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Does Anarchism work?

Jim asks

Has anarchism ever worked in human history?

For an example about when anarchism has been practiced, see the answer to a different question: Where has anarchy been practiced?

But for this post, lets talk about what it means for a system to “work”. And for this I’m going to quote an essay by Deric Shannon:

“When people raise these objections, what do they mean by a “system” that “works”? Can we really say that the state and capitalism—the institutions that largely organize our economic life—“work”? Before this “crisis” even started, 80% of the world’s population lived on less than ten dollars a day (this is evidence that for most of the world, capitalism is always a crisis).1 Is that a system that “works”? We produce enough food to feed everyone in the world. Yet, one in seven people around the world go hungry.2 Is that a system that “works”? This crisis in capitalism certainly isn’t new either—indeed, capitalism is prone to periodic crises where people are thrown into the kinds of social turmoil we’re seeing the world over regularly. This crisis isn’t a new development, it’s a part of how capitalism functions. Is that a system that “works”? Is a system where some people own four summer homes, twenty cars, home theatres, have maids, cooks, and coteries while entire countries largely live in poverty a system that is “working”? Are two world wars that killed more people in them than every war ever fought in human history up to that moment combined reflective of a system that “works”? Is the commodification—the thingification—of the entire non-human world, the destruction of landbases, the regular extinction of entire species, decreasing biodiversity, global warming—all of which are part and parcel of an economic system predicated on constant growth—is this a system that “works”? Is a world where oppression is a social norm that mixes together with economic exploitation one that “works”? Just how brainwashed has the human population become that so many of us believe we need these unequal, unethical, horrific institutional arrangements in order to get by? When mass media ownership is nearly entirely concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy corporations, when capitalism’s best friend—the state—sets the curriculum standards for our compulsory education (setting the stage for the boredom and banality of a life of work for most of us) is it any wonder we’ve swallowed these lies?”

(From What Do We Mean By “Works”? Anarchist Economics and the Occupy X Movement by Deric Shannon. Source)

Human Nature

Jim asks

Doesn’t Anarchism ignore human nature?

Part of human nature is competition. But a significant part of human nature is also about cooperation. You can see both at work every day. Early humans survived only by working together. 

An Anarchist FAQ explains it well here

Safety

Jim asks

What if someone a lot bigger, and more heavily armed than you wants to beat the crap out of you? Seriously, how does that go in your system?

In anarchy, people would band together with others in their community to stop a bully. Community self defense can be very effective.  

In statist systems, no one is bigger or more heavily armed than the state. They have a monopoly on legitimate violence and they use it to set up a protection racket: If you don’t do what their violent thugs (cops) say, they have the power to beat you up with minimal consequences. And if you don’t work to make profit for the their elite or don’t pay their protection fee (taxes), their thugs (cops) will force you out of your home, beat the crap out of you if you resist, and put you in a cage (prison). The state is responsible for more violence than any individual bully (or crime syndicate) could ever dream of.