The other night I was listening to a young know-it-all (god, was I really that much of an ass 30 years ago?) as he regaled his stupefied audience with a beer-fortified political rant. "Socialism is a good idea," he said as if his was the last word on the subject, "but it would never work."
I can’t even begin to count the times that I have heard similar claims for Anarchism—only usually without the "it’s a good idea" part: Anarchism would never "work."
It would never work?
Work for what? Work how? And, more importantly, work for whom?
The assumption that is hiding in plain sight is that social-political systems (for example, the plutocratic corporate capitalism that sets the parameters for my actions) "work," that is, they have a purpose, a goal, a function—they were designed intentionally and they are meant to do something. The reason that social-political –isms are necessary is to provide a functional order to human interaction. Social-political –isms are technologies, they provide the source code in a master program; they are descriptions of organizational systems for structuring human behavior. That human behavior needs to be structured is an obvious "given," as obvious as darkness follows sunset.
Blame Hobbes, I suppose.
And asking why we need a master program, asking the tactless question "Why is the structuring of human behavior necessary?" is a loud fart at a formal dinner.
Anarchism—at least in its primal form—seems to me to be different from socialism (and communism, and plutocratic capitalism, and…) precisely because it doesn’t "work." It is not meant to be a system of social-political organization designed to accomplish something—unless the elimination of massive systems of exploitation and the general proliferation of individual autonomy count as accomplishments.
Police and handcuffs and prisons and banks and foreclosure offices and payday loan stores are clearly technologies. But I’m not sure what to call the absence of police and handcuffs and prisons and banks and foreclosure offices and payday loan stores…?