Optionality and Anarchy
Abstract: This article article discusses Optionality and Anarchy, concluding that it is more important to visualize the future, than to split hairs over semantics.
A. Anarchy's Silence
Anarchy rejects dictatorship, or more generally the power exercised by any kind of political system, be it an aristocracy in which a small group rules, or a democracy in which the majority of voters rule. One may wonder why anarchy as a concept receives so little attention in the media, in the education system, in research on cultural differences, etc.
One reason for the silence about anarchy is of course outright censorship. The Government and anarchy regard each other as two opposites. In many cases, legislation simply forbids people to express ideas that are deemed to encourage anarchy. But often, suppression of such ideas is not so much the result of bureaucrats who feel threatened, but by those who feed on the Government's grip over society and exploit a privileged situation that is backed up by law. Many sectors of society are controlled by the Government, e.g. health care, education, transport and postal mail. In many sectors of society, the Government selects who is allowed to be active through educational qualifications, licences, e.g. in broadcasting and banking, or through the economic power exercised by the Government as a buyer and supplier. Those who are selected to operate in such areas are prone to accept the system that selected them, especially if they had put in a lot of time, money and effort to be selected. Many people are guided in their actions by the perceived benefits to them of exploiting such privileges.
In the way society is organized, anarchy is largely ignored. But that does not mean that silence is built into anarchy as a concept. The contrary! Anarchists are generally very active and articulate, keen to make their opinion heard.
B. Anarchy's Violence
In the media, in cultural research or in education, if anarchy is mentioned at all, then anarchy is often associated with violence. The typical anarchist is usually pictured as an arsonist or a terrorist placing a bomb under the "pillars of society", while shouting all kinds of "dogmatic and destructive rhetoric". Of course the anarchist claims the opposite, i.e. the anarchist is oppressed by the way society is organized, forced into complying with a system of intolerable rules. The anarchist will say that such a cliché way in which anarchy is portrayed by the establishment, is propaganda, dis-information, an outright lie.
But although the anarchist has a case, the question remains how much anarchy opposes violence. Clearly, anarchy is opposed to violence, power and coercion exercised by political systems. More broadly, anarchy opposes socio-economical structures that result from such politics. But by what methods does anarchy suggest to change this? The establishment claims that the methods of democracy and capitalism are the least violent means. The establishment further claims that, without its enforcement of law and order, society would revert to chaos, back to pre-historic times in which the law of the jungle (i.e. violence) ruled. How does anarchy answer such arguments?
C. Anarchy's Weakness
Anarchy's weakness is that it does not seem to have an answer against such arguments. This is not merely the result of the fact that society is silent about anarchy or that society portrays anarchy in a negative way. No, there is an inherent weakness in anarchy as a concept, in that anarchy is essentially a negative concept. Anarchy opposes dictatorship, but anarchy does not express what it wants instead. Anarchy fails to picture what an ideal (anarchist) world looks like. Anarchy lacks a positive image, not merely because it is pictured in a negative way by society, but because anarchy itself is conceptually and inherently negative.
It is no surprise that anarchy appealed to people who also liked the works of Marx and Hegel. Anarchy fits nicely into Hegel's dialectic method, i.e. as an antithesis, not as a complete ideology. As Marx predicted, the succession of (anti)theses would inevitably lead to ideological victory for communism as a system. But of course, this victory never eventuated. Communism has now largely collapsed as an ideology and in those countries in the world where the ruling system still calls itself communist, it is more and more taking on the characteristics of capitalism as an ideology. Many anarchists have now given up their vision of a communist future and instead focus on nostalgia for the past. Back to nature, even back to the world as it was in pre-historic times, is what many anarchists now seriously advocate. Such opinions are of course not helpful in countering the establishment's view that anarchists want to turn the clock back to pre-historic times in which the law of the jungle (i.e. violence) ruled.
D. DonParagon's Vision of the Future
By contrast, DonParagon's Vision of the Future does give a well-defined picture of how future times will look like. DonParagon does not want to go back to the past, with all its violence and oppression. Instead, Don argues that optionality will become ideologically accepted in the future, which will result in less violent ways for people to interrelate than that are presently common. Whereas anarchy tends to focus on the past, optionality looks at the future. In Don's Vision, optionality is the very (positive) contribution that has been missing until now, but that will inevitably bring cultures in which the Government now dominates into what Don refers to as Improvisation Time, in which the Government will have faded away into irrelevance.
DonParagon actually criticizes the approach of comparing the strengths and weaknesses of various concepts. One can argue about what anarchy is and what it isn't. Similarly, there are various interpretations of the concept optionality. But invariably, such discussions get stuck into the virtues of categorizing concepts, into the semantics of defining such concepts. As Don argues, from the perspective of optionality such an approach is not the best one. Supporters of the concept optionality will refuse to accept any such definition as the Definition, as the "truth", since the very concept optionality opposes such an approach not merely as a waste of time for its continued splitting of hairs over semantics, but as a glorification of singularity. Anarchists will undoubtedly seek to analyze such views for perceived philosophical inconsistencies.
But if anarchy does indeed promise such a bright future, let us then visualize future times and agree that, what will be preferable to the current situation, will be the emergence of more optionality.