The Importance of Mutuality in the Realm of Tradition

Tradition is the conception of a solid society of recognised rules and customs with distributed classes of people. Generally seen as the lower and higher orders, society actually has much more complex relations of heredity and hierarchy, which take on different realms and situations. While tradition is certainly seen as the maintenance of certain orders, even in authoritarian circumstances, the reality is that forms of paternalism and natural order require acceptance by said lower orders, who are in fact important blocs of power that do not necessarily find themselves within authoritarian, top-down enforced relations but rather in localised variations of political dispute and argumentation, that can lead to forms of retribution (both violent and non-violent) to maintain mutualities. These mutualities are the real acceptance of such relations which form the backbone of actual tradition. Hierarchies are variable and can be open to acceptance, in the same way forms of property system are open to challenge instead of reliant on pure acceptance[1]. They require voluntary agreement in the realm of the social, otherwise such relations do take on an authoritarian character.

This distinction can be seen in the Hoppean conception of the origin of the state as taking on the natural orders of society by creating vested interests out of powerful families[2], and with it monopolising violence and giving itself the capacity to quell dissent. In many cases, the imposition of hierarchies and forms of society were accomplished via the state, which elevated certain forms of power over others. In the feudal era, this was much easier due to lack of education of the ‘lower orders’ and the ability to raise armies. While the peasant and working classes could create dissent, their need to take care of families and feed themselves limited their ability to maintain protracted warfare, thus allowing professional armies under the state to naturally win out in the end. Whether it be the workers rising in Ghent, or Kett’s Rebellion in 1549, both relied on maintained working class support which waned when food was scarce and lives did not return to normal. This then shows the power of tradition. Tradition is the capacity to live a normal life, whatever it may be. When rebellion does occur, its power wanes when it cannot develop tradition but only rely on radicalism, which while important, is short-lived. Of course this changes without a distinct monopolist of violence which can control routes of power[3]. Thus in framing this essay, I am taking an anarchist understanding of how such systems work without a state.

By seeing tradition and radicalism as non-dichotomous, it allows for a potential synthesis of the left and right of politics, who in the modern era both show resentment for modernity and a disillusionment with the modern socio-politico-economic order. For example, the left is very much opposed to hierarchy in economic terms, but in reality ignores its inherent tendency to develop even in social contexts, as tribal societies and modern networks show. There has to be recognition that pure egalitarianism is frankly nonsense, and that differences inevitably develop, even in non-monetary societies. Olin Wright seems to recognise this in calling for a genuine equality of opportunity rather than pure egalitarianism in all facets of life. Differences obviously develop in desires as well as intelligence. Hierarchies naturally form from this. But this doesn’t mean the necessitation of wage labour and capitalism, and it doesn’t mean an extremely unequal society free from mutuality. If the left recognise forms of hierarchy, the right needs to recognise the power of mutuality and custom in holding those in the upper classes to account. In the extreme, this means the violent breaking down of order and all out theft and non-recognition of each other’s claims. But of course this doesn’t represent the majority of historical situations. Looking at Thompson’s idea of the moral economy, we see the ability of lower classes to effectively demand a fair price and take goods when necessary without the breaking down of order and tradition. Thompson showed many examples of peasants taking bread and grain from the baker with promise of some form of future payment for the inconvenience. In fact, this economy was only destroyed via state-led ‘free trade’ and the development of a mercantile, industrial elite through the centralising tendency of statist action, particularly the raising of taxes for war and the enclosures which removed independence from the peasant classes and allowed for the brutality of the industrial revolution, something rightly decried by traditionalists such as Chesterton and Belloc.

Throughout some of the rebellions mentioned, support even came from the higher classes. The Diggers initially received support from elements of the landed aristocracy. Kett’s rebellion was led by Kett, a yeoman, not a peasant. Many of the Tudorian rebellions opposed both the enclosures and the destruction of the monasteries, wanting to maintain local hierarchies. These were led by a combination of peasants and priest and gentry. Even in the most radical of cities under feudalism, hierarchy was present, whether in the form of the town burgher or elements of the landed aristocracy who wanted to maintain order. Thus mutuality and the maintenance of tradition were massively important in working class movements, which opposed the move toward capitalism and the violence contained within it. In these rebellions, there was a need for radicalism to be contained by reality, and traditionalism to be transformed in political ways when necessary.

Such comparisons can be made today between the left and the alt-right. The latter has a desire to return to hierarchical forms of society, including forms of monarchism. The former, in its autonomist and anarchist forms, has a desire for decentralism and a return of socio-economic and political power back to communities and individuals. But neither are incompatible. Decentralised monarchies with attendant mutualities are seen in the pre-Cromwellian Irish political systems, known as tuatha, and the Scottish clans. Similar mutualities that have parallels with pre-enclosure localities include the Filipino Zanjeras, which combine labour for landowners with common land for shared labour and farming. Such independence allows for independent power and culture, and the capacity to maintain forms of equality with landowners by having this independence. Of course, modern politico-economic systems aren’t like feudal societies. But even then, a combination of traditionalist and radical leftist politics is still possible. For an alternative economic system, we see a belief by the alt-right for unequal market systems, as described by Hoppe. But these need not be like modern capitalism and wage labour. Instead, they can be independent contractors who work for those with wealth if so desired, but they don’t have to due to the existence of things like the social economy and mutual aid. Of course, wage labour wouldn’t be eliminated as some people have no quarrel with their doing it. This kind of concept can be seen in the universal basic income, which provides independence and choice, like common land, without eliminating the realm of traditional life and hierarchical order. These then are two sides of the systems both groups may desire. Hierarchy and order, combined with equality and independence. Classlessness is impossible, but mutuality is.

Similarly, in the area of identity politics, something important to both movements, the desires of both are possible in an anarchist system of varied voluntary polities. The alt-right believe in recognising the importance of white identity and ethnocentrism, and with it a desire to limit immigration as it dilutes national character. Under anarchism, such is entirely possible in contractual communities where in-groups and out-groups can be defined. Such already exists with the Rojavan Kurdish towns and some Israeli intentional communities. This then allows for forms of white nationalism to flourish and develop in anarchism, and can be built through anarchist forms of resistance such as secession and the freedom of association. Equally, identitarian politics of Black nationalists or gay communities can be developed as independent polities. All are possible under anarchy without adjectives, or pan-anarchism and the method of pan-secessionism.

Mutuality is an important political reality that can unite the disparate elements of left and right in modern politics to resist modern statism and capitalism, and with it create different alternatives, whether it be private cities under natural elites (similar to the Italian city-states), communistic polities with forms of social hierarchies developing from their social economies, mutualist confederations of workers (such as the Mondragon cooperatives) and monarchical societies (which resemble the decentralised clans of Scotland). Guilds could develop with the natural hierarchy of master-apprentice which are supported by the left as a form of independence away from wage labourers. Landowners can maintain ownership through land-sharing, but with the recognition there claim is open to contestation. All forms of politics and economics are reliant on constituent social relations, and if they break down, they can be transformed by different classes and different interests. Politics is not the realm of the state, but rather the realm of the social. The state simply expropriates the means of politics away from particular classes and into the hands of a vested elite who then requires the state for continued holding of power. Under anarchism all is possible, but reliant on negotiation. This means the Christian commune under control of the Oathkeepers, the control of land by the Bundy’s and covenant communities. It also means communist groups, gay communities and Black militant nationalism. By recognising this, anarchism as a movement can move past pointless sectarianism and develop pan-anarchist, pan-secessionist alternatives that destroy the power of the state and empire.



[3] Which with a much higher-educated populace, and multiple technologies, such as the internet, allow for better communication and dissemination outside of the state channels, which limits reliance and allows for the development of tradition while in rebellion.

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