Theophilis Goodyear: Panarchy versus Anarchy – Non-Hierarchal, Network-Controled Governance + Panarchy RECAP
“Non-Hierarchal, Network-Controled Governance” Is a Better Term Than Anarchy
For me, the anarchy argument is a philosophical can of worms. It’s like pulling a loose thread on a suit that never ends. Bryan Kaplan Ph.D. (of George Mason University), in his Anarchist Theory FAQ makes a pretty good case that the only thing anarchists have in common is a belief that “all forms of government are unnecessary, oppressive, and undesirable and should be abolished . . . ”
Unfortunately, this is probably the least supportable of all anarchist claims. To begin with (as Kaplan points out) the argument is framed in the negative. And that’s not an enviable starting position for a philosopher or debater. And even Kropotkin, one of the most prominent anarchists (as Kaplan also points out), argued that “No destruction of the existing order is possible, if at the time of the overthrow, or of the struggle leading to the overthrow, the idea of what is to take the place of what is to be destroyed is not always present in mind. Even the theoretical criticism of the existing conditions is impossible, unless the critic has in mind a more or less distinct picture of what he would have in place of the existing state. Consciously or unconsciously, the ideal, the conception of something better is forming in the mind of everyone who criticizes social institutions.”
In other words, abolishing government would bring everyone out of the woodwork; and they would all have their own ideas about what to replace it with, and they would all be talking at once (perhaps shooting as well). It’s hard to imagine much could get accomplished in that kind of environment.
Now, panarchy is an idea I can agree with, because it means non-hierarchal governance. But I think non-hierarchal governance is a far better term because it’s associated with systems theory, which is about taming complexity. I can’t think of many philosophies that are less intellectual as a whole than anarchy. And I have exactly the opposite point of view of non-hierarchal governance. So from my perspective, the value of open-source systems and collective-intelligence should not even be loosely associated with anarchy.
I “get” the idea of panarchy—–as I’m sure others in this forum do as well—–because I understand the concept of non-hierarchal governance. But I don’t think the general public will get it. I think they are more likely to be turned-off or confused by the term. For that reason, I don’t think the term panarchy is very useful as a public education tool (except perhaps to attract the interest of anarchists), and may actually be counter-productive in explaining the amazing potential of open-source collective intelligence. The “solutions” that anarchists tend to offer are all over the map. They don’t even agree among themselves. But they’re not well-known for their solutions; they’re well known for pointing out the problem: for blaming the very institution of government for just about everything. That’s the most open-ended of open-ended arguments and really gets us nowhere beyond opening up a discussion about what we might replace government with. And even that question is not a very good one. A better question is: how might we reform government so that it will better serve the greater good of society?
It’s not a wise idea to start from scratch and completely redesign an airplane in mid-flight, ripping out the control panel, etc., and then trying to replace it with something else. So when I hear anarchists talk about “starting from scratch” it’s like fingernails on a chalk board for me.
Contemporary humans, because of the vast complexity of our interactions, are more dependent on organization and social order than ever before in our history. This means that even if we could somehow get rid of government—–which is the longest of long shots—–we would have to replace it with another form of organization. And what would we call it? The “un-cola?” Non-government? It doesn’t much matter what we would call it. What would matter is how it was structured. The irony is that thanks to the potential of open-source systems and collective intelligence, the dreams of anarchists may finally be within reach. But I don’t think classical anarchists have contributed much to making this a reality. In fact without the technology, anarchy would be almost impossible to maintain even in a world as complex as the 19th century. And it would be disastrous for contemporary society, which is orders of magnitude more complex.
I think the open-source collective intelligence movement deserves better than to be associated with anarchists of the past. I think it should be associated with visionaries like Ludwig Bertalanffy, Buckminster Fuller, W. Edward’s Deming, and Peter Senge. And for that, I think the term non-hierarchal, network-controled governance is a much better term. Maybe there’s even a better term than that. I would be open for suggestions.