Anarchy 66/Observations on Anarchy 63

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Francis elling­ham’s article in anarchy 63, is ex­tremely valu­able and thought-pro­vok­ing, but it seems to me that much of his argu­ment re­mains open to ques­tion. I think his at­tempt to make a key dis­tinc­tion be­tween a so­ciety and an anar­chist milieu is un­real and can only be
sus­tained by giv­ing to both words a very par­tic­u­lar mean­ing, a mean­ing which is not con­tained in the gen­eral cur­rency of either. It also leads him to adopt quite in­de­fens­ible posi­tions. To argue, for ex­ample that “so­ciety” before the Indus­trial Re­volu­tion did not exist, or that “the Greeks had no con­cept of, or word for, ‘so­ciety’,” is surely to narrow the word to apply simply to the very spe­cial phenom­ena that the Indus­trial Re­volu­tion has helped to create.

  This dis­tinc­tion is not only un­real, it is un­im­port­ant, and has the un­fortun­ate con­se­quence of ob­scur­ing the ma­jor dis­tinc­tion that the Indus­trial Re­volu­tion has helped to create. This is not simply the greater size of the so­cial unit (to which Francis Elling­ham re­fers), but the greater scale of organ­isa­tion. All <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: pre-indus­trial so­ciet­ies">pre-indus­trial so­ciet­ies had this much in com­mon, they were small-scale and dom­in­ated by the na­ture of the rela­tion­ships of their mem­bers. They were human-scale com­mun­it­ies. Even the Roman Empire was, per­force, a large num­ber of human-scale com­mun­it­ies linked by a com­mon rule and legal sys­tem. The reason for this em­phasis on a human-scale was simple. In the ab­sence of mech­an­ical trans­port a com­mun­ity was re­stric­ted largely to the cap­a­city of its mem­bers to reach most parts of it with a fair degree of facil­ity on foot. A sec­ond­ary factor was the very large degree of econ­omic self-suf­fi­ciency that was prac­tised.

  After the Indus­trial Re­volu­tion the scale on which all oper­a­tions of trade and gov­ern­ment were con­duc­ted grew to enor­mous pro­por­tions. The change was not only quant­it­at­ive, it was qual­it­at­ive too, for these oper­a­tions ceased to be human-scale they be­came machine-scale. Armed with the new powers of machines and machine meth­ods of organ­isa­tion and ad­min­ist­ra­tion the forces oper­at­ing here no longer do battle against the forces of free­dom with­in the so­cial order, that stage is long past. To­day they are de­term­in­ing the very na­ture of the so­cial order. This is why, de­spite the spread of ballot-box-monger­ing, there is less free­dom in our so­ci­eties today than there was 100, or even 200, years ago.

  This is the ma­jor con­se­quence of the growth of machine-scale so­ci­eties and it seems clear that even if these so­ci­eties do not suc­ceed in de­stroy­ing us al­to­gether with the new ways of war that they have pro­duced, they will achieve an even more dis­ast­rous di­min­u­tion of free­dom over the next 100 years.

  A shop­keeper or trader in a human-scale com­mun­ity is a poten­tial danger to free­dom be­cause he is always seek­ing to ex­tend his scale of oper­a­tions until they dom­in­ate and, at least in part, con­trol the rest of the com­mun­ity. In such cir­cum­stan­ces, how­ever, this poten­tial threat rarely be­comes actual since the coun­ter­vail­ing forces (other shop­keep­ers, the small scale of other fields of eco­nomic activ­ity, the pot­ency of a small-scale com­mun­ity’s moral code and so on) will act as an ef­fect­ive brake on his am­bi­tions.

  In a machine-scale so­ciety this brake is re­moved. Rival traders are merged, taken over or simply driven to bank­ruptcy; the machine-scale of the trader’s new oper­a­tions is but­tressed by a sim­ilar scale in other spheres, in bank­ing, trans­port, gov­ern­ment and so on; and as
for moral­ity and such com­mands as “love thy neigh­bour”, which may be taken to be in­com­pat­ible with his eco­nomic ex­ploit­a­tion or sub­juga­tion, it is ignored. The new power is able to ignore it be­cause the power of moral­ity is a pro­duct of human rela­tions with­in a human com­mun­ity. Under machine-scale oper­a­tions com­mun­ity is murd­ered and re­placed by the mass. Since the mem­bers of a mass are no longer in a power-rela­tion­ship with each other and are merely in­stru­ments of a re­mote centre, they can have no moral rela­tion­ships (for there is then no power of sanc­tions, ostra­cism and so on to en­force them). Men no longer de­vote the toil of their daily lives to the com­mon good, they be­come sub­ordin­ate and pas­sive parts of the machine-scale schemes of others for pro­fit.

  It is our own age, and one that has the temer­ity to at­tach to it­self the label of pro­gress, that singles out for its ac­claim and re­ward not its art­ists or philo­sophers, or even its states­men, but its gro­cers, its pork butchers, its pur­vey­ors or soap and butter sub­sti­tutes.

  It is in­struc­tive that Francis Elling­ham shares the de­fect of much anar­chist lit­era­ture in re­fus­ing to grapple seri­ously with the prob­lem of eco­nomic organ­isa­tion. This is curi­ous, for even Marx was merely ac­know­ledging the obvi­ous when he in­sisted on the key role of eco­nom­ics as a de­termin­ant so­cial force. (He was surely wrong to in­sist it is the dom­in­ant so­cial force, but that is an­other story.)

  At one point Francis Elling­ham de­clares that prior to the Indus­trial Re­volu­tion the state played no di­rect part in eco­nomic af­fairs. This is surely a slip of the pen, or has he ever con­sulted any of the stand­ard texts on the his­tory of the English wool trade, and the ef­forts of the state to reg­ulate it in minut­est de­tail? Has he never heard of the TudorStat­ute of Ap­pren­tices” and the numer­ous at­tempts made under the first Eliza­beth, to go no further back, to reg­ulate wages and prices? What does he sup­pose the Ludd­ites were fight­ing for if not to re­tain these ele­ments of eco­nomic pater­nal­ism in face of the powers of the new machine forces?

  Does he know no­thing of the same mon­arch’s role in finan­cing the trading-cum-piracy activ­it­ies of Drake and, later, of the new com­panies of Mer­chant Ven­tur­ers? And at a time when the Church was an in­teg­ral part of the state organ­isa­tion and en­gross­ing a ma­jor share of the com­mun­ity’s eco­nomic in­cre­ment does he sup­pose all those vast and splen­did cath­edrals were built with a mix­ture of prayer, as­cet­i­cism and the free­will of­fer­ings of the credu­lous?

  This omis­sion leads to a fail­ure to re­cog­nise the basic cause of our cur­rent polit­ical di­lemma. Owing to the vast scale of the forces em­ployed it is now im­pos­sible for people at the base to con­trol them, even if they should want to. A gen­er­a­tion or so ago Robert Michels made the reason for this clear, al­though he omit­ted to spell out the mechan­ics of it. He pointed out that mass polit­ical parties (and it holds true of al­most any mass organ­isa­tion) have an in­built dis­posi­tion towards olig­archic leader­ship. Anar­chists, of course, start with this kind of as­sump­tion, but what are the mechan­ics?

  As an organ­isa­tion grows, de­ci­sion-mak­ing is neces­sar­ily oper­ated on a repre­sent­a­tional basis. The bigger the scale the more re­mote the repre­sent­a­tion and the more power­ful the mechan­ism by which repre­sent­at­ives are se­lec­ted. In polit­ics this is true at both the prim­ary (party) stage of se­lect­ing a can­didate, and at the sec­ond­ary stage of a pub­lic elec­tion. As the scale con­tinues to grow there comes a point where the power of the repre­sent­at­ive machin­ery, how­ever organ­ised, be­comes greater than the power of the elector­ate. We are a long way past this stage to­day. What needs de­termin­ing is just what form of so­cial organ­isa­tion we can have which is sus­cept­ible to the con­trol of all the mem­bers of a given so­ciety.

  Talk here of an “anar­chist milieu” is hope­lessly vague and im­prac­tic­able, and cer­tainly pro­vides no kind of tan­gible al­tern­at­ive to which masses of be­wild­ered and dis­il­lu­sioned people can turn.

  Since the dom­in­ant aspect of our power­less­ness is the sheer big­ness of the scale of the forces con­front­ing us, is it reason­able to sup­pose that the first requis­ite is small-scale forms of organ­isa­tion which it is pos­sible for us to con­trol?

  The com­mon­est answer one is apt to re­ceive to such a sug­ges­tion, is, “We can’t put the clock back”. One can only re­ply to this that if we can de­vise some form of so­cial organ­isa­tion which will reap the real bene­fits of techno­logy with­out al­low­ing machines and machine-scale oper­a­tions to dis­tort and per­vert human needs we shall have made the most sig­nif­i­cant step towards so­cial pro­gress in the his­tory of man­kind.

London john papworth


It would re­quire a lin­guistic philo­sopher to ana­lyse ad­equately the seman­tic morass that ap­peared in anarchy 63. How­ever, as my at­tempt to clear away some of the minor mis­con­cep­tions that linger in anar­chist theory has ap­par­ently re­sulted in a mis­under­stand­ing so pro­found as to make one despair of words as a means of com­mun­ica­tion, I would like to at­tempt to clear up some of the more obvi­ous mis­under­stand­ings, and cor­rect a couple of the more glar­ing mis­repre­sent­a­tions, in Mr. Elling­ham’s polemic.   A great deal of the con­fu­sion in Mr. Elling­ham’s mind seems to stem from his use of the con­cept “so­ciety”. Now I grant that to some ex­tent so­ciety is an ana­lytical ab­strac­tion, and be­cause of this any given de­fin­i­tion is valid only to the ex­tent that it is ad­equate for the task in­volved. Never­the­less with­in the con­text of so­cial theory most peopple have some idea of so­ciety as a sys­tem of so­cial inter­ac­tion that re­cruited its mem­bers prim­ar­ily by sex­ual re­pro­duc­tion. In writ­ing Anar­chism and State­less So­ci­eties I used the word as a con­cept de­not­ing a group pos­sess­ing four ma­jor char­acter­ist­ics: (a) de­fin­ite ter­ri­tory; (b) sex­ual re­pro­duc­tion; (c) com­pre­hens­ive cul­ture; (d) in­de­pend­ence. Thus when I said that with­out so­ciety the human animal can­not de­velop into a human being I was say­ing that the new­born infant must part­i­cip­ate in an on-going sys­tem of so­cial inter­ac­tion and that this sys­tem so­cial­ises the infant in terms of its cul­ture. In this re­spect then Mr. Elling­ham’s mind is as “so­cial­ised” as mine and
his use of the word as a pejor­at­ive ad­ject­ive is tot­ally mean­ing­less in terms of the essay he is at­tack­ing.

  Cul­ture I took as “that com­plex whole which in­cludes the know­ledge, be­lief, art, morals, law cus­tom and other cap­abil­it­ies ac­quired by man as a mem­ber of so­ciety”. But again this defin­i­tion of Tylor’s is an ab­strac­tion, as cul­ture and so­ciety are only separ­able ana­lytic­ally, they are in fact dif­fer­ent ways of look­ing at the same thing. Thus when Mr. Elling­ham ac­cuses me of re­gard­ing cul­ture and so­ciety as the same thing he is cor­rect, but for quite the wrong reasons; I was mak­ing an ana­lytical dis­tinc­tion but I was not claim­ing, as he ap­pears to be doing, that the two can be separ­ated em­pir­ic­ally.

  Mr. Elling­ham’s con­fu­sion here arises (rather oddly as he ac­cuses me of con­cep­tual slop­pi­ness and cir­cular argu­ment) be­cause he takes his own idio­syn­cratic defin­i­tion of so­ciety and by argu­ing back­wards in time at­tempts to apply his con­cep­tu­al­isa­tion to my argu­ments, while ignor­ing my usage. Such method­o­log­ical errors even an agrar­ian utopian like Mr. Elling­ham should avoid, as they lead him to make such highly ris­ible state­ments as “Before the Indus­trial Re­volu­tion what we call so­ciety did not exist. …” With­in my own usage of the term, what Mr. Elling­ham calls a milieu, or com­mun­ity, are both so­ci­eties and, in the same con­text, the phrase anar­chist so­ciety is no more a con­tra­dic­tion in terms than is the phrase na­tion-state when dis­cuss­ing mod­ern forms of polit­ical organ­isa­tion in an indus­trial mass so­ciety. In fact Mr. Elling­ham ap­pears to use the term so­ciety for the con­cept that C. Wright Mills termed “mass so­ciety”. But this is only a type of so­ciety, or more ac­cur­ately, the cul­tural aspect of a type of so­ciety; it is no more the only type of so­ciety than the state is the only polit­ical form in human his­tory.

  Mr. Elling­ham also makes a rather odd use, or at least a use that bears no dis­cern­ible rela­tion­ship to mine, of the terms “so­cial” and “so­ci­ate”. Any group of people inter­act­ing are in­volved in so­cial rela­tion­ships and the term “non-so­cial milieu” in­so­far as it is used to de­scribe a human group, as Elling­ham does, is liter­ally non-sense. By so­ci­ate I meant (it is dif­fi­cult to dis­cern what Elling­ham in­ferred from the term), hav­ing some degree of under­stand­ing of so­cial pro­cesses. It seems to me log­ical that human beings should have some know­ledge of so­cial pro­cesses and in­sti­tu­tions if they are at­tempt­ing to alter or abol­ish them, just as we ex­pect a sur­geon to have a know­ledge of bio­logy and ana­tomy. So­cial in­sti­tu­tions are so­cial facts and re­quire so­cial know­ledge if they are to be al­tered in any de­sired di­rec­tion. Other­wise the re­sult is likely to be as dis­ast­rous as the vari­ous at­tempts to in­sti­tute the mil­len­nium by re­volu­tion and in­sur­rec­tion have been. The pur­pose of my essay was, in its minor way, di­rected towards that very end, in that I was at­tempt­ing to re­fute the idea that the abol­i­tion of the state could, on its own, bring about any kind of anar­chist utopia.

  It is at this point that the solip­sistic Mr. Elling­ham tot­ally mis­repre­sents my argu­ment—when he at­trib­utes to me the state­ment that anar­chism is “simply in­ad­equate”. A slightly more care­ful per­usal of the text would have shown him that what I actu­ally said was that
a par­tic­u­lar anar­chist postul­ate, that the state was the prime reason for di­vi­sions in so­ciety and the main source of its in­equal­it­ies (a per­fectly reason­ably theory at a cer­tain point in the de­velop­ment of human know­ledge) could no longer be re­garded as valid in the light of our know­ledge of the state­less so­cieties that had also per­petu­ated these di­vi­sions. (Another ad­vant­age of being “so­ci­ate” as I used the term, is that we then avoid wast­ing our time bark­ing up the wrong tree.)

  Fin­ally, I would argue that mere state­less­ness can­not be the anar­chist goal, if only for the reasons stated above. I cer­tainly do not con­ceive of anar­chism as “es­sen­tially only a doc­trine which re­jects the state”. Anar­chism is a re­jec­tion of the au­thor­ity prin­ciple in human rela­tion­ships and this sub­sumes the abol­i­tion of the state among many other fac­tors. The de­velop­ment of a freely co-oper­at­ive so­ciety will take a great deal of time, if only be­cause for the ma­jor­ity of human beings the so­cial­isa­tion pro­cess in­volves an ac­cept­ance of the au­thor­ity prin­ciple, but given the right so­cial en­viron­ment it would just as easily in­volve its re­jec­tion. And we stand much more chance of achiev­ing such an en­viron­ment, in which the in­di­vidual could live anar­chist­ic­ally and hap­pily by an under­stand­ing of so­cial action than by mak­ing the blind leap into a mystic reli­gi­os­ity (by Hobbes out of Gautama Buddha) that Mr. Elling­ham makes towards the end of his article.

London john pilgrim  


Most of francis elling­ham’s criti­cisms of John Pilgrim and Ian Vine spring from a mis­in­ter­pret­a­tion of their anarchy articles, that old bug­bear—seman­tic con­fu­sion.

  Ac­cord­ing to F.E., both J.P. and I.V. are “so-called anar­chists” be­cause they rate some­thing higher than the in­di­vidual, namely some con­cept of so­ci­ety into which the in­di­vidual must fit or else. Now, there are anar­chists (“anar­chists” if you pre­fer it) who seem es­pe­cially con­cerned with some­thing called “so­ci­ety”, to which in­di­viduals have “duties” and which must al­ways be the first con­sider­a­tion. Sim­il­arly there are anar­chists (I used to be one) who set up blue­prints for anar­chy and be­lieve that other people “should” work towards them and mould them­selves (or be moulded) into the kind of per­son that would make the dream so­ci­eties work. Ex­amples are ex­treme pacif­ists, anar­cho-syn­dic­al­ists, techno­logy wor­ship­pers (there will be auto­ma­tion, com­rades) and ex­treme simple-lifers, a posi­tion F.E. him­self once de­fended in <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: freedom">freedom al­though with sound argu­ments and not just emo­tional dogma­tism.

  How­ever, neither J.P. nor I.V., either in their anarchy articles or else­where, show the kind of “so­cial­ised out­look” that F.E. com­plains of al­though it would have been better if they had avoided the ambi­gu­ous word “so­ci­ety” with its im­plica­tions of duties and obe­i­sance and used in­stead “milieu”. In par­tic­u­lar, I don’t re­gard I.V.’s view that men­tally sick, viol­ent people should be re­strained (but not pun­ished or de­spised) in­com­pat­ible with anar­chism. I.V.’s choice of words was per­haps a little un­fortun­ate but un­less F.E. be­lieves
murder­ers and rap­ists should be left to carry on, his use of “brute force” and “sick­en­ing” to de­scribe I.V.’s views seems silly.

  F.E. also be­lieves that the con­fu­sion caused by talk­ing about “so­ci­eties” and “states” when de­fin­ing anar­chism could be avoided by using the de­fin­i­tion “the doc­trine that every human being would do well to be­come—one who neither gov­erns nor is gov­erned; and who is not gov­erned by him­self—that is, by self­ish crav­ings, fears, etc.” The de­fin­i­tion is ex­cel­lent as far as it goes but it doesn’t avoid the con­fu­sion. Try using it to some­one who wants to learn about anar­chism and ten to one their first ques­tion will in­clude the words “state” or “so­ci­ety” thus the net re­sult of F.E.’s de­fin­i­tion that avoids these words is to post­pone their use by about ten sec­onds.

  Cer­tainly “spon­tane­ous” be­ha­viour is anar­chist be­ha­viour (one sort any­way) and if enough people be­haved like that there would be anar­chy. But most people’s spon­tane­ity has been warped by this crazy, au­thor­it­arian world. If the world has made one a non­entity or a com­pul­sive bingo player then spon­tane­ity for you is being a non­entity or play­ing bingo neither of which seem par­tic­u­larly anar­chistic to me. F.E. should tell us how people can break free of the ef­fects of up­bring­ing, en­viron­ment, etc., and be­come “fear­less”, etc. So far as most people are at the mo­ment spon­tane­ity (other than spon­tane­ous con­form­ity) is not pos­sible, this is a sub­ject I hope to dis­cuss in a future anarchy.

  It is also true that whether anar­chy will bring auto­ma­tion or simple life is idle con­jec­ture. I feel in­tu­it­ively, how­ever, that auto­ma­tion and anar­chy don’t mix and that as the world has set its sights on auto­ma­tion anar­chism in the fu­ture will be largely con­cerned with keep­ing out of the way of the auto­ma­tion state.

London jeff robinson  


I have just got round to read­ing Francis Elling­ham in anarchy 63. How a writer of his abil­ity can really be­lieve such crazy non­sense is in­com­pre­hens­ible. As for Aris­totle, does it really matter whether or not he con­sid­ered man to be a so­cial animal? More apt surely is Bakunin’s view of man as “not an iso­lated in­di­vidual but a so­cial being”. And again, “The in­di­vidual is a pro­duct of So­ci­ety. Without So­ci­ety, man is no­thing. All pro­duct­ive labour is, before all, so­cial labour, pro­duc­tion only being pos­sible by the com­bin­a­tion of the labour of past and pres­ent gen­er­a­tions; there has never been any labour which could be called in­di­vidual labour”.

  The fal­lacy of spuri­ous in­di­vidu­al­ism is even more obvi­ous to­day than it would have been to Bakunin. Can we ima­gine Elling­ham’s milieu oper­at­ing trans­con­tin­ental rail­ways, ocean liners or air­ways; or for that matter, the every­day pro­duc­tion of the neces­sit­ies of life. Why waste time (and space in anarchy) on such fantasy? I am aware that F.E. does not ap­prove of techno­logy and auto­ma­tion. I am sure that he would re­ject the neces­sity of air travel with scorn. But does he really think the time will come when these things will be no more? If so, his only hope is a tiny com­mun­ity on an un­not­iced islet. His theor­ies have no relev­ance to real­it­ies. To quote Bakunin again, “The con­cept of man as an iso­lated in­di­vidual is a meta­phys­ical and theo­logical con­cept”. In­di­vidual­ists have no part in life to­day, if in­deed they ever had. Their place is with the reli­gious and mys­tical bodies with which they are re­lated, to put into prac­tice (if they can) the in­di­vidual sal­va­tion they pro­fess.

  The true ex­pres­sion of the in­di­vidual can only be when the con­flict of eco­nomic inter­est, em­bodied in and es­sen­tial to, the priv­ate owner­ship of the means of pro­ducing wealth is ended and com­mon and so­cial owner­ship with ident­ity of inter­est sub­sti­tuted. That this neces­sit­ates so­cial organ­isa­tion is un­doubted. This does not mean “one opin­ion” though as F.E. fears. On the con­trary, the ener­gies and mind would really be freed and the in­di­vidual be­come sov­ereign as a re­sult of being free eco­nom­ic­ally. This is the way to the true in­di­vidu­al­ism which can be at­tained by no other means. Nor is there any sub­stance in the total­it­ar­ian ob­jec­tion. Gov­ern­ments exist for one pur­pose and one pur­pose only, the pro­tec­tion of priv­ate pro­perty. This is so even when the seem­ingly ben­evol­ent and “Wel­fare State” legis­la­tion in en­acted, the neces­sary brake on the worst ex­cesses of priv­ate owner­ship. With the pass­ing of Au­thor­ity which would have no place in a free com­mun­ity, there could be no re­stric­tion on lib­erty, Ian Vine not­with­stand­ing. Un­so­cial acts are the di­rect re­sult of un­so­cial con­di­tions. There is no cure for such acts under priv­ate owner­ship, as centur­ies of legal op­pres­sion have proved. Nor would Elling­ham’s ideas be more ef­fect­ive (if they could be put into prac­tice) since they have no ma­terial basis. Like Inger­soll on the Heavenly Father, the anar­chism and ideals of the In­di­vidu­al­ists are base­less shadow of a wist­ful human dream the base­less shadow of a wist­ful human dream.

Wold­ing­ham f.b.


Francis elling­ham quotes out of con­text a state­ment from John Pilgrimby no means ori­ginal to John—(in­deed al­most axiom­atic to most people), de­duces some­thing from this which does not follow, uses some­thing like a Stalin­ist amal­gam to saddle John and those who agree with him with the pro-prison views of Ian Vine, chides John for some­one else’s mis­trans­la­tion from the Greek—which in fact was not a mis­trans­la­tion, though Elling­ham re­peats an­other com­mon mis­trans­la­tion later; and bases an article on this fal­lacy. If this were the best that in­di­vidu­al­ists could do, even my low opin­ion of them would sink.

  With­out so­ci­ety the human animal can­not de­velop into a human being. This does not, to any­one with any know­ledge of logic, neces­sar­ily mean that all forms of so­ci­ety are con­du­cive to such de­vel­op­ment, and Elling­ham if he has read John’s articles or those of any other “so­cial­ised”-think­ing anar­chists as he terms us, knows per­fectly well that it is the con­ten­tion of anar­chist-com­mun­ist re­volu­tion­ar­ies, as of grad­u­al­ists like John, that all au­thor­it­ar­ian­ism in so­ci­ety in­evit­ably cor­rupts human de­velop­ment. A short refer­ence to Kropot­kin or Malin­ow­ski would, in­cid­ent­ally, have given ob­served evid­ence for the axiom—more im­port­ant to anar­chists than Aris­totle.

  In point of fact, since I came into the anar­chist move­ment I have
met some half-dozen anar­chists who are not in­sist­ent on the need to abol­ish prisons, one would have called her­self an anar­chist com­mun­ist, I doubt if Ian Vine would do so, and four were defin­itely in­di­vidu­al­ist anar­chists, as of course was Ben­jamin Tucker, who was pre­pared to re­tain hang­ing.

  The Greek word politikon which, as Elling­ham so rightly says, we must not as­sume is ident­ical with our polit­ics, is in fact the art of living in a polis. (A polisa city—being in Greek times hardly larger than a mod­ern vil­lage, or, if a mega­polis, a market town.) Since neither the word urb­an­ity, nor the word civil­ised (both with sim­ilar deriv­a­tions), gives the mean­ing, while the word polit­ics as we under­stand it is tot­ally un­re­lated, it is per­fectly ac­cur­ate as a trans­la­tion to render the word as so­cial or so­ci­ate. I know of no other trans­la­tion giv­ing a com­par­ably fair render­ing of the term.

  While we are on the sub­ject, anarkhia did not mean ab­sence of gov­ern­ment, it meant a so­ci­ety or state which gov­erned it­self with­out archons, who were a curi­ous sort of elec­ted priest-king; and it would not have been thought in­con­gru­ous for a Greek to say of a city that it was anarkhia and that it had a tyrannois, a self-made king. I did once come across a Greek term for the ab­sence of gov­ern­ment, but un­fortun­ately forgot it, Akephalous (with­out head) is about as near as one can get.

  Incid­ent­ally a state­less but also tot­al­it­ar­ian so­ci­ety, be­sides being a con­tra­dic­tion in terms is not a Marx­ist ideal, any more than it is anar­chist. Marx be­lieved that to reach the state­less so­ci­ety one had first to pass through the tot­al­it­ar­ian, but no­where did he, or even Lenin, sug­gest that the two might co-exist.

  There are several dozen other in­ac­cur­acies or errors of logic in Elling­ham’s article, but I be­lieve this is a fair cross-sec­tion and is ad­equate to de­mol­ish his argu­ment.

Oxon. laurens otter