Anarchism is a political philosophy that combines a lot of doctrines and standards that reject any compulsory government and any form of ruling. This political philosophy has a rather long history. There are lot of types and kinds of anarchism with different points of view on this philosophy. Still there is no one single definite position that all the anarchists follow. The main divergence of opinion for anarchists deals with economic arrangements.
Different Schools of Anarchism
There are a lot of different schools, which have their own concepts of anarchism. The representatives of these schools often come into collision with each other, because they uphold their principles. Every school is sure that only its principles and conceptions are right and all the others just imitate anarchism. Three most famous schools of anarchism are the anarchist communism, collectivist anarchism and mutualism (Lawhead). They all reject any kind of ruling but at the same time have absolutely different points of view on the economic basement of the society.
Mutualism bases its economy on the private property without any governmental interaction. Private property creates equal competition and so stimulates both, firms and workers, to work better and so to get the higher position. Such society will be self-organized because all the people will be engaged in this competitive process. Collectivist anarchism rejects private property at all, it states that the ownership must be collectivized. The main principle of this school is the compensation for labor, such as payment, share of profits and some others. Anarchistic communism is based on the creation of communes, which are self-governed. The basis of such communes is collective ownership but without compensation for labor. The representatives of every commune have free access to the resources of the commune.
Debates between Anarchist Schools
Mutualism is considered to be founded by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Proundhon was the first person who called himself anarchist. According to him anarchy is “a form of government or constitution in which public and private consciousness, formed through the development of science and law, is alone sufficient to maintain order and guarantee all liberties…In it, more especially, the forms of monarchy and intensive centralization disappear, to be replaced by federal institutions and a pattern of life based on the commune.”(Proudhon, 1927) According to mutualists economics is based on a free association and a democratically governed bank. They state that without government control and intervention the wages will become higher and will be correspondent with the real value of labor. Without government firms would be forced to fight for their workers, while workers would be forced to compete over these firms.
The school of collectivist anarchism is associated with Mikhail Bakunin. The main conflict between mutualism and collective anarchism lies in the attitude to private property. Bakunin and his followers reject private property in all its manifestations. They insist that the ownership must be collectivized. “Workers would be compensated for their work on the basis of the amount of time they contributed to production, rather than goods being distributed “according to need” as in anarcho-communism” (Bakunin. 1991). Mutualism is in absolute opposition to collectivist anarchism and even more to anarchist communism. Although collective anarchists and anarchist communists also have a lot of contradictions, all in all their doctrines are similar and collectivist anarchists even didn’t eliminate a possibility of transformation into a communist system after the revolution despite different economic directions. Collective anarchists advocated compensation for labor.
Anarchist communists propose to create self-governing communes with only collective ownership, which are ruled by direct democracy. All these communes are united into federation on the equal rights and according to this school that is the freest form of social organization. In contrast to socialist anarchism, socialist communism rejects direct compensation for labor, such as payment, share of profits or any other kind of compensation. It proposes the members of the commune free access to all resources of this particular commune. A lot of philosophers who work in this sphere don’t agree that such system will work but the representatives of this school, Kropotkin and later Bookchin, state that people will see the profits of the communal federation and so will perform all necessary labor. Other philosophers characterize this kind of society as an utopia, but anarchist communism claim that it has only achievable goals (Lawhead).
Mutualism and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon as its main representative rejected anarchist communism in its pure from: to “communism, whether of the utopian or the Marxist variety, [the criticism being] that it destroyed freedom by taking away from the individual control over his means of production” (Proudhon, 1927).
Proudhon’s mutualism was represented in the United States in the year 1848 by Charles Dana and it was a combination of Proudhon’s theory and Greene’s version in America. To the contrast of the American individualist anarchists Proudhon proposed the creation of associations among producers. Nowadays some prominent philosophers give mutualism an intermediate position between individualism and collectivism. Greene saw mutualism as a natural synthesis of socialism, capitalism and communism. Of course, the representatives of mutualism didn’t accept this position as they were in contradiction with socialist anarchism and especially with anarchist communism. According to mutualism the main difference between these schools was in their understanding of social system. According to mutualism “under the mutual system, each individual will receive the just and exact pay for his work; services equivalent in cost being exchangeable for services equivalent in cost, without profit or discount; and so much as the individual laborer will then get over and above what he has earned will come to him as his share in the general prosperity of the community of which he is an individual member”(Greene, 1875).
The representative of anarchist communism was Joseph Déjacque. Another famous representatives of this school were Peter Kropotkin, Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, Errico Malatesta and others. Unlike Proudhon, the representative of mutualism, Joseph Déjacque stated that “it is not the product of his or her labor that the worker has a right to, but to the satisfaction of his or her needs, whatever may be their nature” (Crowder, 1991).
The debates between the representatives of these three schools – mutualism, socialist anarchism and anarchist communism lasted for a lot of years. The reason of these debates and conflicts is the fact that there is no common definition for anarchism and its principles (Lawhead). As a result every school interprets anarchism in its own way. The common principle for all schools is the rejection of compulsory government and ruling, fight for absolute freedom and equality of every individual. The main contradiction appears when schools propose their ways to reach anarchism and main principles of its existence. The strict disagreements in the economic sphere cause heated debates and opposite points of view of the representatives of different schools. Mutualism accepts private property, socialist anarchism and anarchist communism rejects it. The two last schools propose a collective society with collective ownership; socialist anarchism accepts compensation for labor, while anarchist communism rejects it at all.
However, none of these concepts can be applied for modern life. Historic examples of appliance of anarchist concepts failed to create a ruling regime (Lawhead). A lot of philosophers have analyzed anarchism. Some philosophers state that it’s a possible variant of ruling regime and the developed society is able to organize itself, while others rejects anarchism in all its forms. Only society, organized and ruled by any government, is able to guarantee basic rights and freedoms of its citizens. We live in the democratic society and so all our efforts should be aimed on the creation of democratic doctrines.
Bakunin, Mikhail. Statism and Anarchy. Cambridge University Press, 1991.
William Lawhead, The Philosophical Journey: An Interactive Approach, McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages, 2005
Crowder, George, Classical Anarchism: The Political Thought of Godwin, Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, Clarendon Press, 1991.
Greene, William B., “Communism versus Mutualism,” Socialistic, Communistic, Mutualistic and Financial Fragments. Boston: Lee & Shepard, 1875.
McLaughlin, Paul, Mikhail Bakunin: the Philosophical Basis of His Theory of Anarchism, New York: Algora Pub., 2002
Proudhon, Solution to the Social Problem, ed. H. Cohen. New York: Vanguard Press, 1927, p.45.
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