved through the pursuit of negative freedom.
A close parallel can be found in libertarianism, anarchism's conservative-leaning cousin.
Like anarchism, libertarianism presents an ideal. While anarchism's ideal is the absence of government in any way, shape or form, libertarianism is the vision of government as small as possible. While libertarians may not favour the abolition of government, they tend to prefer its reduction to a size that can be drowned in a bathtub.
Like anarchism, however, libertarianism makes assumptions that are at odds with social realities. Libertarianism fails to recognize many of the things that government is necessary to do. Taxation -- denounced as "theft" on the cover of a pamphlet displayed in the film -- is necessary for the maintanence of social infrastructure necessary for the orderly function of society.
For example, the current financial crisis shows us that deregulated banks -- an ideal of libertarianism -- lend themselves to economic disorder, to the detriment of the vast majority of a society's members. A strong, effective, democratic government is necessary to maintain financial infrastructure, which is necessary for a free society.
It's because of their overreliance on utopianism and idealism that neither anarchism nor anarchism can ever truly be achieved.