revolutionary thought

Kevin Carson has a good article today over at that you should read. He first tackles the notion that libertarian thought is weak or “soft” with respect to progressive social norms that historically have been (or can only be) furthered by state authority.. Anyone that has had even a casual dinner conversation about libertarianism has probably run into this.. It’s inevitable that racism or sexism will come up – used as an example of something that would be “allowed” in a stateless society, since it’s non-coercive.

But critics of non-coercive unfairness like racism and sexism are also in danger of being led astray by the same tendency. Libertarians, in advocating for libertarianism on the left, are constantly confronted with the objection that people would be “allowed” to engage in racial or sexual discrimination, to deny food to the needy, etc.

But as Brad points out, this word “allowed” is perverse insofar as it “conflates ‘allows’ with what would be more precisely understood (in terms of libertarian theory) as ‘does not necessarily justify use of violence to compel restitution for in all cases’.” But this obsession with what’s “allowed,” in the narrow sense that nobody’s entitled to use force to prevent it, ignores “the holistic integrity of a stateless society arising from non-violent mechanisms of social normatization that cross the arbitrary topical boundaries one imposes on one’s self when analyzing and advocating various potential state policies.”

Civil society is prior to the state, and those “mechanisms of social normatization,” voluntary social safety nets, etc., predate it by millennia. One of the worst evils of the state is that it has crowded out or actively suppressed such mechanisms of civil society, as described by Pyotr Kropotkin. As Kropotkin argued in both Mutual Aid and The State, for most of the human race over most of human history, the state was merely a parasitic layer of tax collectors and feudal landlords superimposed on the peasant commune—the latter including the Russian mir, the English open field system, and Marx’s “Asiatic mode of production.” Had the Tsar and nobility vanished in 1700, Russian village life would have continued exactly as before—only with the peasants keeping all they produced. It was only in the past few centuries that the state actively attempted to supplant civil society, and to suppress private associations for mutual aid and social cooperation as rivals to its power.

He concludes with a comment on violent revolution which seems like it should be a given by now, but still bears repeating:

The way to achieve victory is not by seizing the state, or violently overthrowing it, but quietly confronting it with a reality already on the ground: the reality that a rapidly expanding share of its laws are either no longer enforceable or cost more to enforce than it’s worth.