Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, or alternatively as opposing authority and hierarchical organization in the conduct of human relations. Proponents of anarchism, known as “anarchists”, advocate stateless societies based on non-hierarchical, voluntary associations.
Anarchist schools of thought can differ fundamentally, supporting anything from extreme individualism to complete collectivism. The central tendency of anarchism as a social movement has been represented by anarcho-communism and anarcho-syndicalism, with individualist anarchism being primarily a literary phenomenon.
The term anarchism derives from the ancient Greek ἄναρχος, anarchos, meaning “without rulers”.
Russian revolutionary Mikhail Bakunin is widely considered to be the “founding father” of anarchism. His seminal works include Statism and Anarchy and God and the State.
This form is most commonly encountered among those who argue for anarchism on the internet. Its main tenets are that all forms of state, hierarchical organization and authority are bad, and should be abolished. They quote the bad effects and unjustifiability of the rulers. The focus is set on the negative liberty aspect of anarchism.
Meritocrats, by contrast, argue that while authority and government have negative aspects, these are part of an ongoing dialectic and can be overcome. While anarchists argue that humanity must overcome all forms of authority, Meritocrats argue that we must become self-governing. We must overcome all forms ofunjust authority, i.e., that which is not based on verifiable merit (talent, experience, positive results). We understand that hierarchical organization, like collaboration, is an intrinsic part of human nature. The only form of evolution that humanity has undergone since the beginning of civilization is not biological evolution, but social evolution. There is evidence that consciousness itself is a learned phenomenon.
Humans are not “intrinsically enlightened”; without civilization, we would revert back to our animal-condition, might-is-right mentality and behavior. Eventually, the strongest would seek to legitimize his rule, thus creating monarchy, and the dialectic of civilization would start all over again. That is why anarchy cannot work. The conditions of anarchy were existent at the beginnings of history, and it was far from idyllic. Civilization must continue to move forward in its evolution, not revert to an earlier stage.
Fragments from Bakunin’s God and the State
Three elements or, if you like, three fundamental principles constitute the essential conditions of all human development, collective or individual, in history: (1) human animality; (2) thought; and (3) rebellion. To the first properly corresponds social and private economy; to the second, science; to the third, liberty.
Rebellion is only the negative aspect of liberty. Although indeed necessary by circumstance, Meritocrats support the notion of positive liberty, which, together with “thought”, or science, can be used to sublimate “human animality.”
In a word, we reject all legislation, all authority, and all privileged, licensed, official, and legal influence, even though arising from universal suffrage, convinced that it can turn only to the advantage of a dominant minority of exploiters against the interests of the immense majority in subjection to them. This is the sense in which we are really Anarchists….
To sum up. We recognize, then, the absolute authority of science, because the sole object of science is the mental reproduction, as well-considered and systematic as possible, of the natural laws inherent in the material, intellectual, and moral life of both the physical and the social worlds, these two worlds constituting, in fact, but one and the same natural world. Outside of this only legitimate authority, legitimate because rational and in harmony with human liberty, we declare all other authorities false, arbitrary and fatal…. We recognize the absolute authority of science, but we reject the infallibility and universality of the savant.
This can be seen as a form of contradiction. By Bakunin’s materialist logic, that which gives science material (concrete ) existence and potential effectiveness can only be the sum of savants (those who have knowledge and understanding of science). Science as abstraction is meaningless without actual scientists.
Once more, the sole mission of science is to light the road. Only Life, delivered from all its governmental and doctrinaire barriers, and given full liberty of action, can create.
How solve this antimony?
On the one hand, science is indispensable to the rational organization of society; on the other, being incapable of interesting itself in that which is real and living, it must not interfere with the real or practical organization of society.
This contradiction can be solved only in one way: by the liquidation of science as a moral being existing outside the life of all, and represented by a body of brevetted savants; it must spread among the masses. Science, being called upon to henceforth represent society’s collective consciousness, must really become the property of everybody. Thereby, without losing anything of its universal character, of which it can never divest itself without ceasing to be science, and while continuing to concern itself exclusively with general causes, the conditions and fixed relations of individuals and things, it will become one in fact with the immediate and real life of all individuals.
By refusing to accept the legitimate authority of the representatives of science on the grounds that they might then become a new elite on illegitimate means, i.e., “keep the science to themselves”—the only solution being an “enlightened proletariat” that governs and raises itself—this solution runs into the same problem as communism, a chicken-and-egg situation. While an “enlightened proletariat” is certainly desirable, Meritocrats maintain that the most feasible way to achieve something like that is Meritocracy, combining the dialectic and the scientific method.
Relationship to Meritocracy
Anarchists reject all hierarchy in human relations; they advocate stateless, non-hierarchical, voluntary associations.
As shown in The Tyranny of Structurelessness, hierarchy tends to emerge in human interactions; the hazard of express anti-hierarchy is that the structure forms out of sight instead of where people can keep an eye on it. (While explicit hierarchies will be denied, interaction and conduct will tend to be structured by hidden, unacknowledged hierarchies.)
Meritocrats affirm that hierarchy can be legitimated on the basis of merit, and deem as illegitimate any hierarchy that is not based on merit (e.g., nepotism, cronyism, and monarchy). We advocate hierarchical, voluntary associations (as a social contract) with hierarchy based wholly on merit.
While, as highlighted in Bakunin’s writings, the danger of corruption is potential in any form of hierarchical organization, a non-hierarchical alternative cannot exist. Should the case be that corruption takes over, it is indeed man’s capacity for rebellion that will keep the dialectic moving.
Anarcho-primitivists often seem unable to grasp the relationship between “natural freedom” and “freedom in law”. Here is an illustrative passage from Rousseau’sOn Social Contract on the matter:
The passage from the state of nature to the civil state produces a very remarkable change in man, by substituting justice for instinct in his conduct, and giving his actions the morality they had formerly lacked. Then only, when the voice of duty takes the place of physical impulses and right of appetite, does man, who so far had considered only himself, find that he is forced to act on different principles, and to consult his reason before listening to his inclinations. Although, in this state, he deprives himself of some advantages which he got from nature, he gains in return others so great, his faculties are so stimulated and developed, his ideas so extended, his feelings so ennobled, and his whole soul so uplifted, that, did not the abuses of this new condition often degrade him below that which he left, he would be bound to bless continually the happy moment which took him from it for ever, and, instead of a stupid and unimaginative animal, made him an intelligent being and a man.
Let us draw up the whole account in terms easily commensurable. What man loses by the social contract is his natural liberty and an unlimited right to everything he tries to get and succeeds in getting; what he gains is civil liberty and the proprietorship of all he possesses. If we are to avoid mistake in weighing one against the other, we must clearly distinguish natural liberty, which is bounded only by the strength of the individual, from civil liberty, which is limited by the general will; and possession, which is merely the effect of force or the right of the first occupier, from property, which can be founded only on a positive title.
We might, over and above all this, add, to what man acquires in the civil state, moral liberty, which alone makes him truly master of himself; for the mere impulse of appetite is slavery, while obedience to a law which we prescribe to ourselves is liberty. But I have already said too much on this head, and the philosophical meaning of the word liberty does not now concern us.