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<html>
<HEAD>

<TITLE>I.7 Won't Libertarian Socialism destroy individuality?</TITLE>
</HEAD>
<BODY>

<h1>I.7 Won't Libertarian Socialism destroy individuality?</h1>
<p>
No. Libertarian socialism only suppresses individuality for those who are 
so shallow that they can't separate their identity from what they own. 
However, be that as it may, this is an important objection to any form
of socialism and, given the example of "socialist" Russia, needs to be 
discussed more. 
<p>
The basic assumption behind this question is that capitalism encourages 
individuality, but this assumption can be faulted on many levels. As 
Kropotkin noted, <i>"individual freedom [has] remained, both in theory and 
in practice, more illusory than real"</i> [<b>Ethics</b>, p. 27] and that <i>"the want 
of development of the personality [leading to herd-psychology] and the lack 
of individual creative power and initiative are certainly one of the chief 
defects of our time."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 28] In effect, modern capitalism has
reduced individuality to a parody of what it could be (see 
<a href="secI7.html#seci74">section I.7.4</a>). 
As Alfie Kohn points out, <i>"our miserable individuality is screwed to the 
back of our cars in the form of personalised license plates."</i> Little
wonder Emma Goldman argued that:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The oft repeated slogan of our time is . . . that ours is an era of
individualism . . . Only those who do probe beneath the surface might
be led to entertain this view. Have not the few accumulated the wealth
of the world? Are they not the masters, the absolute kings of the 
situation? Their success, however, is due not to individualism, but 
the inertia, the cravenness, the utter submission of the mass. The
latter wants but to be dominated, to be led, to be coerced. As to
individualism, at no time in human history did it have less chance
of expression, less opportunity to assert itself in a normal, 
healthy manner."</i> [<b>Anarchism and Other Essays</b>, pp. 70-1]
</blockquote><p>
So we see a system which is apparently based on <i>"egoism"</i> and <i>"individualism"</i> 
but whose members are free to expand as standardised individuals, who
hardly express their individuality at all. Far from increasing individuality, 
capitalism standardises it and so restricts it -- that it survives at all
is more an expression of the strength of humanity than any benefits of
the capitalist system. This impoverishment of individuality is hardly 
surprising in a society based on hierarchical institutions which are 
designed to assure obedience and subordination. 
<p>
So, can we say that libertarian socialism will <b>increase</b> individuality or
is this conformity and lack of <i>"individualism"</i> a constant feature of the
human race? In order to make some sort of statement on this, we have to
look at non-hierarchical societies and organisations. We will discuss 
tribal cultures as an example of non-hierarchical societies 
in <a href="secI7.html#seci71">section I.7.1</a>. 
Here, however, we indicate how anarchist organisations will protect 
and increase an individual's sense of self.
<p>
Anarchist organisations and tactics are designed to promote individuality. 
They are decentralised, participatory organisations and so they give those 
involved the <i>"social space"</i> required to express themselves and develop their 
abilities and potential in ways restricted under capitalism. As Gaston Leval
notes in his book on the anarchist collectives during the Spanish Revolution,
<i>"so far as collective life is concerned, the freedom of each is the right
to participate spontaneously with one's thought, one's will, one's initiative
to the full extent of one's capacities. A negative liberty is not liberty;
it is nothingness."</i> [<b>Collectives in the Spanish Revolution</b>, p. 346]
<p>
By being able to take part in and manage the decision making processes which
directly affect you, your ability to think for yourself is increased and
so you are constantly developing your abilities and personality. The
spontaneous activity described by Leval has important psychological impacts.
As Eric Fromm notes, <i>"[i]n all spontaneous activity, the individual embraces 
the world. Not only does his [sic] individual self remain intact; it becomes 
stronger and more solidified. <b>For the self is as strong as it is active.</b>"</i> 
[<b>Escape from Freedom</b>, p. 225]
<p>
Therefore, individuality does not atrophy within an anarchist organisation
and becomes stronger as it participates and acts within the social 
organisation. In other words, individuality requires community. As Max 
Horkheimer once observed, <i>"individuality is impaired when each man decides 
to fend for himself. . . . The absolutely isolated individual has always been 
an illusion. The most esteemed personal qualities, such as independence, 
will to freedom, sympathy, and the sense of justice, are social as well as
individual virtues. The fully developed individual is the consummation of a
fully developed society."</i> [<b>The Eclipse of Reason</b>, p. 135]
<p>
The sovereign, self-sufficient individual is as much a product of a healthy
community as it is from individual self-realisation and the fulfilment of 
desire. Kropotkin, in <b>Mutual Aid</b>, documented the tendency for <b>community</b> 
to enrich and develop <b>individuality.</b> As he proved, this tendency is seen 
throughout human history, which suggests that the abstract individualism 
of capitalism is more the exception than the rule in social life. In other
words, history indicates that by working together with others as equals 
individuality is strengthen far more than in the so-called <i>"individualism"</i> 
associated with capitalism. 
<p>
This communal support for individuality is hardly surprising as 
individuality is a product of the interaction between <b>social</b> forces 
and individual attributes. The more an individual cuts themselves off 
from social life, the more likely their individuality will suffer. This 
can be seen from the 1980's when neo-liberal governments supporting the 
<i>"radical"</i> individualism associated with free market capitalism were 
elected in both Britain and the USA. The promotion of market forces 
lead to social atomisation, social disruption and a more centralised 
state. As <i>"the law of the jungle"</i> swept across society, the resulting 
disruption of social life ensured that many individuals became 
impoverished ethically and culturally as society became increasingly 
privatised.
<p>
In other words, many of the characteristics which we associate with a 
developed individuality (namely ability to think, to act, to hold ones
own opinions and standards and so forth) are (essentially) <b>social</b> skills
and are encouraged by a well developed community. Remove that social 
background and these valued aspects of individuality are undermined by
fear, lack of social interaction and atomisation. Taking the case of 
workplaces, for example, surely it is an obvious truism that a hierarchical
working environment will marginalise the individual and ensure that they 
cannot express their opinions, exercise their thinking capacities to the 
full or manage their own activity. This will have in impact in all aspects
of an individual's life.
<p>
Hierarchy in all its forms produces oppression and a crushing of 
individuality (see <a href="secB1.html">section B.1</a>). 
In such a system, the <i>"business"</i> side
of group activities would be <i>"properly carried out"</i> but at the expense
of the individuals involved. Anarchists agree with John Stuart Mill when
he asks, under such <i>"benevolent dictatorship,"</i>  <i>"what sort of human beings
can be formed under such a regimen? What development can either their 
thinking or their active faculties attain under it? . . . Their moral
capacities are equally stunted. Wherever the sphere of action of human
beings is artificially circumscribed, their sentiments are narrowed and
dwarfed."</i> [<b>Representative Government</b>, pp. 203-4] Like anarchists, Mill 
tended his critique of political associations into all forms of associations
and stated that if <i>"mankind is to continue to improve"</i> then in the end
one form of association will predominate, <i>"not that which can exist
between a capitalist as chief, and workpeople without a voice in the 
management, but the association of labourers themselves on terms of 
equality, collectively owning the capital with which they carry on 
their operations, and working under managers elected and removable 
by themselves."</i> [<b>The Principles of Political Economy</b>, p. 147]
<p>
Hence, anarchism will protect and develop individuality by creating the
means by which all individuals can participate in the decisions that affect
them, in all aspects of their lives. Anarchism is build upon the central
assertion that individuals and their institutions cannot be considered in
isolation from one another. Authoritarian organisations will create a
servile personality, one that feels safest conforming to authority and
what is considered normal. A libertarian organisation, one that is based
upon participation and self-management will encourage a strong personality,
one that knows his or her own mind, thinks for itself and feels confident in
his or her own powers. 
<p>
Therefore, as Bakunin argued, liberty <i>"is not a fact springing from
isolation but from reciprocal action, a fact not of exclusion, but,
on the contrary, of social interaction -- for freedom of every
individual is simply the reflection of his humanity or his human
right in the consciousness of all free men, his brothers, his
equals."</i> Freedom <i>"is something very positive, very complex, and
above all eminently social, since it can be realised only by 
society and only under conditions of strict equality and solidarity."</i> 
Hierarchical power, by necessity, kills individual freedom as
it is <i>"characteristic of privilege and of every privileged 
position to kill the minds and hearts of men"</i> and <i>"power and
authority corrupt those who exercise them as much as those who
are compelled to submit to them."</i> [<b>The Political Philosophy of 
Bakunin</b>, p. 266, p. 268, p. 269 and p. 249]
<p>
A libertarian re-organisation of society will be based upon, and encourage, 
a self-empowerment and self-liberation of the individual and by participation 
within self-managed organisations, individuals will educate themselves for 
the responsibilities and joys of freedom. As Carole Pateman points out, 
<i>"participation develops and fosters the very qualities necessary for it;
the more individuals participate the better able they become to do so."</i> 
[<b>Participation and Democratic Theory</b>, pp. 42-43] 
<p>
Such a re-organisation (as we will see in 
<a href="secJcon.html">section J</a>) is based upon the 
tactic of <b>direct action.</b> This tactic also encourages individuality by
encouraging the individual to fight directly, by their own self-activity,
that which they consider to be wrong. As Voltairine de Cleyre puts it:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Every person who ever thought he had a right to assert, and went boldly and
asserted it, himself, or jointly with others that shared his convictions,
was a direct actionist . . . Every person who ever had a plan to do anything, 
and went and did it, or who laid his plan before others, and won their 
co-operation to do it with him, without going to external authorities to 
please do the thing for them, was a direct actionist. All co-operative 
experiments are essentially direct action . . . [direct actions] are the 
spontaneous retorts of those who feel oppressed by a situation."</i> [<b>Direct
Action</b>]
</blockquote><p>
Therefore, anarchist tactics base themselves upon self-assertion and 
this can only develop individuality. Self-activity can only occur when 
there is a independent, free-thinking self. As self-management is based 
upon the principle of direct action (<i>"all co-operative experiments are 
essentially direct action"</i>) we can suggest that individuality will have 
little to fear from an anarchist society. Indeed, anarchists strongly
stress the importance of individuality within a society:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"[T]o destroy individuality is to destroy society. For society is only
realised and alive in the individual members. Society has no motive
that does not issue from its individual members, no end that does not
centre in them, no mind that is not there. 'Spirit of the age,' 'public
opinion,' 'commonweal or good,' and like phrases have no meaning if
they are thought of as features of something that hovers or floats 
between man and woman. They name what resides in and proceeds from
individuals. Individuality and community, therefore, are equally
constitutive of out idea of human life."</i> [J. Burns-Gibson quoted
by William R. McKercher, <b>Freedom and Authority</b>, p. 31]
</blockquote><p>
Little wonder, then, that anarchism <i>"recognises and values 
individuality which means character, conduct and the springs of
conduct, free initiative, creativeness, spontaneity, autonomy."</i> 
[J. Burns-Gibson, quoted by William R. McKercher, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 31f]
As Kropotkin put it, anarchism <i>"seeks the most complete development
of individuality combined with the highest development of 
voluntary association in all its aspects . . . ever changing,
ever modified. . ."</i> [<b>Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets</b>, 
p. 123]
<p>
For anarchists, like Mill, real liberty requires social equality. For <i>"[i]f
individuals are to exercise the maximum amount of control over their own
lives and environment then authority structures in these areas most be
so organised that they can participate in decision making."</i> [Pateman, 
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 43] Hence individuality will be protected, encouraged and 
developed in an anarchist society far more than in a class ridden, 
hierarchical society like capitalism. As Kropotkin argued:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"[Anarchist] Communism is the best basis for individual development
and freedom; not that individualism which drives men to the war
of each against all . . . but that which represents the full 
expansion of man's [and woman's] faculties, the superior development 
of what is original in him [or her], the greatest fruitfulness
of intelligence, feeling and will."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 141]
</blockquote><p>
It is because wonders are so enriching to life, and none is more wonderful 
than individuality, that anarchists oppose capitalism in the name of 
socialism -- libertarian socialism, the free association of free individuals. 
<p>
<a name="seci71"><h2>I.7.1 Do tribal cultures indicate that communalism defends individuality?</h2>
<p>
Yes. In many tribal cultures (what some people call "primitive"), we 
find a strong respect for individuals. As Paul Radin points out, 
<i>"[i]f I were to state . . . what are the outstanding features of 
aboriginal civilisation, I . . . would have no hesitation in 
answering that . . . respect for the individual, irrespective of 
age or sex"</i> is the first one. [<b>The World of Primitive Man</b>, p. 11]
<p>
Murray Bookchin comments on Radin's statement as follows, <i>"respect for 
the individual, which Radin lists first as an aboriginal attribute, 
deserves to be emphasised, today, in an era that rejects the collective 
as destructive of individuality on the one hand, and yet, in an orgy 
of pure egotism, has actually destroyed all the ego boundaries of 
free-floating, isolated, and atomised individuals on the other. A 
strong collectivity may be even more supportive of the individual 
as close studies of certain aboriginal societies reveal, than a 
'free market' society with its emphasis on an egoistic, but 
impoverished, self"</i> [<b>Remaking Society</b>, p. 48]
<p>
This individualisation associated with tribal cultures was also 
noted by Howard Zinn. He quotes Gary Nash describing Iroquois culture
(which appears typical of most Native American tribes):
<p><blockquote>
<i>"No laws and ordinances, sheriffs and constables, judges and juries, 
or courts or jails -- the apparatus of authority in European societies 
-- were to be found in the north-east woodlaands prior to European 
arrival. Yet boundaries of acceptable behaviour were firmly set. Though 
priding themselves on the autonomous individual, the Iroquois maintained 
a strict sense of right and wrong . . ."</i> [quoted by Zinn in <b>A People's 
History of the United States</b>, p. 21]
</blockquote><p>
This respect for individuality existed in a society based on communistic
principles. As Zinn notes, in the Iroquois <i>"land was owned in common
and worked in common. Hunting was done together, and the catch was
divided among the members of the village. Houses were considered 
common property and were shared by several families. The concept of
private ownership of land and homes was foreign to the Iroquois."</i> 
In this communal society women <i>"were important and respected"</i> and
families were matrilineal. Power was shared between the sexes
(unlike the European idea of male domination). Similarly, children
<i>"while taught the cultural heritage of their people and solidarity
with the tribe, were also taught to be independent, not to submit
to overbearing authority. They were taught equality of status and
the sharing of possessions."</i> [Zinn, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 20]
<p>
As Zinn stresses, Native American tribes <i>"paid careful attention to
the development of personality, intensity of will, independence and
flexibility, passion and potency, to their partnership with one
another and with nature."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, pp. 21-2]
<p>
Thus tribal societies indicate that community defends individuality,
with communal living actually encouraging a strong sense of individuality.
This is to be expected, as equality is the only condition in which
individuals can be free and so in a position to develop their 
personality to its full. Furthermore, this communal living took
place within an anarchist environment:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"The foundation principle of Indian government had always been
the rejection of government. The freedom of the individual was
regarded by practically all Indians north of Mexico as a canon
infinitely more precious than the individual's duty to his [or
her] community or nation. This anarchistic attitude ruled all
behaviour, beginning with the smallest social unity, the family.
The Indian parent was constitutionally reluctant to discipline
his [or her] children. Their every exhibition of self-will was
accepted as a favourable indication of the development of 
maturing character. . ."</i> [Van Every, quoted by Zinn, <b>Op. Cit.</b>,
p. 136]
</blockquote><p>
In addition, Native American tribes also indicate that communal living 
and high standards of living can and do go together. The Cherokees, for 
example, in the 1870s, <i>"land was held collectively and life was contented 
and prosperous"</i> with the Department of the Interior recognising that it 
was <i>"a miracle of progress, with successful production by people living
in considerable comfort, a level of education 'equal to that furnished by 
an ordinary college in the States,' flourishing industry and commerce, an
effective constitutional government, a high level of literacy, and a state
of 'civilisation and enlightenment' comparable to anything known: 'What
required five hundred years for the Britons to accomplish in this direction
they have accomplished in one hundred years,' the Department declared in
wonder."</i> [Noam Chomsky, <b>Year 501</b>, p. 231]
<p>
Senator Henry Dawes of Massachusetts visited <i>"Indian Territory"</i> in 1883 and
described what he found in glowing terms: 
<p><blockquote>
<i>"There was not a pauper in that nation, and the nation did not owe a dollar. 
It built its own capitol, in which we had this examination, and it built its 
schools and its hospitals."</i> No family lacked a home. [Cited by Chomsky, 
<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 231]
</blockquote><p>
(It must be mentioned that Dawes recommended that the society must be 
destroyed because <i>"[t]hey have got as far as they can go, because they own 
their land in common. . .there is no enterprise to make your home any better 
than that of your neighbours. There is no selfishness, which is the bottom 
of civilisation. Till this people will consent to give up their lands, and 
divide them among their citizens so that each can own the land he cultivates, 
they will not make much more progress."</i> The introduction of capitalism --
as usual by state action -- resulted in poverty and destitution, again 
showing the link between capitalism and high living standards is not clear 
cut, regardless of claims otherwise).
<p>
Undoubtedly, having access to the means of production ensured that members
of such cultures did not have to place themselves in situations which could
produce a servile character structure. As they did not have to follow the
orders of a boss they did not have to learn to obey others and so could
develop their own abilities to govern themselves. This self-government 
allowed the development of a custom in such tribes called <i>"the principle 
of non-interference"</i> in anthropology. This is the principle of defending 
someone's right to express the opposing view and it is a pervasive 
principle in the tribal world, and it is so much so as to be safely 
called a <i>"universal"</i>. 
<p>
The principle of non-interference is a powerful principle that extends 
from the personal to the political, and into every facet of daily life. 
Most modern people are aghast when they realise the extent to which it is 
practised, but it has proven itself to be an integral part of living 
anarchy (as many of these communities can be termed, although they would
be considered imperfect anarchist societies in some ways). It means that 
people simply do not limit the activities of others, period. This in effect 
makes absolute tolerance a custom, or as the modern would say, a law. But 
the difference between law and custom is important to point out. Law is 
dead, and Custom lives (see 
<a href="secI7.html#seci73">section I.7.3</a>).
<p>
As modern people we have so much baggage that relates to <i>"interfering"</i> with
the lives of others that merely visualising the situation that would
eliminate this daily pastime for many is impossible. But think about it.
First of all, in a society where people do not interfere with each other's
behaviour, people tend to feel trusted and empowered by this simple social
fact. Their self-esteem is already higher because they are trusted with
the responsibility for making learned and aware choices. This is not
fiction; individual responsibility is a key aspect of social responsibility.
<p>
Therefore, given the strength of individuality documented in tribes with
little or no hierarchical structures within them, can we not conclude that
anarchism will defend individuality and even develop it in ways blocked
by capitalism? At the very least we can say <i>"possibly,"</i> and that is enough 
to allow us to question that dogma that capitalism is the only system based 
on respect for the individual. 
<p>
<a name="seci72"><h2>I.7.2 Is this not worshipping the past or the <i>"noble savage"</i>?</h2>
<p>
No. However, this is a common attack on socialists by supporters of 
capitalism and on anarchists by Marxists. Both claim that anarchism is
<i>"backward looking"</i>, opposed to <i>"progress"</i> and desire a society based on
inappropriate ideas of freedom. In particular, ideological capitalists
maintain that all forms of socialism base themselves on the ideal of the
<i>"noble savage"</i> and ignore the need for laws and other authoritarian social
institutions to keep people <i>"in check"</i> (see, for example, free market
capitalist guru Frederick von Hayek's work, particularly his <b>Fatal
Conceit: The Errors of Socialism</b>).
<p>
Anarchists are well aware of the limitations of the <i>"primitive communist"</i> 
societies they have used as example of anarchistic tendencies within 
history or society. They are also aware of the problems associated with
using <b>any</b> historical period as an example of <i>"anarchism in action."</i> 
Take for example the <i>"free cities"</i> of Medieval Europe, which was used by 
Kropotkin as an example of the potential of decentralised, confederated
communes. He was sometimes accused of being a <i>"Medievalist"</i> (as was
William Morris) while all he was doing was indicating that capitalism
need not equal progress and that alternative social systems have existed
which have encouraged freedom in ways capitalism restricts.
<p>
In a similar way, Marxists often accuse Proudhon of being <i>"petty-bourgeois"</i> 
and looking backward to a pre-industrial society of artisans and peasants.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Proudhon came from a
area of French which, like many other parts of that country at the time,
was essentially pre-industrial and based on peasant and artisan production.
He therefore based his socialist ideas on the needs of working people as
they required them at the time. Unlike Marx, who argued that industrialisation
(i.e. proletarianisation) was the pre-conditions of socialism, Proudhon
wanted justice and freedom for working people in the here and now, not
some (unspecified) time in the future after capitalism had fully developed.
He was <i>"petit-bourgeois"</i> only in so far as the French working class at 
the time was <i>"petit-bourgeois"</i> and was <i>"proletarian"</i> in so far as his 
fellow working people were.
<p>
When Proudhon did look at large-scale production (such as railways, 
factories and so on) he proposed co-operative associations to run them. 
These associations would maintain the dignity of the worker by maintaining 
the essential feature of artisan and peasant live, namely the control of 
the work and product by the labourer. Thus he used the experience of the 
past (artisan production) to inform his analysis of current events 
(industrialisation) to create a solution to the social problem which
built upon and extended a freedom crushed by capitalism (namely workers'
self-management in production). Rather than being backward looking and
worshipping a past which was disappearing, Proudhon analysed the present
<b>and</b> past, drew any positive features he could from both and applied 
them to the present and the future (see also 
<a href="secH2.html#sech21">section H.2.1</a>).
<p>
Again it is hardly surprising to find that many supporters of capitalism 
ignore the insights that can be gained by studying tribal cultures
and the questions they raise about capitalism and freedom. Instead, they 
duck the issues raised by these insights and accuse socialists of idealising 
<i>"the noble savage."</i> As indicated, nothing could be further from the truth.
Indeed, this claim has been directed towards Rousseau (often considered
the father of socialist and anarchist <i>"idealisation"</i> of the <i>"noble
savage"</i>) even though Rousseau expressly rejected any <i>"return to nature."</i> 
He stated that <i>"must societies be totally abolished? Must <b>meum</b> and 
<b>tuum</b> be annihilated, and must we return again to the forests to
live among bears? This is a deduction in the manner of my adversaries, 
which I would as soon anticipate as let them have the shame of drawing."</i> 
[<b>The Social Contract and Discourses</b>, p. 112] Sadly, Rousseau failed to 
understand that his adversaries, both then and now, seem to know no shame
(similarly, Rousseau is often thought of idealising <i>"natural man"</i> but
actually wrote that <i>"men in a state of nature, having no moral relations 
or determinate obligations one with another, could not be either good or
bad, virtuous or vicious"</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 64]). This also seems to be the 
case when anarchists look through history, draw libertarian currents from 
it and are denounced as backward looking utopians.
<p>
What libertarians socialists point out from this analysis of history 
is that the atomised individual associated with capitalist society is 
not <i>"natural"</i> and that capitalist social relationships help to weaken 
individuality. All the many attacks on libertarian socialist analysis 
of past societies is a product of capitalists attempts to deny history 
and state that <i>"Progress"</i> reaches its final resting place in capitalism.
As David Watson argues:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"When we consider people living under some of the harshest, most
commanding conditions on earth, who can nevertheless do what they
like when the notion occurs to them, we should be able to witness
the contemporary doubt about civilisation's superiority without
growing indignant. Primitivism, after all, reflects not only a
glimpse of life before the rise of the state, but also a legitimate
response to real conditions of life under civilisation . . . Most
people do not live in aboriginal societies, and most tribal peoples
themselves now face wholly new contexts which will have to be
confronted in new ways if they are to survive as peoples. But 
their lifeways, their histories, remind us that <b>other modes of
being are possible.</b> Reaffirmation of our primal past offers insight
into our history -- not the only possible insight, to be sure, but
one important, legitimate entry point for a reasoned discussion
about (and an impassioned reaction to) this world we must leave
behind."</i> [<b>Beyond Bookchin</b>, p. 240]
</blockquote><p>
This essential investigation of history and modern society to see 
what other ways of living have and do exist is essential. It is
too easy to forget that what exists under modern capitalism has
not always existed (as neo-classical economics does, to a large
degree). It is also useful to remember what many people now
consider as <i>"normal"</i> was not always the case. As we 
discussed in 
<a href="secF8.html#secf86">section F.8.6</a>, 
the first generation of industrial wage
slaves <b>hated</b> the system, considering it both tyranny and
unnatural. Studying history, previous cultures and the process
of hierarchical society and the oppressed resistance to it can
enrich our analysis and activity in the here and now and help
us to envision an anarchist society, the problems it could
face and possible solutions to them.
<p>
If the challenge for anarchists is to smash power-relations and
domination, it would make sense to get to the root of the problem.
Hierarchy, slavery, coercion, patriarchy, and so on far outdate 
capitalism and it is hardly enough to just analyse the economic
system of capitalism, which is merely the current and most 
insidious form of hierarchical civilisation. Similarly, without 
looking to cultures and communities that functioned quite well
before the rise of the state, hierarchies and classes, anarchists
do not really have much solid ground to prove to people that 
anarchy is desirable or possible. For this reason, historical
analysis and the celebration of the positive aspects of tribal 
and other societies is essential.
<p>
Moreover, as George Orwell points out, attacks that reject this critical
analysis as worshipping the <i>"noble savage"</i> miss the point:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"In the first place he [the defender of modern life] will tell you that 
it is impossible to 'go back' . . . and will then accuse you of being a 
medievalist and begin to descant upon the horrors of the Middle Ages . . . 
As a matter of fact, most attacks upon the Middle Ages and the past 
generally by apologists of modernity are beside the point, because their 
essential trick is to project a modern man, with his squeamishness and his 
high standard of comfort, into an age when such things were unheard of. But 
notice that in any case this is not an answer. For dislike of the mechanised 
future does not imply the smallest reverence for any period of the past . . . 
When one pictures it merely as an objective; there is no need to pretend 
that it has ever existed in space and time."</i> [<b>The Road to Wigan Pier</b>, 
p. 183]
</blockquote><p>
We should also note that such attacks on anarchist investigations of past
cultures assumes that these cultures have <b>no</b> good aspects at all and so
indicates a sort of intellectual <i>"all or nothing"</i> approach to modern life.
The idea that past (and current) civilisations may have got <b>some</b> things 
right and others wrong and should be investigated is rejected for a
totally uncritical <i>"love it or leave"</i> approach to modern society. Of course, 
the well known <i>"free market"</i> capitalist love of 19th century capitalist 
life and values warrants no such claims of <i>"past worship"</i> by the supporters 
of the system.
<p>
Therefore attacks on anarchists as supporters of the <i>"noble savage"</i> ideal
indicate more about the opponents of anarchism and their fear of looking 
at the implications of the system they support than about anarchist theory.
<p>
<a name="seci73"><h2>I.7.3 Is the law required to protect individual rights?</h2>
<p>
No, far from it. While it is obvious that, as Kropotkin put it, <i>"[n]o
society is possible without certain principles of morality generally
recognised. If everyone grew accustomed to deceiving his fellow-men; 
if we never could rely on each other's promise and words; if everyone
treated his fellow as an enemy, against whom every means of warfare 
is justified -- no society could exist."</i> [<b>Kropotkin's Revolutionary 
Pamphlets</b>, p. 73] this does not mean that a legal system (with its 
resultant bureaucracy, vested interests and inhumanity) is the best 
way to protect individual rights within a society. 
<p>
What anarchists propose instead of the current legal system (or an 
alternative law system based on religious or <i>"natural"</i> laws) is <b>custom</b> 
- namely the development of living <i>"ruless of thumb"</i> which express what 
a society considers as right at any given moment.
<p>
However, the question arises, if a fixed set of principles are used to 
determine the just outcome, in what way would this differ from laws?
<p>
The difference is that the <i>"order of custom"</i> would prevail rather than 
the <i>"rule of law"</i>. <b>Custom</b> is a body of living institutions that enjoys 
the support of the body politic, whereas <b>law</b> is a codified (read dead) 
body of institutions that separates social control from moral force. 
This, as anyone observing modern Western society can testify, alienates
everyone. A <b>just outcome</b> is the predictable, but not necessarily the
inevitable outcome of interpersonal conflict because in a traditional
anarchistic society people are trusted to do it themselves. Anarchists 
think people have to grow up in a social environment free from the 
confusions generated by a fundamental discrepancy between morality, and 
social control, to fully appreciate the implications. However, the essential 
ingredient is the investment of trust, by the community, in people to come 
up with <b>functional solutions</b> to interpersonal conflict. This stands in 
sharp contrast with the present situation of people being infantilised by 
the state through a constant bombardment of fixed social structures removing
all possibility of people developing their own unique solutions.
<p>
Therefore, anarchist recognise that social custom changes with society. 
What was once considered <i>"normal"</i> or <i>"natural"</i> may become to be seen as 
oppressive and hateful. This is because the <i>"conception of good or evil 
varies according to the degree of intelligence or of knowledge acquired. 
There is nothing unchangeable about it."</i> [Kropotkin, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 92] 
Only by removing the dead hand of the past can society's ethical base 
develop and grow with the individuals that make it up (see 
<a href="secA2.html#seca219">section A.2.19</a> 
for a discussion of anarchist ethics).
<p>
We should also like to point out here that laws (or <i>"The Law"</i>) also restrict 
the development of an individual's sense of ethics or morality. This is 
because it relieves them of the responsibility of determining if something 
is right or wrong. All they need to know is whether it is legal. The morality 
of the action is irrelevant. This <i>"nationalisation"</i> of ethics is very
handy for the would be capitalist, governor or other exploiter. In addition,
capitalism also restricts the development of an individual's ethics because
it creates the environment where these ethics can be bought. To quote
Shakespeare's <b>Richard III</b>:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Second Murderer: Some certain dregs of conscience are yet within me.
<p>
First Murderer  : Remember our reward, when the deed's done.
<p>
Second Murderer : Zounds! He dies. I had forgot the reward.
<p>
First Murderer  : Where's thy conscience now?
<p>
Second Murderer : O, in the Duke of Gloucester's purse."</i> 
</blockquote><p>
Therefore, as far as <i>"The Law"</i> defending individual rights, it creates the
necessary conditions (such as the de-personalisation of ethics, the existence
of concentrations wealth, and so on) for undermining individual ethical 
behaviour, and so respect for other individual's rights. As English 
libertarian socialist Edward Carpenter put it, <i>"I think we may fairly 
make the following general statement, viz., that legal ownership is
essentially a negative and anti-social thing, and that unless qualified
or antidoted by human relationship, it is pretty certain to be positively
<b>harmful.</b> In fact, when a man's chief plea is 'The law allows it,' 
you may be pretty sure he is up to some mischief!"</i> [quoted by William
R. McKercher, <b>Freedom and Authority</b>, p. 48] 
<p>
The state forces an individual a relationship with a governing body.
This means <i>"taking away from the individual his [or her] direct interest 
in life and in his surroundings . . . blunting his [or her] moral sense 
. . . teaching that he [or she] must never reply on himself [or herself]
. . . [but] upon a small part of men who are elected to do everything . . . 
[which] destroys to a large extent his [or her] perception of right and 
wrong."</i> [J. B. Smith, quoted by McKercher, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 67f]
<p>
Individual rights, for anarchists, are best protected in a social environment 
based on the self-respect and sympathy. Custom, because it is based on the 
outcome of numerous individual actions and thought does not have this problem 
and reflects (and encourages the development of) individual ethical standards 
and so a generalised respect for others. Thus, <i>"under anarchism all rules
and laws will be little more than suggestions for the guidance of juries
which will judge not only the facts but the law, the justice of the law,
its applicability to the given circumstances, and the penalty or damage
to be inflicted because if its infraction . . . under Anarchism the law
will be so flexible that it will shape itself to every emergency and
need no alteration. And it will be regarded as <b>just</b> in proportion to
its flexibility, instead of as now in proportion to its rigidity."</i> 
[Benjamin Tucker, <b>The Individualist Anarchists</b>, pp. 160-1] Tucker,
like other individualist Anarchists, believed that the role of juries
had been very substantial in the English common-law tradition and that
they had been gradually emasculated by the state. This system of juries,
based on common-law/custom could be the means of ensuring justice in a
free society.
<p>
Tolerance of other individuals depends far more on the attitudes of the
society in question that on its system of laws. In other words, even if
the law does respect individual rights, if others in society disapprove 
of an action then they can and will act to stop it (or restrict individual
rights). All that the law can do is try to prevent this occurring. Needless
to say, governments can (and have) been at the forefront of ignoring 
individual rights when its suits them. 
<p>
In addition, the state perverts social customs for its own, and the 
interests of the economically and socially powerful. As Kropotkin argued, 
<i>"as society became more and more divided into two hostile classes, one
seeking to establish its domination, the other struggling to escape,
the strife began. Now the conqueror was in a hurry to secure the results
of his actions in a permanent form, he tried to place them beyond 
question, to make them holy and venerable by every means in his power.
Law made its appearance under the sanction of the priest, and the 
warriors club was placed at its service. Its office was to render 
immutable such customs as were to the advantage of the dominant
minority . . . If law, however, presented nothing but a collection
of prescriptions serviceable to rulers, it would find some difficulty
in insuring acceptance and obedience. Well, the legislators confounded
in one code the two currents of custom . . . , the maxims which 
represent principles of morality and social union wrought out as a
result of life in common, and the mandates which are meant to ensure
external existence to inequality. Customs, absolutely essential
to the very being of society, are, in the code, cleverly intermingled
with usages imposed by the ruling caste, and both claim equal respect
from the crowd. . . . Such was the law; and it has maintained its
two-fold character to this day."</i> [<b>Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets</b>,
p. 205] In other words, <i>"[t]he law has used Man's social feelings to get 
passed not only moral precepts which were acceptable to Man, but also 
orders which were useful only to the minority of exploiters against whom 
he would have rebelled."</i> [Krotpotkin quoted by Malatesta in <b>Anarchy</b>, 
pp. 21-22]
<p>
Therefore anarchists argue that state institutions are not only unneeded
to create a ethical society (i.e. one based on respecting individuality)
but activity undermines such a society. That the economically and politically
powerful state that a state is a necessary condition for a free society and
individual space is hardly surprising. Malatesta put it as follows:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"A government cannot maintain itself for long without hiding its true nature
behind a pretence of general usefulness . . . it cannot impose acceptances
of the privileges of the few if it does not pretend to be the guardian of
the rights of all."</i> [<b>Anarchy</b>, p. 21]
</blockquote><p>
Therefore, its important to remember why the state exists and so whatever
actions and rights it promotes for the individual it exists to protect the
powerful against the powerless. Any human rights recognised by the state 
are a product of social struggle and exist because of pass victories in 
the class war and not due to the kindness of ruling elites. In addition,
capitalism itself undermines the ethical foundations of any society by
encouraging people to grow <i>"accustomed to deceiving his fellow-men"</i> and
women and treating <i>"his fellow as an [economic] enemy, against whom every 
means of warfare is justified."</i> Hence capitalism undermines the basic 
social context within which individuals develop and need to become fully
human and free. Little wonder that a strong state has always been required
to introduce a free market - firstly, to protect wealth from the increasingly
dispossessed and secondly, to try to hold society together as capitalism
destroys the social fabric which makes a society worth living in.
<p>
<a name="seci74"><h2>I.7.4 Does capitalism protect individuality?</h2>
<p>
Given that many people claim that <b>any</b> form of socialism will destroy
liberty (and so individuality) it is worthwhile to consider whether 
capitalism actually does protect individuality. As noted briefly in
<a href="secI7.html">section I.7</a> 
the answer must be no. Capitalism seems to help create a
standardisation which helps to distort individuality and the fact that
individuality does exist under capitalism says more about the human 
spirit than capitalist social relationships.
<p>
So, why does a system apparently based on the idea of individual profit
result in such a deadening of the individual? There are four main reasons:
<p><blockquote>
1) capitalism produces a hierarchical system which crushes self-government 
in many areas of life;
<p>
2) there is the lack of community which does not provide the necessary 
supports for the encouragement of individuality; 
<p>
3) there is the psychological impact of <i>"individual profit"</i> when it becomes 
identified purely with monetary gain (as in capitalism); 
<p>
4) the effects of competition in creating conformity and mindless obedience 
to authority.
</blockquote><p>
We have discussed point one on many occasions (see sections 
<a href="secB1.html">B.1</a> and <a href="secB4.html">B.4</a>). 
As Emma Goldman put it, under capitalism, the individual <i>"must sell
his [or her] labour"</i> and so their <i>"inclination and judgement are
subordinated to the will of a master."</i> This, naturally, represses 
individual initiative and the skills needed to know and express ones 
own mind (as she put it, this <i>"condemns millions of people to be
mere nonentities, living corpses without originality or power of
initiative . . . who pile up mountains of wealth for others and
pay for it with a grey, dull and wretched existence for themselves"</i>). 
<i>"There can be no freedom in the large sense of the word,"</i> Goldman 
stressed, <i>"so long as mercenary and commercial considerations
play an important part in the determination of personal conduct."</i> 
[<b>Red Emma Speaks</b>, p. 36]
<p>
Given the social relationships it is based on, capitalism cannot 
foster individuality but only harm it. As Kropotkin argued,
<i>"obedience towards individuals or metaphysical entities . . .
lead to depression of initiative and servility of mind."</i> 
[<b>Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets</b>, p. 285]
<p>
As far as point two goes, we have discussed it already in this
section and will not repeat ourselves (see sections 
<a href="secI7.html">I.7</a> and 
<a href="secI7.html#seci71">I.7.1</a>).
<p>
The last two points are worth discussing more thoroughly, and we will do
so here.
<p>
Taking the third point first, when this kind of "greed" becomes the guiding 
aspect of an individual's life (and the society they live in) they usually 
end up sacrificing their own ego to it. Instead of the individual dominating 
their "greed," "greed" dominates them and so they end up being possessed by 
one aspect of themselves. This <i>"selfishness"</i> hides the poverty of 
the ego who practices it. 
<p>
As Erich Fromm argues:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Selfishness if not identical with self-love but with its very opposite.
Selfishness is one kind of greediness. Like all greediness, it contains
an insatiability, as a consequence of which there is never any real
satisfaction. Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an
endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction. . .
this type of person is basically not fond of himself, but deeply dislikes
himself.
<p>
"The puzzle in this seeming contradiction is easy to solve. Selfishness
is rooted in this very lack of fondness for oneself. . . He does not 
have the inner security which can exist only on the basis of genuine 
fondness and affirmation."</i> [<b>The Fear of Freedom</b>, pp. 99-100]
</blockquote><p>
In other words, the <i>"selfish"</i> person allows their greed to dominate their
ego and they sacrifice their personality feeding this new <i>"God."</i> This
was clearly seen by Max Stirner who denounced this as a <i>"one-sided, unopened, 
narrow egoism"</i> which leads the ego being <i>"ruled by a passion to which he 
brings the rest as sacrifices"</i> (see 
<a href="secG6.html">section G.6</a>). Like all <i>"spooks,"</i> 
capitalism results in the self-negation of the individual and so the
impoverishment of individuality. Little wonder, then, that a system 
apparently based upon <i>"egoism"</i> and <i>"individualism"</i> ends up weakening 
individuality.
<p>
The effects of competition on individuality are equally as destructive.
<p>
Indeed, a <i>"culture dedicated to creating standardised, specialised, 
predictable human components could find no better way of grinding them
out than by making every possible aspect of life a matter of competition.
'Winning out' in this respect does not make rugged individualists. It
shapes conformist robots."</i> [George Leonard, quoted by Alfie Kohn,
<b>No Contest: The Case Against Competition</b>, p. 129]
<p>
Why is this?
<p>
Competition is based upon outdoing others and this can only occur if you
are doing the same thing they are. However, individuality is the most
unique thing there is and <i>"unique characteristics by definition cannot
be ranked and participating in the process of ranking demands essential
conformity."</i> [Alfie Kohn, <b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 130] According to Kohn in his 
extensive research into the effects of competition, the evidence 
suggests that it in fact <i>"encourages rank conformity"</i> as well as 
undermining the <i>"substantial and authentic kind of individualism"</i> 
associated by such free thinkers as Thoreau. [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 129] 
<p>
As well as impoverishing individuality by encouraging conformity, 
competition also makes us less free thinking and rebellious:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Attitude towards authorities and general conduct do count in the kinds of 
competitions that take place in the office or classroom. If I want to get 
the highest grades in class, I will not be likely to challenge the teacher's 
version of whatever topic is being covered. After a while, I may cease to
think critically altogether. . . If people tend to 'go along to get along,'
there is even more incentive to go along when the goal is to be number one.
In the office or factory where co-workers are rivals, beating out the next
person for a promotion means pleasing the boss. Competition acts to 
extinguish the Promethean fire of rebellion."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 130]
</blockquote><p>
In section I.4.11 (
<a href="secI4.html#seci411"><i>"If libertarian socialism eliminates 
the profit motive, won't creativity suffer?"</i></a>) we noted that when 
an artistic task is turned 
into a contest, children's work reveal significantly less spontaneity 
and creativity. In other words, competition reduces creativity and so 
individuality because creativity is <i>"anti-conformist at its core: it is
nothing if not a process of idiosyncratic thinking and risk-taking.
Competition inhibits this process."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 130] 
<p>
Competition, therefore, will result in a narrowing of our lives, a failing
to experience new challenges in favour of trying to win and be <i>"successful."</i> 
It turns <i>"life into a series of contests [and] turns us into cautious,
obedient people. We do not sparkle as individuals <b>or</b> embrace collective
action when we are in a race."</i> [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 131] 
<p>
So, far from defending individuality, capitalism places a lot of barriers
(both physical and mental) in the path of individuals who are trying to
express their freedom. Anarchism exists precisely because capitalism has
not created the free society it supporters claimed it would during its
struggle against the absolutist state.
<p>
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