Mutual aid is contigent, and that scares some people

The difference between ancoms and ancaps is ancoms think without government we wouldn’t have money while ancaps think without government we wouldn’t have community.

If ancaps are right then we’re fucked, because without government we also wouldn’t have money & so when the government bubble finally bursts we will be in the Hobbsean state of nature liberals warned us about. But, I dunno. I’m hardly a sociable or popular person, but even I have experienced fleeting moments of mutual aid. I expect these to become more common as the forces that pit us against each other weaken.

Here’s the thing. Mutual aid is absolutely contingent. It depends upon people liking you, which means either you avoid acting like a shithead or it’s clear that your antisocial actions aren’t your fault. This is scary if you have a social-darwinian idea of the world or if you see most people around you as enemies. If you don’t think anybody can like you, it’s hard to depend on them, and some mechanism of supporting yourself without depending on them looks desirable.

In a world based on mutual aid (which most societies have functionally been until global capitalism, basically because the reach of the state was limited), exile is a de-facto death sentence because there’s no guarantee you will be admitted into a new community.

bolo’bolo tries to address this (which impressed me, to be honest) by synthesizing mutual aid with a rudimentary social safety net and free travel. But ultimately, any plan for an anarchist society is going to be built around norms, & hoping those norms become popular.

Written by

Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software. http://www.lord-enki.net

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store