The fundamental vice of anarchy

Abstract: This article is part of those surrounding the presentation of the universal political regime. It takes stock of the value of anarchy as a political system, explains its advantages and its limits, which appear as soon as the population expands, due to a fundamental flaw in the concept of solidarity.

True political system, false social system

Anarchy is indeed a political system in itself and not its absence. It is important to understand its principles because it systematically reappears with each new seductive generation, taking advantage of three phenomena:
1) The stability of the existing social framework seems natural to young people, whereas it is artificial and fragile.
2) The hormonal surge encourages young people to stand out and detach from the existing organization, whatever it is —all have been tried but they have no experience of any other.
3) The third phenomenon is specific to our century. Access to diversified and almost unlimited information amplifies the feeling of being able to assess all areas and self-govern. We have an opinion on everything, which now competes with that of decision-makers where ignorance forced us to obey the rules.

The principle of anarchy is that each individual recognizes no government other than oneself. In theory, this regime can only work perfectly if you are the only being of your species on the planet. Sharing it with others implies creating a society, with its rules. Is it possible to maintain the regime of anarchy? Yes, if each of the participants appropriates the rules, internalizes them to flesh out their own “autonomous” government. In other words, the constable does not disappear; it passes within oneself. It is called ‘social consciousness’.

System limits

How far can such internalization operate on the anarchist? The more numerous and complex the rules become, the more individual impulses feel stifled. The situations where the inner constable is overwhelmed are multiplying. Crimes too. Anarchy is an unstable regime by nature, decompensates under the effect of two main factors:

1) The size of the community: In a small community, the rules are few and easy to follow. Crimes are always possible accidents, yet everyone judges them in the same way. They are not a factor of social disintegration.

Everything changes with the expansion of the population. New tasks and specializations appear, creating professional castes. The diversity and remoteness of citizens require administration. Certain decision-making levels become inaccessible to ordinary citizens. The constable can no longer be completely internalized. It is delegated to specialized professions: police, justice. If the organization collapses, society falls back into anarchy which then takes on its pejorative meaning: social chaos where anything goes.

2) The cultural homogeneity of the community is the second main factor. If all individuals closely resemble each other, grew up with the same beliefs, the laws are simple and easy. The interior government is homogeneous in all consciences. The “leaders” of such an anarchic community has symbolic, not coercive power: they are the “voice” of this shared consciousness. Everyone knows what they are going to say, must say. This model of community is the tribe.

Tribe is not expandable

The tribe is the typical example of effective anarchic functioning but is not scalable, as a model, to large communities. These are heterogeneous, due to the diversity of the environments in which they take root. If global anarchy were envisioned —suppose we handed over world government to an AI that chose that regime— humanity would be forced to evolve into cultural homogenization. Anarchy is fine with a clone population of any size, but not with a crowd of people practicing customs and beliefs that contradict each other.

Is it the cloning of our inner constable that we really want? Maximum individual free will at the cost of close resemblance between individuals? From a species perspective, this is certainly not progress. But before issuing a definitive opinion on anarchy, let’s come back to what makes it attractive:

The cantor of anarchism: Proudhon

Proudhon expressed it most convincingly. For him democracy (dêmos, the people, and kratos, power), is still too much kratos, power. Proudhon even criticizes direct democracy, and rightly so: if all citizens are egalitarian in the sharing of power, that leaves everyone with only a tiny share. This is the impression felt today by a large part of the voters. In France, a vote is one 68 millionth of power. Insignificant! The majority does not represent a guarantee of freedom or good management. It can be wrong. Proudhon thus takes the principle of anarchy to its extreme: no one should govern.

The objection immediately arises: without collective power, how can any social order be maintained? How to just live together? Proudhon responds with some interesting arguments:
1) It is illusory to think that a government would be a maker of order. History shows, on the contrary, that the conquest of power causes incessant trouble. Power is in itself a perversion.
2) Order is possible when it is integrated into each individual, we have seen it for the tribe. What vector can instil this order in all of us, especially in a society free of religion? The economy.

The economy as social glue

For Proudhon and most anarchists, order would result only from transactions and exchanges with an economic aim. Putting this into practice separates two streams of thought: Right-wing anarchism privileges the capitalist free market. It is the libertarians, who see the Economy as a smarter virtual entity than the politicians. Left-wing anarchism, preferred by Proudhon, is anti-capitalist. It would be naive to believe, he says, that capitalism can free itself from arbitrary reconstructions of power. There is a return of tyranny in the economic field. To prevent it Proudhon advocates a system of mutuals and cooperatives. Each citizen would only be bound by contracts with other citizens. Each would be producer and consumer, administrator and administered.

From an analytical point of view, right-wing anarchism is incoherent. It refuses the idea of a society as a superior entity exercising power over individuals but accepts an economy that does. Simultaneous refusal and acceptance of a Whole superior to the parts. Libertarianism is therefore not a real anarchism but an oligarchy applied to the economy.

An outdated idealism

Proudhon’s left anarchism is hardly more coherent. Power is not actually destroyed, but divided into parts so small that it is no longer supposed to be seen. This is to misunderstand the human sensitivity to power. Every citizen is extremely attentive to the slightest difference with their neighbour. It is not the statistics that move them, but what they have in front of them, what excites their desire. Proudhon is a poor psychologist. A human desire is not shared, it imposes itself.

This version of anarchism is also potentially the most violent. It can only work if everyone adopts it. Anarchism must be imposed on the population, which is arguably the height of incongruity for a system that claims to get rid of power. Revolutionaries have gone beyond and demonstrated this mortal danger of anarchism, that of the ideal applied in denigration of the principles of social self-organization. Looking down from the ideal that ignores the ascendancy of human nature.

Hydra Anarchy heads always grow back

Why does anarchism resurrect steadily despite its resounding historical failures? The individual in us believes that she is working for the collective good when she is only attached to her own. She is the T (a soliTary) which is mirrored in a D (soliDarity) which she has redesigned as she pleases, without realizing that the D is by definition something which imposes itself on her, or which does not imposes itself more when she has completely accepted it and not decided.

In full Techno-Chaos

Anarchism has regained its image with the rise of technology. We have seen that it works well in the tribe and deteriorates in larger societies, due to the impossibility of assimilating all the necessary rules and knowledge. Who today has an exhaustive knowledge of biology, climatology, physics, engineering, economics, etc etc, to do without specialist advice? But the web and social networks finally seemed to provide a solution. Or rather an infinity of answers, each discovering one within their reach. The soliTary was suddenly able to face the expert government and say “I know too.”

The terrible error, behind this rise of the anarchy of knowledge, is to believe that it creates soliDarity. In reality it forms clans of cloned thoughts, and no organization between these clans, only struggles for influence. The pejorative side of the term ‘anarchy’ applies well here: networks lead to a splintering of knowledge instead of a united consensus. The self-government that the anarchist believes she is imposing no longer has anything global about it. Anarchy-chaos is emerging.

Doctor Tavoillot’s diagnosis

In his Metamorphoses of Authority, Pierre-Henri Tavoillot gives a remarkable conclusion on anarchy: «Anarchism remains an ineliminable idea which designates a kind of horizon of democratic life. Horizon to which one cannot not adhere. It is the horizon of a harmonious reconciliation between collective order and individual freedom. This is a beautiful dream, which can also turn into a terrible nightmare if we admit, by accepting a tragic, that is to say adult, vision of political life and history, that reconciliation will never happen. That said, anarchism still has to play a secondary role, that of the bad conscience of democracy

Tavoillot emphasizes here the fundamental principle that underlies my own universal political system: conflict. Politics is a management of conflict and not any search for harmony between perpetually changing beings. Serious error of anarchy, which prevents me from being as kind as Tavoillot. For me, anarchy is a fundamentally flawed system, which believes itself to be in soliDarity when it only gives a blank check to the soliTary. The illusion is good enough to give credit back to anarchy when the ambience is already consolidated. Add the illusion of knowledge just a click away and here we are, all CEOs of our lives!

Escape the infernal cycle

Anarchism is not exactly a ‘bad’ but a soliTary conscience, necessary when it is suffocated by too many others, but dangerous when it feels thus threatened. It must be balanced by a soliDarity conscience, which is neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ but simply ‘social’, all the more important and hierarchical as society expands and becomes more complex.

When the balance is broken, we do not witness a “democracy delivered to its bad conscience”, which could redress it, but a disintegration of the collective conscience, which results in the exacerbation of populism. The soliTary takes precedence over the soliDarity. This diagnosis is confirmed today: return of anarchism -> rise of populism -> (soon) pseudo-democratic dictatorship. It seems impossible to escape this cycle of political regimes. Or should you consider the possibility of a truly universal regime?


Leave a Comment