Friday, March 22, 2013

Egoist anarchists and other mythical beasts

A great review of the book Enemies of Society here: 

The book is a collection of pieces that highlight “the egoist side” of the anarchist “family tree.” 

I haven’t read the anthology. And frankly, after reading the review, I’m not sure that I really want to. But the collectivist/egoist distinction is an interesting one.

I have always had a problem with the whole idea of old-school collectivist anarchism. The more socialistic versions seem to be an attempt to have and eat the same cake, to have voluntary and egalitarian participation while simultaneously retaining the ability to systematically structure human activity, as if it would be possible to equally partition the benefits of industrial technology and at the same time maintain the essential inequality of the industrial process itself. Anarchistic collectivism is possible, perhaps, but not without abandoning all technology more complex than simple craft.   

As for those folks on the egoist side of the anarchist family tree: I strongly suggest giving them a blood test. I think for the most part you’ll find a bunch of illegitimate Hobbesian red-in-tooth-and-claw bastards. The kind of self-serving individualism being offered by most of these “egoists” as a mode of social (dis)organization is a pathological reaction to the isolating effects of civilization, and in no way consistent with our evolved human design as social primates.

The low-tech lifestyles of our egalitarian foraging ancestors and our still extant but rapidly disappearing hunter-gatherer brothers and sisters seem to be ideal models of collectivist modes of living that also qualify as anarchistic. No bosses. No arbitrary social hierarchy. Free and voluntary association. 

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