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Author Topic: List of anarchists - help me out here  (Read 6986 times)

KBCraig

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Re: List of anarchists - help me out here
« Reply #45 on: March 16, 2008, 01:09 PM NHFT »

being part of nature doesn't give us an excuse to act like animals.

That was your proposition, not mine:
Your house would be considered a part of nature. Just like a bird's nest or a foxes den.

I replied that I don't think you really want to follow nature's example.
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Black Bloke

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Re: List of anarchists - help me out here
« Reply #46 on: April 06, 2008, 03:30 AM NHFT »

Rothbard is pretty recognized these days, I don't see why he should be off the list.  Murray Bookchin is another well known name.  Paul Goodman and Woody Allen too.

Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Molinari I've found are known outside of my circle of anarchists.  Heinlein is well known, but I'm not sure if he maintained his anarchism.  Perhaps Bob Black, Max Stirner, and Hakim Bey are well known too.  Sacco and Vanzetti, the Haymarket Martyrs are pretty well known.

Some names: http://www.BlackCrayon.com/people/

Did H. D. Thoreau get mentioned already?

EDIT: How could I forget J. R. R. Tolkien?
« Last Edit: April 06, 2008, 04:03 AM NHFT by Black Bloke »
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d_goddard

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Re: List of anarchists - help me out here
« Reply #47 on: April 06, 2008, 07:24 AM NHFT »

EDIT: How could I forget J. R. R. Tolkien?
Tolkien was an anarchist?

I have a warm glow in my heart  :D
« Last Edit: April 06, 2008, 12:32 PM NHFT by d_goddard »
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Caleb

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Re: List of anarchists - help me out here
« Reply #48 on: April 06, 2008, 12:08 PM NHFT »

Yeah, that's news to me about Tolkien. Also one of my favorites. I would love to add Drew Carey and JRR Tolkien to this list, if they are truly anarchists.
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SethCohn

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Re: List of anarchists - help me out here
« Reply #49 on: April 06, 2008, 12:16 PM NHFT »

Yeah, that's news to me about Tolkien. Also one of my favorites. I would love to add Drew Carey and JRR Tolkien to this list, if they are truly anarchists.

Google says yes:

http://lorenrosson.blogspot.com/2006/06/tolkien-fascist.html
Quote
But Tolkien was, if anything, an anarchist. This is what he wrote to his son Christopher in 1943:

    "My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) -- or to 'unconstitutional' Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate realm of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remain obstinate!... Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so as to refer to people... The most improper job of any man, even saints, is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity." (Letter #52; bold mine)

also:
http://www.lewrockwell.com/carson/carson10.html
http://www.mises.org/article.aspx?Id=899

and finally (reposted here, because I had to go to the wayback machine to grab it):

http://web.archive.org/web/20030804002620/http://www.thetexasmercury.com/articles/copold/DC20021223.html

Quote
J.R.R. Tolkien's Self-Interest:

Anarchy, Anti-Scientism & Selfhood in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings

 

Derek Copold

J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings has been both widely praised and sneeringly denigrated. You either love it or you hate it.  But even those who love it must also admit there is much to criticize.  The beginning of the saga dithers excessively with minutiae of hobbit life and has whole chapters devoted to a character called Tom Bombadil that could have been done away with altogether.  Tolkein's penchant for over-description bogs down the action in the middle and latter sections of the Trilogy as well.  Finally, the ending becomes so concerned with tying up loose ends, it seems that even the characters become a bit bored.  No wonder Tolkien's protagonist Frodo finally ended it all by fleeing across the sea!

These are, of course, mechanical quibbles, and I leave it to other critics, who have long since plowed up this turf repeatedly, to discuss them further.  Here I intend to focus on Tolkien's critique of modernity.  Tolkien's hatred of modernity has been discussed at length, but no one to my mind has taken him on directly for two failings which supply the root and branch of his critique: his fantastical anarchical hobbit society and his curmudgeonly anti-mechanism.  But just as these two failings of Tolkien have been overlooked, so also has one of his greater triumphs been ignored: Tolkien's concept of the Self.  In Lord of the Rings, Tolkien provides an answer to one of the greatest dilemmas facing modern man, the loss of free will in a seemingly deterministic world.

Let's begin with the hobbits.  Tolkein's hobbits mostly live in an area he calls "The Shire."  Aside from a mayor, who does very little, and several constables, or 'shiriffs,' whose main concern seems to be animal control, the Shire has no form of government.  It is an almost completely anarchical society.  But the hobbits are not at liberty to do whatever they wish.  In fact they lead rather restricted lives.  Other than the main characters, Tolkein portrays most hobbits as being small-minded, xenophobic and horribly judgmental.  Hobbits who stand out from the crowd are excluded from polite company, if not ostracized altogether?the only thing keeping the adventurous Bilbo Baggins from suffering such a fate is his tremendous wealth.  In short, the Shire's anarchy frees the hobbits from government, but it does not free them, which is as it must be.  As the ever-quotable George Orwell once wrote:

''[T]he totalitarian tendency'is implicit in the anarchist or pacifist vision of society.  In a society in which there is no law, and in theory no compulsion, the only arbiter of behaviour is public opinion.  But public opinion, because of the tremendous urge to conformity in gregarious animals, is less tolerant than any system of law.'

Tolkien's work is in accord with Orwell's insight, and it's stronger for it.  By acknowledging the limitations of anarchy, Tolkien didn't need to make his hobbits into loathsomely happy and hatefully pure-hearted woodland nymphs, as do other less honest anarchist and libertarian writers. The elves from Ralph Bakshi's animated Wizards comes are a good example of this.  A creature of his time, Bakshi had his goody-goody, free-lovin', free-livin' elves fight repressive bigotry, which is thoroughly ironic as repressive bigotry is only thing that could possibly keep their stateless society together.

A tight-knit culture, such as the hobbits', could only come about when traditions and manners become sacrosanct habits over a period of centuries, a process Tolkein briefly describes in his introduction to LOTR.  Examples of these kinds of societies still exist in several Third World countries where modernity has not yet fully manifested itself.  In such cultures, the people generally don't know why they observe the manners they do; they only know that they must, for if they don't they'll be punished by their neighbors as surely as day follows night.  These communities are ordered so that everyone has his own place and rank.  Never rising, never sinking, men and women born in these conditions come into the world with the course of their lives already laid out for them.

The sense of security this kind of stratified society provides can evoke in readers a warm and homey feeling, and many wish they could live there.  Some have even tried.  The 1960s-era hippies Tolkein so rightly despised, when they weren't ridiculously naming themselves after elves, occasionally founded communes that were partially inspired by Tolkein's Shire.  Naturally, none of them worked.  An anarchical community like the Shire must have a history behind it; it can't be conjured up with nothing more than a good wishes and mutual admiration.  What's more, it cannot tolerate the presence of "free spirits' and dissenters.  Such people will eventually rattle the thing to pieces.  Again, a bigoted populace is the sine qua non of anarchy.  In short, to survive, communities like the Shire must be zealously shielded from the outside influences: no imports, no visitors and no cultural exchanges.  (True to this vision, Tolkien's hobbits kept what visitors they could out of the Shire.)  Even more importantly than this, though, is that for these cultures to preserve their sense of order they must rein in that wildest of human wild cards, sex, through strict and puritanical codes of behavior.  Modern westerners are normally shocked by the ghastly penalties primitive cultures mete out to adulterers, but they rarely understand that these draconian measures were instituted out of necessity.  The quick, severe and bloody punishment of an adulterer often prevented an even bloodier feud between outraged families or clans.

It's doubtful that most of Tolkein's readers, practically all of whom are modern, cosmopolitan westerners (whether they like it or not), would really want to live in this kind of a culture.  And even if they did, it wouldn't be possible.  As the clich' has it, the world is a shrinking place.  Jets, the Internet and modern telephony now compress into hours, minutes and seconds chores that used to require years, months or weeks.  It's no coincidence that the Shire exists in a fantasy story.  Tolkein's Shire, like the England of his childhood (which the Shire was based on) is a relic of the past, a nostalgic dream.  Our world is too tightly connected to allow for its existence.

This brings us to Tolkein's anti-mechanism.  Tolkein despised the world-shrinking technology he quite rightly blamed for destruction of his childhood England.  He hated motorcars, airplanes, chainsaws and anything else that ran on internal combustion.  Tolkein passed his distaste on to his hobbits.  In the Prologue to LOTR, he wrote, "[Hobbits] do not and did not understand or like machines more complicated than a forge-bellows, a water-mill, or a hand-loom, though they were skilful with tools."  From here, Tolkein's LOTR goes on to continually excoriate machinery.  Saruman and Sauron, his two chief villains, are dependent on machines, and use them to destroy the countryside.  (His descriptions of Mordor, with its dead, pockmarked plains, are taken from his experiences on the battlefields of World War I.) Against this mechanical evil, Tolkien holds up his saintly characters'elves, wizards, and heroes'all of whom, except maybe the dwarves who are portrayed as being too clever for their own good, avoid even the slightest whiff of mechanism.  They rely instead on their wits, their knowledge of nature and the ever-convenient miracle, which always presents itself at the most critical points in the plot.  Tolkien's entire work is constructed to cast technology and, by implication, the Scientific Revolution in the most sordid light.

Tolkien's fans, obligingly, take up his criticism with little thought, never bothering to look very close at how he actually goes about making his argument: he cheats, and shamelessly at that.  Tolkien creates a pre-scientific society, but he ignores all the things that made science necessary in the first place.  Aside from the effects of evil magic, no one in Tolkein's world gets sick: no typhus, no cholera, no smallpox and no malaria.  The hobbits never seem to lose children to diseases and injuries, an impossible situation without modern technology.  As Hank Parnell mentioned last week, in Ancient Rome, whose technology was comparable to that Middle-earth, "'only one out of twenty Romans born lived past the age of five, and only one in five of those lived to the age of twenty."  The only natural disaster Tolkein mentions in either The Hobbit or LOTR is an abnormally cold winter, which took place in his characters' distant past, and the only problem that created was an annoying invasion of wolves.  As a polemic against the Scientific Revolution, Lord of the Rings positively fails because it never provides a serious argument.  If Tolkein wanted to demonstrate that our lives would be better without mechanism by having his characters live without the disadvantages of modern science, then honesty demands that they should also live without its benefits.

From the above, you might think I put little value in Tolkein's work beyond its entertainment value.  This is not the case.  Though its politics are impossibly anachronistic and its view of technology churlishly lopsided, Lord of the Rings remains, in my view, one of the best critiques of individual human nature written in the twentieth century. Using only one storyline, Tolkien's saga offers its readers an idea of the human person that combines the views of several great modern authors.  Tolkien's readers leave his books with a sense that, despite the crush of the modern world, they still have some mastery over their lives.

Tolkien's philosophy of selfhood begins and ends with his Christian viewpoint.  As a Christian, he believed in free will, but he also believed that bad habits, arrogance and sloth could damage an individual's ability to exercise that free will in a just and moral manner.  Tolkien agonized over the state of the modern, mechanistic world, but he still held out hope that good men still had the ability to make the right decisions, and that they could redeem the world, or at least a part of it.  Tolkien's vision of human nature combines elements that can be found in other, and unlikely, contemporary writers, whose work I'll highlight in this section of the essay.

Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons is a work that also examines the idea of selfhood and arrives at many of Tolkein's conclusions. In Bolt's play, his protagonist, Sir Thomas More, struggles to remain true to himself as his king, Henry VIII, attempts to pressure him into endorsing his second marriage to Anne Bolyne, an act then condemned by More's Catholic Church.  Henry's insistence on obtaining More's approval forces Bolt's hero to decide between his conscience or his life.  Choosing the former, More resists Henry's pressure, his temptations and his outright threats, which finally culminates in More's unjust execution. Throughout the entire process, Bolt concentrates on More's continuing effort to hold onto himself.  "When a man takes an oath," More explains, "he's holding his own self in own hands.  Like water.  And if he opens his fingers then'he needn't hope to find himself again.'  This 'self,' Bolt makes clear, is something entirely separate from desire, reason or physical compulsion.  "Is there no single sinew in the midst of this that serves no appetite of Norfolk's but is just Norfolk'  There is!  Give that some exercise, my lord!' Thomas More exhorts his friend, the Duke of Norfolk.

Compare this to a passage near the end of The Fellowship of the Rings where Frodo, having put on the Ring, cannot bring himself to take it off.  The Ring, wanting to be found by Sauron's lidless eye, urges Frodo to keep it on.   Yet at the same time, a warning voice in Frodo's head yells, "Take it off! Take it off! Fool, take off the Ring! Take off the Ring!"

Tolkien describes the scene: "The two powers strove in him.  For a moment, perfectly balanced between their piercing points, [Frodo] writhed, tormented.  Suddenly, he was aware of himself again.  Frodo, neither the Voice nor [Sauron's] Eye:  free to choose, and with one remaining instant in which to do so.  He took the Ring off his finger."

As with Bolt's More, Frodo's sense of himself saves him from damnation.  Most important to both stories is the assertion that, even under extreme duress, a human being remains free to choose his own path.

This emphasis on free will is put into a larger context earlier in the Fellowship by the character Gandalf after Frodo complains about having to live in troubled times.  Gandalf points out that no one wishes to live through hard times, but ""that is not for them to decide.  All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."  Again, the parallel to Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons is obvious, but it's also echoed in more unlikely places as well.  Absurdist philosopher Albert Camus' essays and novels, particularly The Plague, repeat this theme: we cannot choose our time, but we can choose what we do with it.  In Camus' Plague, no one wanted to be trapped in disease-stricken and quarantined Oran, but once there, Camus made clear, the characters still had choices.  They could wait to die, they could selfishly hide away, or they could help their fellow men while life still remained.  "'[T]here's no question of heroism in all this,' the character Tarrou tells a man who is considering escape, "It's a matter of common decency.  That's an idea which may make some people smile, but the only means of fighting a plague is'common decency.' Doubtless, Tolkein would have violently disagreed with Camus' atheism, but could Camus have disagreed with Gandalf's assessment above?  Or would he have had a problem with Tolkein's heroes, who act not out of a mercenary sense of self-glorifying zeal, but out of necessity and consideration'common decency'for their fellow creatures?  To both questions, the answer is no.

But free will has its drawbacks.  If a man can choose freely, then he can choose wrongly.  Tolkien's evil characters all began life as innocent creations who made bad decisions.  And with each bad decision, they became more habituated to doing evil, which made their return to good all the more difficult.  Sometimes the weight of their errors was so great that it crushed their will to near non-existence.  For free will to be exercised properly, Tolkien's work argued, one had to have a sense of responsibility, and, more importantly, and understanding of one's limitations.  Those characters who "played God" in Lord of the Rings found themselves crushed by the burden of their error.

Tolkien's take on evil parallels that of nineteenth-century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, who was also deeply disturbed by the death of faith.  Like Tolkien, Dostoevsky's novels examined characters who "made themselves God" and were consequently crushed by the burden.  In Crime & Punishment his protagonist Raskolnikov takes upon himself the right to murder, and his conscience destroys him.  In Dostoevsky's Demons (also called The Possessed) his characters commit murder and subscribe to beastly, materialist ideologies.  Their fanaticism sets off a series of actions that spins out of their control, killing some and ruining others.  In what is generally believed to be Dostoevsky's greatest work, The Brothers Karamazov, the main character, Ivan Karamazov, openly rejects God's plan in favor of his own ideas of justice.  Again, the arrogation of God's prerogative destroys Dostoevsky's character: Ivan unintentionally triggers the murder of his father and then goes mad when he discovers his great error.

Returning to Tolkien, we find several "Dostoevskyan" characters who also take on powers above their station.  Gollum is the most prominent.  He finds the Ring of Power as a young hobbit and his crushed by its dominating will.  As Gandalf explains to Frodo, "[Gollum] hated [the Ring] and loved it, as he hated and loved himself. He could not get rid of it.  He had no will left in the matter."  Other characters'saruman, Denethor, and even Sauron himself"reach out pridefully for powers they should not and cannot handle, and it corrupts them.  Gollum in The Two Towers most especially resembles Dostoevsky's Underground Man'a character in an early novella who is torn between competing desires and often gives in to his worse nature, even when he knows he's wrong for doing it.  Tolkien's self enjoys free will, but that free will requires discipline.

A free, self-willing creature placed in a world not of his making, Tolkien's self is a sound rebuttal to modern determinism, which would make man the puppet of history, economics, self-interest, emotions or all of them together.  This philosophy of individual freedom is at the heart of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.  The fusty anti-scientism and cranky anarchism are mere trappings.  Charming, they entice us to look in and imagine, but they are not the point of Tolkien's story, nor should they be.  The most important thing Lord of the Rings conveys to its readers is that they are free'free to do right, and free to do wrong.  We may not like this world of gargantuan states, noisy machines and impersonal rules, but it is the world we live in.  What we make of it is in our hands.

Derek Copold
« Last Edit: April 06, 2008, 12:24 PM NHFT by SethCohn »
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Lloyd Danforth

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Re: List of anarchists - help me out here
« Reply #50 on: April 06, 2008, 12:45 PM NHFT »

Rothbard is pretty recognized these days, I don't see why he should be off the list.  Murray Bookchin is another well known name.  Paul Goodman and Woody Allen too.

Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Molinari I've found are known outside of my circle of anarchists.  Heinlein is well known, but I'm not sure if he maintained his anarchism.  Perhaps Bob Black, Max Stirner, and Hakim Bey are well known too.  Sacco and Vanzetti, the Haymarket Martyrs are pretty well known.

Some names: http://www.BlackCrayon.com/people/

Did H. D. Thoreau get mentioned already?

EDIT: How could I forget J. R. R. Tolkien?

Did you mean to put an 'and' between Sacco & Vanzetti and the Haymarket Maytyrs? 
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Caleb

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Re: List of anarchists - help me out here
« Reply #51 on: April 06, 2008, 12:58 PM NHFT »

Thanks Seth! What a great new acquisition to my list!  :) You know what's weird, is how many people find the ideas in LOTR to be helpful in some way getting to anarchism. I'm reading the same thing about people who have found War and Peace to be the same way. These books aren't overtly anarchist. But somehow they trigger ideas that lead to natural conclusions. I think the arts are the single most powerful way of reaching people with ideas.
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srqrebel

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Re: List of anarchists - help me out here
« Reply #52 on: April 06, 2008, 01:37 PM NHFT »

...I think the arts are the single most powerful way of reaching people with ideas.

Ditto!
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dalebert

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Re: List of anarchists - help me out here
« Reply #53 on: April 06, 2008, 03:34 PM NHFT »

I had to forward that one on to my super-liberal (and not in the good way like Caleb) gaming friends back in Atlanta. Once or twice, the discussion has gotten heated talking about anarchy and how extremist it is (I am).  ::)

Anarchy is the least extremist viewpoint you can have, IMHO. Justifying violence is what seems extremist to me.

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d_goddard

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Re: List of anarchists - help me out here
« Reply #54 on: April 06, 2008, 04:21 PM NHFT »

I think the dark arts are the single most powerful way of reaching people with ideas.
FTFY
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SethCohn

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Re: List of anarchists - help me out here
« Reply #55 on: April 06, 2008, 05:07 PM NHFT »

I think the dark arts are politics is  the single most powerful way of reaching people with ideas.
FTFY
FTFY - (to most of the people on this board, those are synonyms.)
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Black Bloke

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Re: List of anarchists - help me out here
« Reply #56 on: April 07, 2008, 01:08 AM NHFT »

Did you mean to put an 'and' between Sacco & Vanzetti and the Haymarket Maytyrs? 

I was just transcribing what I was saying extemporaneously.  My intentions didn't go much farther than getting the words out.
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Black Bloke

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Re: List of anarchists - help me out here
« Reply #57 on: April 07, 2008, 01:16 AM NHFT »

Yeah, that's news to me about Tolkien. Also one of my favorites. I would love to add Drew Carey and JRR Tolkien to this list, if they are truly anarchists.

I don't think that Carey's an anarchist.  I think he's really just a Reason Magazine/LP type libertarian.

But Woody Allen and J. R. R. Tolkien are probably the best known people who also happen to be anarchists.  I think that's what you were going for, right?  Not people who are well known for being anarchists, but folks who are well known and are anarchists?
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Caleb

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Re: List of anarchists - help me out here
« Reply #58 on: April 07, 2008, 01:40 AM NHFT »

Yeah, mainly that is what I'm going for, people who are known for being something else, and incidentally are anarchists, although I'm not trying to make hard and fast rules. I'm trying to come up with different ways of presenting anarchism to people in a way that makes it seem more normal.
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Caleb

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Re: List of anarchists - help me out here
« Reply #59 on: April 07, 2008, 01:58 AM NHFT »

I had to forward that one on to my super-liberal (and not in the good way like Caleb) gaming friends back in Atlanta. Once or twice, the discussion has gotten heated talking about anarchy and how extremist it is (I am).  ::)

Anarchy is the least extremist viewpoint you can have, IMHO. Justifying violence is what seems extremist to me.



errrr...thanks, I think.

I feel the same way. Anarchism isn't really radical at all, (although I do think that its natural place is on the left, not the right. Agreement with conservatives on specific issues notwithstanding, the underlying philosophical base of anarchism is liberal. that's why almost all anarchists feel more comfortable hanging around leftists than conservatives.) 

That being said, I think the article Seth posted, while informative about Tolkien, was horrible. It seemed to make some rather curious logical jumps, that basically amount to the argument that violence is necessary to keep people from using other more constrictive forms of social pressure, as if violence is not itself a form of social pressure. His point is well taken, as long as it is understood like this: Anarchism is not utopia. There will still be problems that arise even under an anarchistic society. But he then somehow makes the logical leap that, since anarchism isn't utopian, we ought to have the state with all it's violence. I'm not sure how he gets there.
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