Exploring Anarchy

This the first in a series of essays originally written by Carlos Clemente as assignments for an introductory course to market anarchism that he took at C4SS’s Stateless University. For the second essay, click here.

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A bit more than a year ago I took something akin to a sabbatical year in order to do absolutely nothing besides rest, recharge my batteries, and think long and hard about what I really wanted to do with my life.

One of the few things that I did do that year was starting to practice Tai Chi Chuan, Nei Kung and Taoist meditation. And now that I know a bit more about the subject, I have come to realize that it has had a great impact on my personal development since then.

For the ancient Chinese masters, political awakening was complementary to spiritual awakening. In the martial arts, they saw more than a tool for war, that ultimate form of political conflict — they also saw a vehicle for reaching a superior state of consciousness, of connection with the cosmos that would spontaneously mold a virtuous character for the warrior. They called it the state of “effortless action” (wu wei), and was considered to be indispensable for reaching sociopolitical harmony, peace and prosperity among peoples.

I started practicing Nei Kung about two years before my long break, and now I believe it was the key trigger of an intense process of personal transformation that reached its climax somewhere toward the end of it. In the beginning, the more I practiced Nei Kung, the more I felt that splinter in my mind: A profound dissatisfaction with the city in which I lived and the line of work I was pursuing, despite all the perks that they both entailed. A vague but persistent feeling that both of them reflected something that was horribly screwed in the world. That feeling was ultimately what convinced me that I needed to turn the page and leave everything behind.

My initial curiosity about Taoism started many years ago, but was limited to its prescriptions for health and physical vitality. The only text about Taoism that I read back in those days was a book about Chinese medical philosophy written by a quite new agey author, so I would have never been able back then to fathom the impact that practicing something like Nei Kung would have on the way I approached politics or spirituality.

Ancient Taoist master Zhuangzi believed that man’s weakness came primordially from his social nature, which makes him excessively dependent on language and socially construed notions of good and evil, distracting him from his internal moral compass. Perhaps that’s why many ancient Taoist texts refer to physical training as “internal training,” meditation as an important part of it, and its main objective being “to empty the mind” of those social constructions in order to allow one to reconnect with a deep well of illuminating moral intuition.

During this long awakening period I have explored subjects which I used to discard due to their negative social connotations. For example, if an author was considered by the majority to be an “extremist,” I simply disregarded him without reading or listening to a single word of his discourse.

So if Zhuangzi was right, it must have been the practice of Nei Kung what awakened my curiosity toward alternative political currents.

It has been a long and tortuous intellectual road along which I have met many interesting people and movements with which, to my surprise, I ended up sympathizing much more with than I ever could have with any of the currently dominant, major political movements of the world.

However, the majority of the people and alternative political movements that I discovered were still not a perfect fit for me. For example, people like G. Edward Griffin, Adrian Salbuchi, Alex Jones and many others within what can be called the anti- “New World Order” movement make, in my opinion, some very sound criticisms of how the world works, but I also disagree with most of their ideas about economics, their tendency to go too far with conspiracy theories, and most notably in the case of Adrian Salbuchi, with their extremely conservative views regarding homosexual rights and other important social issues.

It wasn’t until recently that I stumbled upon a movement that I agree with nearly completely: Mutualism, a variety of anarchism also known as “free-market anti-capitalism,” or as a branch of what is usually called “left-libertarianism.”

I won’t elaborate on the particulars of mutualism in this post, as I will do that during the next few weeks while taking a course at the Center for a Stateless Society. The previous link is a good place to start learning on the subject, but I want to make something clear right away: Anarchism is not what the majority of people think it is. I am sure that any person who bothers to take the time to read the basic literature on the subject would realize that anarchism has nothing to do with the negative issues that people usually associate it with. Again, the correct attitude towards the subject is Zhuangzi’s: To approach it with an open mind, without letting one get carried away by prejudiced rapture.

There are dozens of varieties of anarchism all over the world, often at odds with each other. But they all agree on a key idea: that society would work much better if the institution we call the state would be abolished.

If your initial reaction is to think that anarchism is just another form of utopianism, be aware that the majority of the anarchist authors I have read are very clear in rejecting the notion of utopia from the start. According to their worldview, in an anarchist society there would still be crime, waste and injustice, but reduced to their minimal expression as they see in the state the main institutional cause of these social problems.

It may also be the case that you consider the state to be a positive contributor to society’s well-being in the sense that the majority of left-wing political movements propose it, and that eliminating it would cause social chaos. In this regard I can only say that mutualism is an interesting field for exploring arguments that are contrary to that belief and alternative ideas on social organization that aim to reach the objectives that you so cherish, albeit through means that are completely different than, or even opposed to those you are used to consider.

In any case, if you have read up to here without being put off by my Taoist ramblings, I am sure you will be able to tolerate my anarchist reflections … even if you completely disagree with everything I have to say.

Translations for this article:

Free Markets & Capitalism?
Markets Not Capitalism
Organization Theory
Conscience of an Anarchist