I have studied anarchy in great depth, which led to my coining the phrase “inner anarchy,” which is the title of my most recent book.
I am sympathetic toward anarchy as a social movement. Anarchy is typically described as a political philosophy that advocates stateless societies often defined as self-governed voluntary institutions based on non-hierarchical free associations. Anarchism opposes authority or hierarchical organization in the conduct of human relations, including, but not limited to, the state system. People often equate anarchy with insurrection, chaos, lawlessness and violence because these dynamics have characterized several historical instances of anarchy. In this sense, anarchy has unfairly been given a bad name.
Characterizing anarchy as chaos, lawlessness and violence is not accurately representing what anarchism truly is. “Anarchism” and “anarchy” are undoubtedly the most misrepresented ideas in political theory. The word “anarchy” is from the Greek, prefix an (or a), meaning “not,” “the absence of,” or “the lack of”, plus archos, meaning “a ruler,” “director,” chief,” “person in charge,” or “authority.” In other words, “anarchy” is “the absence of a master, ruler, sovereign or ruling class.” Anarchy means more than just no government,” it means opposition to all forms of authoritarian organization and hierarchy. Anarchists envision a society within which individuals freely co-operate together as equals.
It’s not possible in this post to adequately convey what anarchy is as an idea, theory or philosophy, or to cover the historical origins and developments of anarchism. The most comprehensive site on the Internet for exploring anarchy is: theanarchistlibrary.org. Some additional resources worth exploring are: (1) Panel Discussion About Anarchism; (2) Noam Chomsky Lecture on Anarchism.
Some central figures to anarchy that you can explore further are: Peter Kropotkin; Mikhail Bakunin; Emma Goldman; Pierre-Joseph Proudhon; and Errico Malatesta. If you’re into history, the most successful anarchy effort is typically considered to be be the Spanish Revolution from 1936-1939.
A few quotes from these well-known anarchists include:
“We anarchists do not want to emancipate the people; we want the people to emancipate themselves.”
― Errico Malatesta
“The history of human thought recalls the swinging of a pendulum which takes centuries to swing. After a long period of slumber comes a moment of awakening. Then thought frees herself from the chains with which those interested — rulers, lawyers, clerics — have carefully enwound her.”
― Peter Kropotkin
“Anarchism stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion and liberation of the human body from the coercion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. It stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals.”
― Emma Goldman
I am sympathetic toward the idea of anarchy because I believe, as Charles Darwin pointed out in On The Origin of Species, that our capacity to cooperate is our most potent human survival characteristic. Human beings created the social technology of language to empower cooperative living. Our ability to effectively self-organize and take direct action precludes the need to establish rulers and hierarchies to sort things out for us. You could make an argument that even in the best of cases such as “democracy” (as opposed to totalitarianism) that hierarchical structures of power and authority become corrupt and seek to control people’s lives. Jesus is considered to have been an anarchist, evidenced by his denial of the religious and worldly power structures of his day, and lived in defiance of religion and government.
Shallow anarchistic thinking tends to equate the problems in our world with the rulers, authorities and ruling classes themselves. In other words, they see the people or groups of people as the obstacle or enemy. The root problem is deeper than this and lies in the false beliefs, mindsets, narratives and ideologies that rule people from within. That’s the real obstacle and enemy – not the people or groups themselves, but those beliefs, mindsets, narratives and ideologies. Even anarchy can become an ideology and function in the same way if it is originating from that same poisoned well.
Anarchy as a cyber-movement has been growing exponentially. Often referred to as crypto-anarchism, these are anarcho-capitalists who employ cryptography to enable individuals to make consensual economic arrangements without government interference, surveillance or regulation. Bitcoin, for example, is the anarchist alternative to government regulated capitalism and the use of fiduciary money. Bitcoin is considered the first cryptocurrency. Invented by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008, bitcoin is a decentralized virtual currency which exists as a peer-to-peer network where people carry out financial transactions with one another without any intermediary. However, purists such as Amir Taaki and Cody Wilson believe that the anarchist spirit behind bitcoin has been compromised as it has become more commercialized and co-opted by the interests of big business and those who want to impose regulations.
But even with the technological advancement and sophistication of these digital tools, which are meant to empower and enable people to voluntarily self-organize their lives free from hierarchies of power, the tools have also been corrupted and used to do great harm, violence and oppression against one another. Ross Ulbricht is likely facing 30 years in prison as the mastermind behind the “silk road,” an online black market best known as a platform for selling illegal drugs. The radical terrorist group, ISIS, is waging full-scale cyberwar and utilizing every technological advancement at their disposal to do so.
People like Amir Taaki, Cody Wilson and even Ross Ulbricht are brilliant, but any hope of truly achieving the vision of a free humankind where people voluntarily cooperate and self-organize to create a world that works for everyone is going to require inner anarchy. We must dethrone and dispel the false beliefs, mindsets, narratives and ideologies that we have been socialized into and rule us from within. This is our true enemy, which pits us against each other and eliminates any possibility of achieving the kind of free, voluntary, and productive association that anarchists envision. Unless this inner anarchy takes place all our technological advancements and sophistications will be in vain, and they will ultimately come to serve those false mindsets and ideologies that rule us from within. This is my conviction, which is why I wrote the book, Inner Anarchy.
One of the central themes of the book is showing how Jesus was an inner anarchist. Jesus confronted the religious and societal/political power structures of his day and called people to divest themselves from them. He was viewed as a dangerous threat to these hierarchies of power, which ultimately conspired together to have him executed, which Jesus did not resist and faced voluntarily. What separated Jesus from typical anarchist thinking is that Jesus did NOT see the root problem as individuals or groups of people in power or the ruling class. Instead, Jesus identified the culprit of human injustice, suffering and oppression as the power structures within ourselves in the form of the false beliefs, mindsets, narratives and ideologies that have programmed into our heads and rule us from within.
Contrary to popular belief, Jesus did not teach or advocate the view of a sky God who is located somewhere beyond the clouds and who is guiding and controlling the affairs of humankind according to some divine plan. Jesus called this “God” a lie. Instead, Jesus taught that “God” is a spirit, dimension, and authority that is naturally within every individual person, and does not need religion to regulate it. The primary message of Jesus was calling people to switch sources – to turn away from those false beliefs and ideologies in our heads, and to turn toward what is real in our deep feelings and what we know is true in our gut. In other words, to turn to that natural authority within ourselves – to speak, act and live from that higher spiritual presence with us. We all did this quite naturally as children until we were inoculated with the poison, dispensed by societal institutions such as education, religion, government, media and society.
If our intelligence and brilliance alone could have solved our human predicament by now, it would have. We need more than that. Current anarchist thinking has misdiagnosed the problem. It’s much deeper than simply taking down the current power structures of our day. In due time we would build new ones to replace them and be right back in the same boat again. We already see this in cases where the Libertarian Party has become just another political party, and the bitcoin just another avenue of capitalistic commerce. The problem is in the water, and we’re all drinking from it. It’s those false beliefs, mindsets and ideologies in all our heads. It’s the collective consciousness that is the immovable stone that is in the way.
If I was planning an anarchist movement I would most definitely want Amir Taaki and Cody Wilson on my side, but I would hope that they would see the need to incite the inner anarchy I’m describing. As smart as we are, we might have to become more like children to really work this out.