Is pastoral art/literature an expression of human disdain towards urbanization and the alienation of people from their species-essence (human nature) in a capitalist society?

Thanks for the question Douglas.

This question (or some version of it) has actually been widely debated in the arts, philosophy and even religion for many decades. A fairly pervasive view is that yes, many of the creative, philosophical and spiritual subjects and expressions (across all mediums, really) just after the industrial revolution began were a reaction to that industrialization and the alienation of human beings from natural environments, from their historical social relationships, and indeed from their spiritual nature. This observed pattern/reaction was a fairly dominant feature of discourse at that time, and has persisted across multiple fields of study. Here is just one example of that view (from Romanticism and the Industrial Revolution):

“Romanticism was also closely tied to the Industrial Revolution in Europe. From the latter decades of the 18th century to the middle of the 19th century, most of Europe and particularly what is now the United Kingdom saw a massive migration of rural workers into large metropolitan areas. These workers were making the jump in order to work in the large factories that were springing up all over metropolitan areas as manufacturing capacity, aided by steam engines and copious supplies of coal, exploded all across Europe. Romanticism also played upon this drastic societal change, as many in Europe witnessed the large-scale pollution of coal-burning industry and the problems it caused, including water pollution and incredibly poor air quality for many major cities, as well as the many health problems that sprang up in its wake. Romanticism emphasized nature over industry, a point where again we can see the dominant force of the age (the Industrial Revolution) itself helping to create an art movement that began as a foil to that dominant force and then grew.”


Along with the Romanticism of the visual arts, literature and even music, there was also an equivalent romanticism in philosophy and a parallel transcendentalism in spirituality. Here alienation from Nature itself was a chief concern — as was the Enlightenment’s seeming overdependence on empiricism, rationalism and reductionism (a la Descartes, etc.). From 19th Century Romantic Aesthetics:

“We have fallen out with nature, and what was once (as we believe) One is now in conflict with itself, and mastery and servitude alternate on both sides. It often seems to us as if the world were everything and we nothing, but often too as if we were everything and the world nothing. (Hölderlin, Preface to Hyperion, HSA 3: 326).”


And from Romanticism:

“Philosophical Romanticism holds that the universe is a single unified and interconnected whole, and full of values, tendencies and life, not merely objective lifeless matter. The Romantic view is that reason, objectivity and analysis radically falsify reality by breaking it up into disconnected lifeless entities, and the best way of perceiving reality is through some subjective feeling or intuition, through which we participate in the subject of our knowledge, instead of viewing it from the outside. Nature is an experience, and not an object for manipulation and study, and, once experienced, the individual becomes in tune with his feelings and this is what helps him to create moral values.”

One of the more influential thinkers and writers of this era was Henry David Thoreau, and I would encourage you to read any-and-all of his writings here: Thoreau’s Writings. It’s actually pretty entertaining reading, and IMO still holds relevance and potency.

As you know, Marx himself expounded extensively about a similar flavor of alienation, unnatural rearrangement of social relations, and destruction of the creative capacities and nature of human beings. His take, however, was that the heart of the problem was less empiricism or rationalism, but rather capitalism in concert with industrialization — and in fact he sought to examine the underlying socio-economic dynamics using the tools of the Enlightenment (math, science, rational discourse, etc).

Since the time of those initial reactions and expressions, advanced human societies have largely adapted to urban, industrialized life, along with its cultural diversity and affluence, individualistic isolation, increased pollution and violence, wide array of interests and discourse, etc. — that is, its many pluses and minuses. There are still movements that seek to reconnect people with each other and with Nature, as well as intermittent cultural convulsions when modernity’s negative externalities become too dangerous or extreme (the 1960s in the U.S. was, I think, a fairly pronounced example of this). But for the most part, like proverbial frogs in a pot of water that is slowly coming to a boil, human beings have largely become numb to the deleterious impacts of industrialized, urbanized life. In fact, some folks will fiercely defend its “advantages.” But, as increasing breakdowns and challenges seem to attest — and here I am referring to everything from increases in mental illness and autism, to increases in cancer and diabetes, to the steady decline in human IQ, to the increasing depression and anxiety of each generation, to the increasing homogenization and nutritional emptiness of our food supply, etc. — the “frog” of humanity is slowly being destroyed by everything the Romantics were railing against.

My 2 cents.

Is it possible to just leave everything behind and live as an anarcho-primitivist?

Sure. I’ve personally known people committed to rewilding themselves, and have studied a number of individual examples. I myself have experimented (both purposefully and by unintended accident) with various degrees of both exiting a highly destructive capitalist society, and returning to Nature. It’s not easy, and requires a lot of planning, preparation, education and training. It also requires adequate and compatible natural environs within which to survive. There is a broad spectrum of exit strategies and perspectives, and learning about as many as possible will be helpful. In my own case, each experience taught me a lot about my own limitations, how Nature is often uncooperative regarding human intentions and survival, and how such efforts are indeed liberating in unexpected ways. It also taught me just how much courage is required to self-liberate (be prepared to confront various levels of existential terror on a routine basis). If you are willing to carefully prepare, learn from others who have taken this journey, and be open to having your expectations radically rearranged, then this may be a worthwhile objective for you. Regardless of where you end up in the process, you may find some creative ways to “not participate” in the destruction of planet Earth — and to help others understand the benefits of doing so.

My 2 cents.

Anarchism: How would an anarchist society defend itself against externalities and foreign military invasion?

One reason that many anarchist cooperatives have not survived all that long throughout history has been because their emphasis — for the most part — was on peaceful cooperation, rather than aggressive military build-up. Until the rest of the globe catches up in terms of moral maturity, anarchist experiments are going to be subject to external aggression — especially if they have control over desirable resources, or are a perceived threat to established hegemony. So I think civic conditions have to evolve a bit all around the world for anarchism to work well. That said, it is conceivable that technological advances will provide superagency to smaller and smaller groups, so that a relatively tiny anarchist cooperative could say “Hey, if you invade us, we’ll unleash X technology to decimate your troops…” or some such, providing the leverage needed to achieve detente. Really, any military spending in the context of a “mentally healthy” world will come to be viewed as silliness, and when self-governance through direct democracy along with relaxation of the profit motive (and transition of private ownership back to the commons) remove the incentives and pathways for despots, tyrants, megalomaniacs and psychopaths to rise to power as they do today, there likely won’t be as much need to arm up. That, at least, would be my hope. :-)

My 2 cents.

What are your thoughts on the 19th century publisher and anarchist Benjamin Tucker?


I think Tucker is important because he is representative of a flavor of individualism that has amplified itself in the U.S. anarchist tradition in fairly pronounced - if not unique - ways over time, and which continues to do so today. In other words, he is an important part of that canon. In addition, as a publisher and translator, he was also an instrumental and seminal influence in the U.S. movement, bringing truly original and disruptive ideas (such as Nietzsche and Stirner) into the fray. As a consequence of all of this, I would also say that Tucker occupied a singular position in promoting some of the fundamental errors in the thinking of individualists, egoists and anarcho-capitalists over time. These include:

1. Differentiating economic equality from equality of liberty (i.e. from individual or collective agency). We simply can’t do this and remain intellectually honest, because concentrations of wealth always result in concentrations of influence and/or formalized political power. There is simply no precedent for real-world situations unfolding differently (whether government is involved or not). Because of this, liberty is always negatively impacted by economic inequality, which becomes de facto coercion. This is an inescapable truth, and is perhaps best illustrated both the consequences of natural monopolies throughout history, and by Nozick’s theoretical elaboration on the inevitability of “voluntary slavery” in laissez-faire environments.

2. Misunderstanding the relationship between collective agreement in civil society and individual liberty (individual agency). Without the collective agreement expressed in and by civil society and its institutions (and I do not mean the State, but what can be diffused and distributed civic mechanisms), individual liberty either does not exist, or it becomes an arduous process of constant renegotiation that itself is prohibitive to agency. One the one hand, it would be like having to negotiate how to progress in a safe and orderly fashion through each intersection when driving - at each intersection, over and over again, coming to a mutual voluntary agreement about how to proceed. And on the other, the individualist anarchist is simply not recognizing the facilitation of liberty that civil society (again, ideally in diffused and distributed capacities) establishes over time; that liberty is in fact positively created by the very conventions that individualists tend to rail against. As I write in “The Goldilocks Zone of Integral Liberty:”

“It doesn’t require much investigation to realize that… the idealized pinnacle of individual sovereignty in modern society is supported by an endless intersection of facilitative factors, like the majority of mass for an iceberg that lies below the water but is invisible to the casual eye.”


3. Being overly attached to the Labor Theory of Value and its corollary/extension via private property and labor appropriation. For me this is the least subtle problem with individualist variations of anarchism. Firstly, this belief inevitably results in the entire world being fenced off by those actively employing their own precious portion of private land for their own purposes, thus depriving anyone else of the freedom to access and use that land. This is simply an untenable proposition, given (among many other reasons) the fact that land is limited, but human population keeps growing. Secondly, what constitutes labor or utility is entirely subjective. If I spit on a stick, am I adding value? If I plant trees on my property to create artwork that is only viewable from space, can’t I claim utility in perpetuity (or at least as long as the trees are alive)? These are just some of the problems inherent to the LTV and theory of labor appropriation, making their suppositions either absurd, or ultimately dependent on the same institutionalized collective agreements that individualists strive to shirk.

4. A tendency to reject a priori, intuitive, emotional, relational and spiritual dimensions of human cognition and experience - in favor of empiricism, reductionism, solipsism, nihilism and egoistic utility. This has always been - and continues to be - one of the biggest divides in philosophy. In my view, it is inherently problematic to exclude any of the input streams available to human experience and consciousness, or claim - as an arbitrary and capricious value judgment - that only one of them has primacy over all of the others. I have written about what I think the model should be: integrating all available input streams in a balanced, careful and conscious way. You can read about that here: Sector Theory 1.0 – Todd's Take on Epistemology; and here: Managing Complexity with Constructive Integralism. (the full PDFs are also available here: Essays by T.Collins Logan)

At the same time, Tucker’s thinking is so diverse that I also find myself agreeing with at least some of it - such as his description of the Four Monopolies and concerns with what came to be called “rent-seeking” behaviors (i.e. what Tucker calls “usury”).

My 2 cents.


From: https://www.quora.com/What-are-your-thoughts-on-the-19th-century-publisher-and-anarchist-Benjamin-Tucker/answer/T-Collins-Logan

How do religious anarchists reconcile their religion and political views?


Most religions of the world (theistic or non-theistic) teach very similar principles with respect to civil authority: don’t make waves, follow the law, be a good citizen, and practice your faith on a personal and interpersonal level, rather than a political one. In fact, nearly all of them advise against overt political involvement (with respect to applying particular spiritual principles, for example), since politics is about worldly or illusionary power, and religious traditions are “supposed” to be about spiritual or ontological concerns. However, many also encourage compassionate action that could be expressed in one’s voting, or proposing legislation, or working to elect a candidate who seems to embody compassionate values.

Now in reality most wisdom traditions eventually get coopted by dogmatic “orthodoxy” and highly political institutions. This is where the worldly and political overtake spiritual, interpersonal and ontological concerns. It is in this context that the spiritual instruction of a given tradition will apply most directly to politics: that is, the politics of one’s own religious institution. Beyond that, the larger political sphere has little or no intersect with spiritual practices and beliefs (in terms of it competing with them), because it is not focused on the interpersonal. So, because the basis of your question assumes that there is a competing intersection, that is really where the disconnect resides.

In my own life, my personal beliefs and spiritual practice will continue regardless of the political environment I happen to live in. However, my investment in left-libertarian political solutions is grounded in my spirituality and informed by my personal beliefs. For me, moving away from individualistic materialism, conspicuous consumption, and corporate exploitation and enslavement is a spiritual as well as pragmatic imperative. Because I care about the well-being of my fellow humans, I would prefer they retain their personal and collective agency and liberty - and have relief from suffering - and the skillfulness with which I approach aiding others in this way is informed by my spiritual beliefs.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/How-do-religious-anarchists-reconcile-their-religion-and-political-views/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What are the main differences between how Bakunin and Kropotkin saw Anarchism?


I think there are some important differences. Kropotkin developed the idea of “mutual aid” as a way of understanding natural forms of cooperation (in Nature and human communities) and what we now call prosocial character traits. This played a central role in his conceptions of a collectivist society. However, Bakunin’s vision seemed to retain the prevailing view that competition and reward were driving social and productivity factors - at least in part. More specifically, he still saw a role for an exchange economy, albeit where prices were set by production costs and labor value, rather than via demand. This is also, I think, why Bakunin still framed human work as something that required specific valuation and remuneration (labor vouchers) - and the question then became whether control over such valuation would lead to problematic hierarchical (and potentially bourgeois) relationships - or even resentment and conflict between different sectors of his exchange economy. By the same token, this is why Kropotkin rejected the idea of money and payment for labor - and the concept of labor value in general - in favor of free distribution and collective production grounded in the sentiments of mutual aid. In Kropotkin’s vision, there would therefore be less of a need for an exchange economy, and indeed little requirement for “work” that was tied to conceptions of productivity. We can also see a parallel contrast in how Bakunin and Kropotkin viewed violent revolution: Bakunin advocated for it almost fanatically, while Kropotkin resigned himself to the possibility while advocating careful preparations of persuasion and education to mitigate bloodshed. In one way, we could summarize their major philosophical and operational differences this way: Bakunin was still oriented to capitalistic scarcity in his proposals and expectation of both competition and conflict; whereas Kropotkin oriented his thinking around a more voluntary, cooperative, relaxed and decidedly post-scarcity system.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-main-differences-between-how-Bakunin-and-Kropotkin-saw-Anarchism/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Is it possible for the State to no longer exist?


Yes. There are a few options:

1. Let corporations take over all of the functions that the State currently provides, offering what amounts to “voluntary” contractual slavery to maintain concentrations of wealth and power in the hands of a few. This is where anarcho-capitalism, laissez-faire objectivism, and Nozick-style minarchism eventually lead, and doesn’t really present much of a difference to traditional Statism in terms of the coercive force of poverty or enforcement of the rule of law. It’s basically just stripping off the facade of political self-determination we have in our crony capitalist “representative” democracy. I find it rather humorous U.S. right-libertarianism is so critical of the “excessive and inefficient police state,” when their solutions would likely enhance corporatocracy’s interferences with liberty even more - especially as monopolies consolidate over time.

2. Maintaining a mixed economy and a welfare State, but introducing more direct democracy into the mix - following Switzerland’s hybrid setup, for example. Then, over time, attenuating the responsibilities and authority of the State, and shifting more and more decision-making and accountability to direct democracy and/or down to the community level. The problem with this approach is that, if corporations aren’t democratized and diffused in the same way, they will still represent huge concentrations of wealth and power that disrupt civil society and usurp or countermand democratic will. So this approach is, at best, a temporary fix.

3. Combine semi-direct democracy with worker ownership of production, and rapidly diffuse political and economic power out to the community level. As direct democracy is increasingly implemented across all civic and commercial institutions, centralized power will likewise become more distributed. All that remains is an examination of accumulations of private property and for-profit activities that sabotage egalitarian conditions for liberty, and gradually migrating those into a commons-centric model. For this shift to be voluntary, however, those who have accumulated much power and wealth will of necessity need to mature far enough along the moral spectrum to “gift” their accumulations back to society. In other words, we’ll all need to grow up a bit and graduate from an “I/Me/Mine” toddler mindset. Personally, I think most people have an intrinsic propensity to act prosocially and collectively for everyone’s best interest, it’s just that capitalism has arrested our natural development by constantly reinforcing materialistic individualism.

My own proposals around how and why humanity should transform its political economies away from capitalism and towards left-libertarianism can be found here: Level 7 Overview (http://level-7.org/).

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/Is-it-possible-for-the-State-to-no-longer-exist/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What exactly is Libertarian Socialism?

Answering the question: "What exactly is Libertarian Socialism?"

Thanks for the A2A Binyemîn Alpaydin.

I like Tom Wetzel’s answer, but I understand that you are looking for a simplification. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if a complex idea like libertarian socialism can be easily reduced. However, I will give it a try….

Some elements common to many libertarian socialist proposals:

1) As little centralized State authority as possible - where power is distributed to the people as locally as possible (this is sometimes called “susidiarity”) through various methods of direct democracy, consensus democracy or citizens councils.

2) Greater democracy in the economy - for example, where workers own their own factories, bank customers own their banks, the community has a say in how local resources are used, etc.

3) Greater social equality and wealth distribution - where everyone in society has similar access to opportunities, productivity and civic participation.

4) Non-aggression - force is only used in self-defense.

5) There is less private property, and more common property shared by all - in some cases private property is completely eliminated.

6) Access to a basic level of income, infrastructure, and essential services (education, healthcare, etc.) is provided to everyone through voluntary agreement of all.

7) An emphasis on collectivism rather than individualism.

My 2 cents.

Comment by Jacob Hood: "So… Decentralized communism?"


Interesting that you should mention that: there is something called “anarcho-communism” that does fall roughly within the boundaries of libertarian socialism (IMO). However, communism from a Marxist perspective generally has had a heavier reliance on centralized controls (i.e. a strong central State), and that doesn’t mesh well with the libertarian perspective. However, many self-described libertarian socialist proposals have been heavily influenced by Marxism (Participism, for example).

Is Daniel Guérin's "Anarchism: From Theory to Practice" a good introduction to the philosophy of anarchism?

In answer to Quora question "Is Daniel Guérin's "Anarchism: From Theory to Practice" a good introduction to the philosophy of anarchism?"

A2A. IMO Guérin's brief work is just so-so for reasons I outline below. Also remember that it was written in the late 1960s, and so it won't really bring you up-to-date on anarchist theory and history.

As for theory, Guérin admits from the beginning that this is his take on things - his own distillation of anarchist thought - rather than an introductory survey. As such, it reflects his own bias. I think this becomes clear in how he defines his terms. For example, he frequently equates anarchism with libertarianism with individualism; while he does show how collectivist and individualist approaches and concerns were in active dialectic as anarchist ideas developed over time, to my ear his individualistic (atomistic and Stirner-esque) preferences tend to bleed through. The same is true of his depiction worker self-management and organization vs. the importance of community self-governance; anarcho-syndicalist leanings seem to overtake anarcho-communist concerns in this instance. This is just my take, of course, and perhaps the evidence is subtle.

Guérin does touch (skillfully, I think) upon the central problem inherent to anarchism: that organization, governance and the rule of law are in fact necessary, but that they must somehow be arrived at voluntarily, after total emancipation of all individuals from any societal or institutional constraints. This is the perpetual conundrum that various anarchistic models of collective councils, trade-union associations, federalism, etc. are intended to address - even as these tend to replicate the bureaucracy and representative authority that anarchism rejects. This is the one contradictory aspect of anarchism that I think Guérin clearly defines.

As for the actual history of anarchism, Guérin covers a lot of ground pretty swiftly. However, many of his assertions about what happened in Russia, Spain, Yugoslavia, etc. are not well-supported in this particular work - in other words, they lack copious external references. As to their accuracy, I'm not an expert myself, so I can't really say.

In conclusion, I would say that Anarchism: From Theory to Practice is a relatively easy, short and informative read, but has some inherent bias and tends to gloss over both historical events and ideological issues. It's terminology is also pretty dated. To contrast Guérin's approach (vis-à-vis an alternative bias), and to gain a more modern perspective, you might try Marshall's Demanding the Impossible, which I think presents a much broader, more comprehensive and nuanced history of anarchism and libertarianism. You might also consider Chomsky On Anarchism; Chomsky has his own axe to grind, of course, but it also offers additional contrast and nuance to these other works.

My 2 cents.