Is Anarchism a form of social Darwinism?

Chaos
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I can foresee that a common criticism against my explanation of how an anarchist society would look like, will be to compare it to social Darwinism. That I’m suggesting that we let society run along and let natural selection choose who gets to live and prosper. One might bring forth the counter example of the “Free Markets” and how letting them run unmanaged and unhindered (as their proponents suggest) has ended up with disastrous results.

But I’m not suggesting anything like that. I have made it very clear that I put far more weight to the utilitarian result of the simple rules we choose for the basis of our society. In short, the end result needs to be the maximization of all human happiness and the society we try to create is simply the means to this. This is very far from the idea that we should choose a set of rules and stick to them, come what may.

In fact this is why the free markets fail so miserably. The central idea of the “free market” is similar to mine in the sense that they suggest that we should stick to some simple rules and let the rest fall in place around them. Those rules are a combination of respect for private property, respect for contractual agreements, and non-aggression. Proponents of such combinations claim follow two kind of argumentative paths. Either that the principles of a free market are a natural law or that they bring a utilitarian result in regards to more freedom (which we assume would make people happier).

But none of these can be sufficiently proven. It’s impossible to display the existence of this “Natural Law” as it’s usually based either on religious underpinnings or personal delusions and it’s impossible to display the utilitarian results of free market principles because of the chaos theory. The best one can predict about a future free market society is that it will have those principles. It will respect PP, contracts and non-aggression.

But such a society could range from a human paradise of countless small farmers/artisans in an egalitarian formation, to a dystopia of mega-corporations controlling all the resource and 99% of humans being subsistence wage-slaves with no rights except the right to serve a boss. This is more problematic when seen through an utilitarian perspective (for freedom) because some of the principles can easily lead to the antithesis of freedom, such as the loss of freedom one has while working for a boss or the capacity to engage in slave-contracts. The fact that whenever a laissez-faire conception was attempted it ended up in huge human misery only serves to question their capacity to achieve their ideal goal.

However, what I am proposing is not simply to choose some rules that I claim will lead to a better result but rather to choose rules that tautologically will lead to that result. A society based on democratic values will be democratic. A society based on possessive ownership will be possessive and so on. What this means is that if there is a value that we believe should exist in a future society, we should be making that value a core rule to be espoused, promoted and defended by itself. Not as a possible result of some other value. For example: to suggest we all follow “sticky” ownership rules because it will lead to freedom of speech is misguided. It will serve us far better to follow freedom of speech itself because only then will we be sure that it will lead to a society which values freedom of speech.

Furthermore, I’m not even suggesting we select some concepts monolithically. I do not say we should choose those values and also a value to never change them. As I explained in my previous post, it might well be the case that at some indefinite point in the future, Anarchism will be sub-optimal itself. I cannot even imagine such a scenario but I can accept the possibility. Therefore, we should always be open to changing our core ruleset when the situation requires it and this should be done in the same way as before: Directly embrace the value that we would like to have in the future.

This is another way by which anarchism differs from social Darwinism and free markets, which say that the values themselves should never be changed and we should simply let societal evolution and natural selection to take their toll. But this is simply giving up one of the most basic and useful features of humans: Our ability to change our environment (which includes societal rules) as a means of adaptation. Therefore it’s not surprising that social Darwinism is such an utter failure in regards to human happiness.

In short, Anarchism or at least the Chaotic conception of Anarchism (Chaos Anarchism? Chanarchism?) that I promote, is not a form of social Darwinism because we control our environment instead of us being controlled by it.

I can foresee that a common criticism against my explanation of how an anarchist society would look like, will be to compare it to social Darwinism. That I’m suggesting that we let society run along and let natural selection choose who gets to live and prosper. One might bring forth the counter example of the “Free Markets” and how letting them run unmanaged and unhindered (as their proponents suggest) has ended up with disastrous results.

But I’m not suggesting anything like that. I have made it very clear that I put far more weight to the utilitarian result of the simple rules we choose for the basis of our society. In short, the end result needs to be the maximization of all human happiness and the society we try to create is simply the means to this. This is very far from the idea that we should choose a set of rules and stick to them, come what may.

In fact this is why the free markets fail so miserably. The central idea of the “free market” is similar to mine in the sense that they suggest that we should stick to some simple rules and let the rest fall in place around them. Those rules are a combination of respect for private property, respect for contractual agreements, and non-aggression. Proponents of such combinations claim follow two kind of argumentative paths. Either that the principles of a free market are a natural law or that they bring a utilitarian result in regards to more freedom (which we assume would make people happier).

But none of these can be sufficiently proven. It’s impossible to display the existence of this “Natural Law” as it’s usually based either on religious underpinnings or personal delusions and it’s impossible to display the utilitarian results of free market principles because of the chaos theory. The best one can predict about a future free market society is that it will have those principles. It will respect PP, contracts and non-aggression.

But such a society could range from a human paradise of countless small farmers/artisans in an egalitarian formation, to a dystopia of mega-corporations controlling all the resource and 99% of humans being subsistence wage-slaves with no rights except the right to serve as boss. This is more problematic when seen through an utilitarian perspective (for freedom) because some of the principles can easily lead to the antithesis of freedom, such as the loss of freedom one has while working for a boss or the capacity to engage in slave-contracts. The fact that whenever a laissez-faire conception was attempted it ended up in huge human misery only serves to question their capacity to achieve their ideal goal.

However, what I am proposing is not

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8 thoughts on “Is Anarchism a form of social Darwinism?

  1. Do you see a role for the judiciary in an anarchist society? Our own system based on judges has resulted in a lot of degradation of both the US Constitution and common decency (e.g. Citizens United, the drug war, etc). A judiciary doesn't have to be a "hierarchy of judges" system like we have now where judges refer to previous, often contradictory, decisions of other judges. Instead we could have something like the old common law system where juries decided disputes using their understanding of common cultural rules. Or would disputes not be "settled" in the ordinary sense at all?

    "such a society could range from a human paradise of countless small farmers/artisans in an egalitarian formation, to a dystopia of mega-corporations controlling all the resource and 99% of humans being subsistence wage-slaves"

    I support markets, but I would also be the first to abandon them if mega-corps ruled the earth. It may sound cliche, but people are more important than profits.

    1. Do you see a role for the judiciary in an anarchist society?

      I can't really say. At the moment the judiciary is so necessary because it needs to deal primarily with property disputes or with crimes arising from it (such as theft due to poverty etc) or with laws granted to preserve the status quo and the plutocracy (such as copyright infringements). Given an egalitarian society, I foresee almost no need for a formal/expert judiciary since the crimes will be based on things that are commonly recognized by all and therefore can be dealt with ad-hoc by a jury of peers.

  2. What of the 'free market' as described by mutualists like Kevin Carson? That capitalism as we know it would be impossible in a real 'free market'; one without state enforcement of things like IP, banking monopoly, subsidisation, ownership of land divorced from use/labour, etc.?

    1. That too has an aspect of social darwinism in it to tell you the truth but it is much alleviated by the socialist aspects of mutualism. It's yet to be seen if those can balance things out or if markets will prove to unstable in regards to retaining an anarchist society.

      1. I would think though that pushing for worker control and egalitarian principles within a market would lead to people demanding more direct democracy and egalitarianism in other aspects of their lives. Say, for example, more networks of mutual aid alongside market exchange. No?

        1. If that is the case, then it will mean that the free markets will eventually be abolished as societal evolution moves towards communism (which is incidentally what I expect anyway).

  3. This is why social darwinism is incompatible with government. Government is effectively picking winners and losers instead of letting individuals compete or war amongst themselves. Those in government who think they are social darwinists contradict themselves and misinterpret the term. You cannot have both for it is either one or the other.

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