But, as some astute readers have pointed out, what are we to do with all this excellent information? We live in a hierarchically structured society whose sometimes oppressive but always ever-present top-down authority we cannot escape. With many generations of people having become used to hearing anarchists vilified as terrorists, communist revolutionaries and having been conditioned to accept anarchy as a synonym for chaos and mayhem, any attempt at advocating anarchism as a political program is bound to go nowhere. We may be able to accept that anarchy is the way of nature, but we must also accept that it is no longer (at least for the time being) the way of human nature—or, if you like, not the way of man—or at least not the way of “the man”—the one who pays us a little something if we are helpful to him and orders us to be beat up or locked up if we are not. The advocate of anarchy is at best an amusing disembodied voice on the Internet (who must be dong something or other more practical to please the hierarchy in order to be able to afford the free time and the Internet connection). At worst, the compulsion to advocate anarchism as a program of political reform is a sign of mental illness.
Yes, the advocate of anarchist revolution is a sad sort of imbecile, but this is not to say that the theory that underpins anarchism is without any practical applications. It is just that such applications have nothing at all to do with politics. Just as anarchist thinking has at its source the scientific observation of nature, so must its applications to contemporary society start by observing the constructive role that anarchy normally plays within contemporary society, and then look for ways to extend it. Are there any examples of that? Yes, indeed there are. Whenever an existing hierarchically organized system becomes sufficiently ossified and dysfunctional to give an obvious edge to an improvised, anarchic, perhaps initially inferior alternative, there is a possibility that such an alternative will materialize out of nowhere, spread virally, become dominant, and then, in turn, become hierarchical and ossified. Let's list some obvious examples.
The Protestant revolution is an obvious one. Once the Catholic church—a hierarchical organization par excellence, though built on top of the wreckage of anarchic early Christianity—became sufficiently corrupt and obnoxious, putting up toll booths before the gates of heaven and so forth, a variety of new self-selected religious leaders led a revolt, providing a viable, though rather primitive, alternatives, which then took over in many parts of the world, and eventually sprouted their own hierarchical structures thanks to the efforts of Luther. The Russian revolution is another one: once the general senility and obsolescence of the Czarist ancien régime became compounded by its failed effort durng World War I to a point where it could no longer quell bread riots, a variety of new self-selected political leaders stepped into the breach and provided an alternative, until it, again, sprouted a hierarchical organization of its own thanks to the efforts of Lenin. Seventy years later the stiff and morbid hierarchy into which it evolved was also tipped into the dustbin. More recently, when the first efforts at trade liberalization provided advantages of economies of scale, as well as labor and jurisdictional arbitrage, with which national enterprises could not compete, the trend became unstoppable, until there is now a single transnational business environment which is beyond any one nation's control. If history is any guide (as it sometimes is) the inevitable result will be that a dangerously centralized global economic bureaucracy, conceived in an effort to control the forces of chaos globalization has unleashed, will briefly attempt to dominate the scene before crumbling into dust under its own weight. More on Club Orlov >>