Among the conversations I’ve had with and the articles I’ve read by anarchists, there appears to be a general consensus that opposition to hierarchy is a requirement of a stateless society. This has always struck me as at best naive utopianism and at worst consigning modern society to the maintenance of the state and its artificial hierarchies and order. Now I’ve previously written about hierarchy and its role in anarchy, so I’m not focusing so much on its role as I am on its moral foundation and its necessity within a society.
Moral foundations for anarchism, at least in my opinion, should rest on political and economic decentralisation to the lowest feasible level, the maintenance of voluntary relations in all areas of life (withstanding natural considerations i.e. childhood) and the maximisation of liberty toward the individual. Within this, hierarchy can play a key consideration. Decentralised communities have historically been based on social hierarchies that are considered natural. Certain families are stronger and larger than others, thus gaining leadership positions. The kinship that exists in decentralised communities is in fact reliant upon such hierarchies. Every family or tribe has a voice, yet some voices can carry more weight than others. The individual would be sovereign, an Anarch. But he would not be unsocial and individualistic, and would be codified by the wider family and community. This may lead toward a very unlibertarian society and a set of skewed power relations, but that’s where the second foundation comes in, that of voluntariness. By maintaining the voluntary character of politico-economic relations, power as a factor of exploitation can be minimised. As power becomes too centralised, groups can break away and form new communities, as was the case for Irish fiefdoms and tribes.
Let us look at some of the significant historical examples of decentralised and stateless societies. Ireland, the Scottish clans, the Frankish Wergeld communities, elements of English feudalism and the Icelandic Free State. All of these relied upon strict, but in many cases voluntary, hierarchies. In some of these societies, we even see less death and war than when compared with their more centralised equivalents. What we see are a need for strong social and kin-based bonds to develop truly decentralised communities. Without these, centralised and powerful states take their place as happened with the ascendance of capitalism and the breaking of the natural orders of feudal relations. This is not to say that feudal societies were perfect or even desirable, but rather many things both economic and political can be learned and developed when thinking of creating new stateless communities.
By understanding the history, we understand that a search for equality is fruitless. An exercise in futility. There will always be some below us, and some above us. But who makes that decision counts. As of now, it is made by bureaucratic elites and corporate wealth-hoarders. In a genuine hierarchy, such as the Kirkian class system, the movement between classes is fluid. Power is distributed, but obligation and order remain as part of the natural flow of societal relations.
Within anarchist societies, we would then see conceptions of a natural order with attendant hierarchical social relations. Democratic politics would not be the mob rule of representative democracy with its attendant technocratic rule from above. Rather, power is invested in the tribe/community, with each family and individual having a say. Power is conferred on those who truly contribute. This may lead to an elite, but it will not resemble the modern elite. The modern elite is conferred by economic power, which can only occur under the relations of statism. With decentralised, freed markets, the ability to hoard wealth would become much more difficult, thus limiting the effects of political corruption. Democracy would take on a hierarchical character, with forms of fiefdom and monarchy becoming a norm, in some ways similar to Middle Eastern tribes and families (particularly as they existed under the polycentric governance of the Ottomans). The relations of the Wergeld-based kingdoms and the common law juries of England had similar systems. Families and communities would become the building blocks of society. And in place of our modern elites, we would see a radical aristocracy of trusted governors and family leaders as theorised by Nietzsche and Evola.
It is the innate conservative in me that believes this. I see society as composed of little platoons, with communities created at the behest of those who want to create them. The Hoppean idea of covenant communities, or National-Anarchist governance, exemplifies this best. Direct democracy via kinship and trust, and parliaments convened voluntarily by the constituent communities. These are historical realities that are much more familiar to modern stateless societies as well as those who live within tight-knit Western communities. Anarchists need to move away from a revulsion for all hierarchy. We need to stop believing in the false god of equality. It is capitalist and statist hierarchy they should hate, not the natural order of family, community and the Anarch.