A Last Response to Shawn Wilbur
This piece is the twenty-fifth essay in the June C4SS Mutual Exchange Symposium: “Anarchy and Democracy.” It is written in reply to this contribution by Shawn Wilbur.

Shawn Wilbur is correct when he writes, “Price and I have enough in common to have a useful conversation about anarchy and democracy, and that we could start with something very close to a shared political language.” Since I have a great deal of respect for Shawn as an interpreter of Proudhon, let me try to state what may be common in our views: 

Our vision or goal is a cooperative and free society without coercion, oppression, or exploitation. In such a society, or at least on the road to such a society (in its transition from post-capitalism to the full realization of anarchy), there will at times be an inability to be absolutely noncoercive. At times it will be necessary to make collective decisions using democratic procedures, such as voting.  

I think this covers what Shawn has written as well as my point of view, at least in a “shared common political language.” I hope Shawn would agree with me on this.

I won’t go over my argument about the individualist nature of the anti-democracy opinion. It was written immediately in response to the statement of  Grayson English’s piece, “Demolish the Demos.” How it applies to Shawn, who is not a Stirnerite but an interpreter of Proudhon, would require an extensive discussion. I can say that I do not understand why he thinks that if a majority forms around one issue (my example of road-building in a commune) then it will exploit and oppress a minority in a general way.

Shawn describes being “not too far from Price’s position,” an acceptance of “the Marxian account of exploitation, joined with anarchism imagined as simple anti-statism.” I do oppose exploitation as well as the state, and also all other forms of oppression and authoritarianism. It is unclear to me whether Shawn is saying that this means that I am not a real anarchist. If so, I wonder if that applies to every anarchist who also claims to support radical democracy, including Kevin Carson, David Graeber, Cindy Milstein, and Paul Goodman. This is probably not what he means, since he begins by noting that “self-identified anarchists” have long been struggling to define “anarchism” and that this struggle over its meaning “is just essentially the process by which meaning is made.” I completely agree. This also applies to the struggle over the meaning of “democracy.”  


Mutual Exchange is C4SS’s goal in two senses: We favor a society rooted in peaceful, voluntary cooperation, and we seek to foster understanding through ongoing dialogue. Mutual Exchange will provide opportunities for conversation about issues that matter to C4SS’s audience.

Online symposiums will include essays by a diverse range of writers presenting and debating their views on a variety of interrelated and overlapping topics, tied together by the overarching monthly theme. C4SS is extremely interested in feedback from our readers. Suggestions and comments are enthusiastically encouraged. If you’re interested in proposing topics and/or authors for our program to pursue, or if you’re interested in participating yourself, please email C4SS’s Mutual Exchange Coordinator, Cory Massimino, at cory.massimino@c4ss.org.

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Conscience of an Anarchist