Thoughts on Anarchism

13 June 2008

In the last year, I have become increasingly interested in the idea of anarchism.  Probably longer than that, I have identified, more or less consciously, with anarchistic ideas.

Part of the problem with Anarchy, and with identification as an anarchist, is the ubiquitous misunderstanding of it.  As most of my readers know, anarchism is essentially a critique of statism, the submission by individuals and groups to a corporate state.  Typically, anarchists are also on the left-side of the critique, while libertarians are on the right-side; some identify as anarcho-capitalists, but how they relate to libertarians is complicated and unclear, at least to me.

I bring this up because I feel as if part of the resistance to anarchism and anarchist ideas lies in the perceived impossibility of anarchism, or at least its incredible implausibility.

Anarchism is not just a political movement, but a social and commercial one.  While it is practically impossible to live within a political or civil anarchy in most of the United States right now, anarchism is possible in other ways.

This is the real genesis of this post.  One of anarchism’s most fundamental principles is the freedom from coercion.  No one should be coerced.  All submission should be free.

Political coercion tends to be overt, but we are fairly rarely so coerced.  Social and commercial coercion tends to be much subtler and more frequent.  One excellent example of that coercion is the software we use.  Our reliance on Microsoft via our use of Internet Explorer and MS Office.  Most folks feel they have no other viable choice; these kinds of platforms are necessary evils.  We might not want to support lack of choice, but when there are no other choices, what is one to do?

In an effort to not support corporations and support community-based, anarchistic solutions, I switched to Mozilla Firefox.  Easy right?  Most of our Internet use is straightforward enough that switching to some weirdo, open-source program is not a big deal.  Things seem to get dicier when one wants to step away from something like Office, Word, or Excel, wchi seemingly everyone uses.

In the last year, I began using OpenOffice.org, for my wordprocessing/spreadsheet needs.  I anticipated that a certain level of hassle would be associated with the switch; sharing files, printing from computers not my own, and using old MSWord files could all present their own particular headaches.

But they didn’t.  The one hitch was this: I am unable to install software on the the computer I typically use at school, but as soon as the system administrator installed openoffice.org —voila!— that difficulty ws solved.  My new Mac doesn’t even have MS Word or Office on it.  So far so good.  I can even make .pdfs without a pirated or exorbitantly priced Adobe Acrobat.

Now, with my new computer, I have taken the first steps toward installing xubuntu; I am not comfortable with uninstalling Mac OS X (I am not enough of a techno-weenie [I use the term with love] to do it anyway), but I am going to give running xubuntu and the Mac OS side-by-side.  I have not run it yet, but I would like to try computing without relying on corporate software.

The little decisions we make —the decision to support or not support corporations— matter.  And sometimes, while such a decision may seem scary, we can usually survive.  So far, my computing decisions have resulted in no headaches or problems.

Most people would be really scared of using something other than the big, monolithic programs they know; how are you going to support your own corner of anarchy?

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One Response to “Thoughts on Anarchism”

  1. Chris H. Says:

    I’m not sure if this counts as anarchy, but Kasey and I plan to limit our shoping at grocery stores to a bare minumum once we move. Not only are we going to have a home garden for everyday usage like tomatoes and lettuce, but in the Grayslake community garden I plan on running experiments. And we are inheriting a bread machine to make our own daily bread. And with all the hopeful canning and freezing from the garden we’d like to only have to hit the grocery store for fish and chicken and oatmeal and the fruits that take up too much space to grow. And there is always the farmer’s market for a lot of that.

    Anarchy? Probably not. But trying to divorce ourselves from one part of the market might be considered as somewhat anarchic.

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