Thursday, December 15, 2011

Anarchy, ἀναρχίᾱ, anarchíā

Initially Anarchy [1] was used to denote a society ruled by none or, to the Greeks, equivalent to the way we now use Democracy [2]. The etymology of Anarchy is similar to Monarchy [3] or Oligarchy [4] however not to ‘Democracy’ or ‘Republic’ which do not share a root word or even, in the case of Republic, a root language. Anarchy does not refer to a structure of government necessarily but a structure of authority and this subtlety is so lost in current use that Isocracy [5] has, in some sense, usurped the original use of Anarchy. Kratos, however, is power, might, or strength which (in some contexts) implies “deeds of violence” or “power over” [6] - In short, authority. This context of authority is what Democracy, and even Isocracy, calls to which Anarchists resist. Archia rooted words speak only of governance, not means.
To be an Anarchist is to be, despite all other differences with those so labeled, an individual who resists the social urge to abdicate their power over their own actions, and sometimes even thoughts, to an authority. This is the essence of The Anarchist which is buried under the negative connotations of lawlessness that are heaped upon those who identify and are identified as such. While certainly some who self identify as Anarchist do wish for Anarchy in the current sense of chaos, the concept should not be viewed as such but with more sincere academic depth. The Anarchist, in the sense so defined and as a person, is one who keeps their power over their own actions and decisions and thus the responsibility for those actions and decisions. The relationship between power, authority, and responsibility is core to the concept of the Anarchist.
To be responsible, by simple dictionary definition, is to be “answerable or accountable, as for something within one’s power, control, or management.” [7] An Anarchist, as one who refuses to relinquish power in an institutionalized manner (to include the public opinion which validates control in Democracy), is thus accountable for all their actions. This accountability is what spurs the abdication of one’s innate power over their own actions (as the being which initiates action) to a governing source for a variety of potentially justifiable reasons. That which does not have power is not accountable and both Monarchy (which often takes authority through violence) and Oligarchy (such as a Republic or Democracy) institutionalize the relinquishment of autonomy to establish governmental authority so that individuals become accountable for less, the specific interplay Anarchy resists. This does not eliminate the possibility of Anarchist governance entirely.
The Anarchist State would lack the authority characteristic of other governments. Individual autonomy would have to be maximized - that is to say, freedom would have to be maximized. All governmental authority is taken from personal responsibility and responsibility is conditional upon control. This exchange, the forgoing of autonomy for safety from responsibility, is the essence of governmental control. While it appears as though Anarchist law (and so government) would be severely limited in scope, there is the possibility of governance and a condition many Individualists claim would be highly valuable. The maxim of Anarchist law would be Mutual Aid, initially defined by Peter Kropotkin, that we as individuals assist each other so that we may be assisted. Mutual Aid allows self defense, to assist another to the point of harming yourself would not be Mutual Aid but Parasitic Aid. Law would codify this maxim of interaction with staples such as prohibitions against violence and even property damage or, as Kopotkin would identify more generally, coercion.
While Mutual Aid, prohibitions against coercion, and self defense form a solid conceptual basis, the essence of an Anarchist government is freedom. “Exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.”[8], except in the case of law used to codify self defense and prevent coercion, is as accurate a definition of Anarchy as it is freedom. Freedom does not call for anyone to relinquish their judgment to create governmental authority so they may avoid responsibility; on the contrary, those who love freedom have fought Monarchies and Oligarchies throughout history in order to reclaim their autonomy and responsibility. Every law leveraged upon the individual that does not prevent the infliction of violence (physical or coercive) upon another steals from those subjected to it some of their power, their autonomy, their freedom.

[1] - [6] Dr. Palmquist, Steven. “A Philosophical Framework for Political Systems.” Hong Kong Baptist University, 14 May 2010. Web. 13 Dec. 2011
[1] An (Greek prefix ἀν, an) - The negative prefix in Greek, used to note a lack of the root. Archíā (Greek verb ἄρχω, archo) - To rule, to govern, to command. Àrchon (Greek noun ἄρχωv, àrchon) leader, ruler, chief.
[2] Democracy, δημοκρατία, dēmokratía - “Power of the people.”
[3] Mono (Greek prefix mònos, μόνος) One, singular
[4] Oligo (Greek prefix ὀλίγος, olígos) - A few.
[5] Isocracy, ἴσοςκρατεῖν - To have equal power.
[6] Palmquist’s sixth footnote deals with this subtlety of Greek language.
[7] “Responsible.” The Random House Dictionary. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.
[8] “Freedom.” The Random House Dictionary. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.

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