Today I received a message through the Contact Page which said simply,
“Anarchy is, by definition, the absence of hierarchy; Capitalism extols hierarchy, so the wedding of the two is nonsensical.”
People send me drivel like this fairly regularly, but there’s been a spike in the last few weeks, so I think it’s time to dispel some rumors about Daily Anarchist, and anarchy generally.
Daily Anarchist publishes more than anarcho-capitalist articles. The founder, Seth King identifies as an anarcho-capitalist, and credit to him for the forethought to homestead the url, and put it to productive use. At my core, I identify as an anarcho-kritarchist, a term so obscure I should probably commit an entire article to it. I discussed it briefly in, “The Law According To The Somalis.” I remain mindful that terms like “socialism” and “capitalism” mean different things to different people, and I strive to get to the root of what a person means, rather than getting caught up on the terms they chose to use.
As the editor, I aim to balance the scales by scouting writers from every artery and capillary of anarchist thought. It just so happens that, for reasons I don’t fully understand, I have great difficulty finding competent writers that cover the left anarchist perspective. But we have a few. Gyorgy Furiosa and Austin Scott come to mind.
I actually give preferential treatment to left anarchists. Every time I receive these complaints I invite the person to review our submissions guidelines and contribute an entire article, or several, more fully expressing their objections to anarcho-capitalism. The vast majority never respond to the invitation, and if they do I devote far more time and energy to their submissions than others. The trouble seems to be that Daily Anarchist maintains a high editorial standard. I will not publish something as simplistic as “Anarchy is X” without some exposition. Whether or not I agree doesn’t matter. I frequently publish things I find wrongheaded and foolish. I don’t use the editorial process to censor, but to ensure that complex ideas remain comprehensible to those who do not share the writer’s bias or background knowledge. We respect the intelligence or our readers too much to feed them commonly parroted rhetoric.
“Anarchy is, by definition, the absence of hierarchy” resembles sentiments often spoken by anarchists that I find wrongheaded and foolish, but frequently publish. The statement contains two appeals to hierarchy; “by definition” and “anarchy is.”
To assert, without qualifier, what anarchy is gives what is dominance over what is not. It requires a hierarchy of value to assert that the true should dominate the false, and that the true speaker has the authority to correct the false listener. Is, and all forms of the verb be, produce potential confusion. As anarchist thinker Robert Anton Wilson put it:
“Is, is, is. The idiocy of the word haunts me. If it were abolished, human thought might begin to make sense. I don’t know what anything is; I only know how it seems to me at this moment.”
For more on why, and how is can be avoided, read up on the language English-Prime, which increases scientific accuracy by excluding all forms of is.
By definition, anarchy is chaos and disorder. By other definitions, anarchy is the absence of government. Definition cannot even occur without hierarchy. Which definition has authority, and who has the authority to define? Does etymology dominate usage, or does usage dominate etymology? It has always seemed like hubris to me when left anarchists act like they own the word “anarchy,” and have the exclusive authority to define it. They imagine that a self-referential network of websites and publications allows them to legislate dissenting opinion out of the conversation, as if anarchy has some central depository of official definitions that has deputized them as enforcers. I searched and couldn’t find a single dictionary, or anyone other than left anarchists, defining anarchy as the absence of hierarchy. Let’s examine that.
The linguist examines roots and prefixes. The common Greek root arkhos means “ruler,” but the prefixes an, and hiero have divergent meanings. The Greek an means simply “without.” An-Arkhos, “without rulers,” simple enough. An anarchist should reject any arkhos, whether it’s a monarchy, a patriarchy, or a hierarchy. (Before you get on my case for identifying as a kritarchist you should know that it derives from the Greek krito, meaning “justice,” and archè, meaning “principle.” Pesky things, words.)
So, what does the prefix “hier” add? It mostly further confuses the issue. The Greek hiero means “sacred,” as in the term hierophant, which meant a priest in Ancient Greece. Hierarchia, originally meant “The ranked division of angels.”
If we give dominance to etymology over usage, anarchists have no use for this word. Not many angels breathing down our necks. But if we give dominance to usage, the meaning “ranked division” becomes relevant. Anarchy means the absence of rulers, and hierarchy means the division of rulers from the laypublic. So, anarchy rejects hierarchy for ruling, but not for division. Anarchy does not categorically reject division.
Capitalism, by some definitions, extols hierarchy. Such capitalists do not make it through my editorial process. I will not publish words tolerant of minarchy, or city states. Neither will I publish words tolerant of mixed economies or a dictatorship of the proletariat. We publish anarchist words, by anarchists, for anarchists. But by other definitions, specifically those set out by anarcho-capitalists, capitalism extols the division of labor, not the rule of capital.