Would anarchy maintain the status quo?

A couple of weeks ago I spoke at the Greenbelt Festival on whether a mature and confident society should encourage people to opt-out; if we have a successful and attractive way of living (capitalism and consumerism) then the number of people wanting something different would be insignificant and we should go out of our way to accommodate them, rather than bully them into our way of thinking.

Exploring this idea led me down a number of paths you might find interesting:

  • Universal Basic Income, where everyone gets enough money to live on whether they work or not;
  • sabbaticals for everyone, including the unemployed, where you’re strongly encouraged to take one in every seven years off from your normal ‘work’ to do as you please;
  • and pushing devolution to its limit by allowing different parts of the country to choose their own political and economic structures and then helping people move to the one that suits them best.

During the Q&A session the recommendation to read The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin was made in response to one of my, slightly tongue in cheek, suggestions that Milton Keynes may want to adopt anarchy as its political and economic basis.

This novel cropped up a lot during my research for Fluence and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who’s interested in an anarchy where nothing is owned, there are no laws and community is the glue that holds it all together.

What Le Guin manages to do, and I’ve not come across this anywhere else yet, is contrast a propertarian (capitalist) world and an anarchist world so the subtleties of human desire for power are played out in both, creating two believable yet dysfunctional societies. The most significant of her observations for me was that anarchy can lead to rule by public opinion, which tends toward the status quo, and can therefore stifle creativity and exploration.

This is a must read for anyone who thinks that anarchy sounds great but has asked the question, how could it ever work?

11 responses on “Would anarchy maintain the status quo?

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