O R D E R / C H A O S
Let’s quickly define what order and chaos are. Chaos is usually seen as complete discord and confusion while Order generally means an arrangement of people, things, and concepts in relation to a sequence or pattern. So what does this have to do with Anarchism? Well, depending on who you ask it’s either one or the other.
Anarchy is often defined as “a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority”, which from the point of view of centralized power is true. Order for the State is not the same as Order for the free individual. The State sees rigid uniformity to rank within a hierarchy as order and any resistance to this is seen as chaos. For someone to be resistant to this “order of hierarchy” is seen as seeking chaos in the eyes of the state.
However, from the Anarchist point of view the order sought is one of spontaneity, a spontaneous order that seeks to dismantle hierarchy and introduce complex and adaptive social relations. Colin Ward once remarked;
“An important component of the anarchist approach to organization is what we might call the theory of spontaneous order: the theory that, given a common need, a collection of people will, by trial and error, by improvisation and experiment, evolve order out of the situation — this order being more durable and more closely related to their needs than any kind of externally imposed authority could provide.”
A constant fluidity of forms against the tyranny of rigid ones. But in a world in which our minds are molded into fitting within categorizations that conform to authority, it is no wonder that Anarchism is viewed as blind, chaotic, and violent lawlessness. This, however, isn’t incorrect.
Take specifically, the lawlessness aspect which is framed as inherently negative but let’s remind ourselves that if not for the unlawful resistance of many peoples they would not have the rights they do today. People of color sitting in Whites Only sections or daring to love those deemed a “different race”, which was viewed as an “unlawful union” in the eyes of the state.
Any centralized power seeks to maintain a centralized order, one that maintains and even constantly strives to expand over the freedom of all individuals. The reason we have any freedoms is due to constant resistance against this order. Rudolf Rocker remarks:
“Political rights do not originate in parliaments; they are, rather, forced upon parliaments from without. And even their enactment into law has for a long time been no guarantee of their security. Just as the employers always try to nullify every concession they had made to labor as soon as opportunity offered, as soon as any signs of weakness were observable in the workers’ organizations, so governments also are always inclined to restrict or to abrogate completely rights and freedoms that have been achieved if they imagine that the people will put up no resistance. Even in those countries where such things as freedom of the press, right of assembly, right of combination, and the like have long existed, governments are constantly trying to restrict those rights or to reinterpret them by juridical hair-splitting. Political rights do not exist because they have been legally set down on a piece of paper, but only when they have become the ingrown habit of a people, and when any attempt to impair them will meet with the violent resistance of the populace. Where this is not the case, there is no help in any parliamentary Opposition or any Platonic appeals to the constitution.”
The boastful glory of “bestowed rights” onto the population that is supposedly protected by the forces of the state is often created and maintained in reaction to the opposition of state forces. So this “lawlessness” has in fact led to the creation of laws. When the narrative against anarchy is that it brings “unlawful violence” you could interpret this as “We do not want people to resist our power or will have to concede some in response.”
Of course, Anarchism is not about seeking state concession but rather state abolition. The middle ground in reaction to this from the state is concessions. The state will never consent freely to its own collapse.
Let’s discuss further what exactly a “state of lawlessness is” and what a “lawful state” is, well for one, we’d have to define what a state even is and for simplicity’s sake we will use the classic “monopoly on violence” definition but with the added caveat that this monopoly is headed by a centralized government imposing law onto everyone else. They’re plenty of implications and semantics that could be argued over in regards to this definition but this isn’t a video about what a state is so let’s cut to the chase.
The construction of constitutional law, monarchical law, or tyrannical law is often viewed with the idea of representing and maintaining order, be this order justified through qualifications or majorities voting to put qualified individuals into legislative power. However, as we’ve previously discussed in the democracy video these institutions of minoritarian power don’t really care about representing any mass will but rather a will to rule over the masses under the disguise of being a part of it or in its best interests.
So this “lawful order” is one built on monopolized and legitimized violence enacted over everyone else to maintain the power of the few. Police Brutality, Mass Incarceration, and property relations are seen as “orderly” within the perspective of those wanting to maintain power. The associated narrative to justify these institutions and actions is centralist realism, that only through centralized authorities and structures can a functioning society exist.
So when the Anarchist speaks of decentralizing power relations this is seen as a direct threat to not only the state or even capitalism but any power structure of domination and its perpetuation. The action of pirating copyrighted materials and freely spreading them is a threat to those seeking a monopoly over those materials. This act is chaotic because it undermines the rigid control of a centralized system like intellectual property.
The same can be said of those undermining segregational law as it produces social actions and relations that undermine rigid social hierarchies such as race. This interracial complexity is birdshot to any “racial purity” trying to be imposed. Birdshot in the sense that such an action spreads far and wide hitting multiple different points that a concentrated system has difficulty accounting for in response due to its own narrowed system.
Centralized authorities maintain themselves through concentrated power relations. When we lessen these we are introducing complexity which undermines the foundations that keep those in power in their position. So from the centralist power’s point of view Anarchism is blind, because it’s unable to clearly see the extent and range in which complex relations undermine its power. So, those seeking the abolishment of hierarchies are seeking an order of free and fluid relations that is seemingly blind chaos to an order of rigidity.
So this “state of unlawfulness”, at least in relation to anarchism, is behaviors and mentalities that rival the centralist realism narrative by removing barriers and allowing more freedom of movement between peoples and information. These acts often present themselves as counter-evidence to centralist realism, because it shows that such things can indeed be decentralized and operated without the need of those centralizing barriers.
Kropotkin once remarked in his “On Order” essay:
“Let us try to understand each other. What kind of order are you talking about? Is it the harmony of which we dream, we anarchists? The harmony that will establish itself freely in human relations once humanity ceases to be divided into two classes, one sacrificed to the other? The harmony that will arise spontaneously from the solidarity of interests, when all men will form the same single family, when each will work for the well-being of all and all for the well-being of each? Evidently not! Those who reproach anarchism for being the negation of order are not speaking of that future harmony; they speak of order as it is conceived in our present society. So let us take a look at this order which anarchy wishes to destroy.
Order, as it is understood today, means nine-tenths of humanity working to procure luxury, pleasure, and the satisfaction of the most execrable of passions for a handful of idlers.”
So, in conclusion, Order for the free individual is something that we spontaneously develop ourselves, while for the state it’s legibility imposed onto others.