Just came across a really fascinating couple of videos on the issue of traffic controls. They discuss how traffic lights create far more problems than they solve, and show how the simple act of removing them allow motorists to ‘self-regulate’ the flow of traffic.
I see this as a kind of microcosm of the difference between statism on the one hand and anarchism on the other. Statists of all persuasions want the state to get involved in large areas of society and economics, through regulation, welfare, taxes, tariffs, nationalisation, etc. They feel that without such state input, chaos will ensue and people will end up destroying one another. On the other hand, anarchist perspectives argue that people have a natural tendency to voluntarily cooperate with one another to ensure our common good, and that state interference actually prevents us from doing so.
Here are the links:
Part 1: Roads unfit for people
Part 2: Roads FiT for people
Do you know it’s possible to be anti-capitalist, but also pro-market? This is definitely the direction I find myself heading in these days. Here’s some resources to give an overview:
What is Market Anarchism?
“Market anarchists believe in Market exchange, not in economic privilege. they believe in free markets, not in capitalism. What makes them anarchists is their belief in a fully free and consensual society – a society in which order is achieved not through legal force or political government, but through free agreements and voluntary cooperation on a basis of equality. What makes them market anarchists is their recognition of free market exchange as a vital medium for peacefully anarchic social order. But the markets they
envision are not like the privilege-riddled “markets” we see around us today. Markets laboring under government and capitalism are pervaded by persistent poverty, ecological destruction, radical inequalities of wealth, and concentrated power in the hands of corporations, bosses, and landlords. The consensus view is that exploitation – whether of human beings or of nature – is simply the natural result of markets left unleashed. The consensus view holds that private property, competitive pressure, and the profit motive must – whether for good or for ill – inevitably lead to capitalistic wage labor, to the concentration of wealth and social power in the hands of a select class, or to business practices based on growth at all costs and the devil take the hindmost.
Market anarchists dissent. They argue that economic privilege is a real and pervasive social problem, but that the problem is not a problem of private property, competition, or profits per se. It is not a problem of the market form but of markets deformed – deformed by the long shadow of historical injustices and the ongoing, continuous exercise of legal privilege on behalf of capital. The market anarchist tradition is radically pro-market and anticapitalist – reflecting its consistent concern with the deeply political character of corporate power, the dependence of economic elites on the tolerance or active support of the state, the permeable barriers between political and economic elites, and the cultural embeddedness of hierarchies established and maintained by state-perpetrated and state-sanctioned violence.”
From the introduction to “Markets not Capitalism” – edited by Gary Chartier and Charles W. Johnson: http://radgeek.com/gt/2011/10/Markets-Not-Capitalism-2011-Chartier-and-Johnson.pdf
Three Types of Capitalism
“Defenders of freed Markets have good reason to identify their position as a species of “anticapitalism.” To explain why, I distinguish three potential meanings of “capitalism” before suggesting that people committed to freed markets should oppose capitalism in my second and third senses...
Three Senses of “Capitalism”
There are at least three distinguishable senses of “capitalism”:
An economic system that features personal property rights and voluntary exchanges of goods and services
An economic system that features a symbiotic relationship between big business and government
Rule – of workplaces, society, and (if there is one) the state – by capitalists (that is, by a relatively small number of people who control investable wealth and the means of production)
Capitalism1 just is a freed market; so if “anticapitalism” meant opposition to captalism1, “free-market anticapitalism” would be oxymoronic. But proponents of free-market anticapitalism aren’t opposed to captalism1; instead, they object either to capitalism2 or to both capitalism2 and capitalism3“
From “Advocates of Freed Markets should oppose Capitalism” by Gary Chartier in “Markets not Capitalism” – edited by Gary Chartier and Charles W. Johnson: http://radgeek.com/gt/2011/10/Markets-Not-Capitalism-2011-Chartier-and-Johnson.pdf
“Grassroots (not statist) Panafricanism“
Before considering how pre-colonial African societies were anarchist in nature, we need a definition of this scary-sounding term “anarchism”. Colin Ward defines anarchism as “the name given to the idea that it is possible and desirable for society to organise itself without government.” [Anarchy in Action, p:19 – http://libcom.org/files/Ward_-_Anarchy_in_Action_3.pdf].
In chapter 2 of his phenomenal How Europe Undeveloped Africa (1973), Walter Rodney uses a Marxist-influenced approach to give an overview of the social-economic development of African societies prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 15th century. In doing so, he discuses the strong communal nature of African societies:
“[U]nder communalism there were no classes and there was equal access to land, and equality in distribution — at a low level of technology and production. Feudalism involved great inequality in distribution of land and social products. The landlord class and its bureaucracy controlled the state and used it as an instrument for oppressing peasants, serfs, slaves and even craftsmen and merchants. The movement from communalism to feudalism in every continent took several centuries, and in some instances the interruption of internal evolution never allowed the process to mature. In Africa, there is no doubt that the societies which eventually reached feudalism were extremely few.” [page 61 of the online version: http://abahlali.org/files/3295358-walter-rodney.pdf]
This absence of strong class antagonism prevented (or at least severely restricted) the growth of states in Africa:
“Scholars often distinguish between groups in Africa which had states and those which were ‘stateless’. Sometimes, the word stateless is carelessly or even abusively used; but it does describe those peoples who had no machinery of government coercion and no concept of a political unit wider than the family or the village. After all, if there is no class stratification in a society, it follows that there is no state, because the state arose as an instrument to be used by a particular class to control the rest of society in its own interests. Generally speaking, one can consider the stateless societies as among the older forms of socio-political organisation in Africa, while the large states represented an evolution away from communalism — sometimes to the point of feudalism.” [page 76-77 of the online version: http://abahlali.org/files/3295358-walter-rodney.pdf]
Mbah and Igariwey’s book “African Anarchism” (1997) builds on Rodney’s observations by pointing out that African societies were thus anarchistic:
“Feudalism did exist in some places, but as Rodney has demonstrated, “in Africa, there is no doubt that the societies which eventually reached feudalism were extremely few.” Consequently, some features of communalism continued to hold considerable sway in most African societies, as they do to this day under modern capitalist states. This demonstrates the ancient and tenacious roots of the communal way of life in Africa…
So the African states that we are so familiar with (and so identified with) have their roots almost entirely in European colonialism. Whether we are talking about the borders, the official languages, the political systems, the state machinery, the tax systems, the armies, the constitutions – pretty much every thing to do with African states are by-products of colonialism.
As an anarchist (i.e. someone who feels it is “possible and desirable for society to organise itself without government”), I am encouraged to know that I am merely returning to a key aspect of my recent historical legacy. This is especially so as my people, the Bagisu or Bamasaaba in Uganda, are a defiantly decentralised people with no kings, queens, or even paramount chiefs!
Sam Mbah discusses his book “African Anarchism”: