An Anarchist FAQ - Section B - Introduction

An Anarchist FAQ
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LINKPDF version of Section B.

Section B - Why do anarchists oppose the current system?

This section of the FAQ presents an analysis of the basic social relationships of modern society and the structures which create them, particularly those aspects of society that anarchists want to change.

Anarchism is, essentially, a revolt against capitalism. It was born at the same time as capitalism was born and grew in influence as capitalism colonised more and more parts of society. This does not mean that anarchistic ideas have not existed within society since before the dawn of capitalism. Far from it. Thinkers whose ideas can be classified as anarchist go back thousands of years and are found in Eastern as well as Western civilisations. It would be no exaggeration to say that anarchism was born the moment the state and private property were created.

However, anarchism as a political movement was the product of the transformation of society which accompanied the creation of the modern (nation-) state and capital. As such, the analysis and critique presented in this section of the FAQ will concentrate on modern, capitalist society.

Anarchists realise that the power of governments and other forms of hierarchy depends upon the agreement of the governed. Fear is not the whole answer, it is far more "because they [the oppressed] subscribe to the same values as their governors. Rulers and ruled alike believe in the principle of authority, of hierarchy, of power." [Colin Ward, Anarchy in Action, p. 15] With this in mind, we present in this section of the FAQ our arguments to challenge this "consensus," to present the case why we should become anarchists, why authoritarian social relationships and organisations are not in our interests.

From this discussion, it will become apparent why anarchists are dissatisfied with the very limited amount of freedom in modern mass society and why they want to create a truly free society. In the words of Noam Chomsky, the anarchist critique of modern society means:

 

"to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to challenge them; unless a justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom. That includes political power, ownership and management, relations among men and women, parents and children, our control over the fate of future generations (the basic moral imperative behind the environmental movement. . .), and much else." ["Anarchism, Marxism and Hope for the Future", Red and Black Revolution, No. 2]

In section J of the FAQ will discuss how anarchists try to encourage this process of justification, this critical evaluation of authority and domination, this undermining of what previously was considered "natural" or "common-sense" until we started to question it. Part of this process is to encourage direct action (see section J.2) by the oppressed against their oppressors as well as encouraging the anarchistic tendencies and awareness that exist (to a greater or lesser degree) in any hierarchical society.

However, this section of the FAQ is concerned directly with the critical or "negative" aspect of anarchism, the exposing of the evil inherent in all authority, be it from state, property or whatever. Later sections will indicate how, after analysing the world, anarchists plan to change it constructively, but some of the constructive core of anarchism will be seen even in this section. After this broad critique of the current system, we move onto more specific areas. Section C explains the anarchist critique of the economics of capitalism and section D discusses how the social relationships and institutions described in this section impact on society as a whole.