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While most social and economic problems have been traced to a larger issue, such as racism, capitalism, sexism, etc. statism is the one ideology that can be identified as the root cause of most misfortunes and has ultimately escaped criticism by a majority of the populace. Statism is defined by most political philosophers as government control over life (Woodcock). Even though government systems are the main subject of statism, it can be further viewed as all hierarchal relationships between people. Statism is seen as the biggest manifestation of domination because any limitation of freedom between individuals breeds discrimination which in turn produces oppression (Pyziur).
The state’s implications of the individual and society has fueled movements against its centralized power as well as pinpointed areas where the existence of governments may be a danger to the survival of all life.
The components of life that governments have historically tainted have culminated to the brink of all out destruction in the modern day.
The condition for our living, constantly regulated, controlled, manipulated, coerced, managed, surveyed, governed, taxed, whipped daily into submission is no way to live a life that opens the most opportunities for its potentials. The fact that modern centralized power is willing to send its people to wage all out war against each other, build up a military arsenal capable of wiping the existence of a people out of history, and that nations were willing to threaten the use of nuclear weapons despite mutually assured destruction and the continued existence of life all prove that institutions of power care little for its people.
Hierarchical power has also ravaged the very place we can call home. Drilling its resources, sucking away to leave barren wastelands, throwing all of our meaningless items away into oceans and dumps. Burning such a large amount of fossil fuels that we are now at the brink of extinction because of climate change (Purchase). The continued existence of social life under governments is a threat to all life’s survival. Since statism only exists because of submission to its authority, the only way to shift the structures of power is to create awareness that not only is the state unnecessary, but it is also undesirable.
Most are unwilling to consider more radical approaches to the problems at hand. One method people suggest as the most realizable option to minimize the consequences of statism is democratic reformism. Reformism in the current political sphere can attribute to the current problems we are seeing in the status quo. For example, good legislative action can be used to reduce the damage to our environment while still sustaining the dependence of commodities for the people. Most would suggest that alongside reformism, our government structures would do better with the “right people in office.” As seen with other leaders in the past, power can be used in an effective and moral manner, such as the presidency of Lincoln in his use of political capital to urge Congress to abolish slavery.
However, there are a few problems with the reformist way of thinking. First is the idea that reforming our legislation or policy actions can alter the implications of our actions. But history has shown that laws have been passed, legislation revised, yet still the problem persist or even increase. For example, the additional regulations over carbon output hasn’t lowered our amount of emissions, the trend still increases. And interestingly enough, state governments that had the strictest and most child labor laws saw the most child exploitation at the time, regardless of after their implementation (Goldman). The other problem of reformism is underlying in the concept of democracy itself. Democracy hails for the sovereignty of the people, while what is most needed is the sovereignty of the person. Democratic institutions are contradictory to freedom, both symbolically and actually, because it functions by the individual handing their power to a representative to make all decisions for them; after this they no longer have control over the outcomes of their political system. There is also a flaw in the logic of majority rule itself. The idea that if the majority have power rather than a small handful it would some how be better, fails to notice that it is authority itself that is bad. Right lies not in numbers but in reason; justice is not found in the counting of heads but in the hearts of free individuals (Woodcock).
The popular belief among most modern day Republicans and libertarians is the idea of limited government. Minarchism, or limited statism, is held as a possible solution to government overreach and power because of its aims to reduce the power that governments are allowed to have. The “right wing” politicians believe that big government is the cause of most of our problems, and society would be much better off if government intervention of life is much smaller. It is mainly a more right wing view because it would depend on the private sector to provide the commodities and necessities that big government mainly does, like most welfare programs. Minarchism would thus be a police state, where the most essential components of the government would be the police force, military, and tax collector/management agency.
While in theory this might sound appealing, but 21st century police states have been the spotlight for domestic aggression by government’s on its own people. Take the strong police forces of Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and even modern day United States and it is easy to see that the larger influence the police have in society, the more dangerous social life becomes. Minarchism is also flawed in two ways. First, it is impossible to have limited government; one cannot limit something that’s sole aim is to increase its power. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible, thus those with even limited power will only want to expand it, as history has shown. The other problem is the dependence on capitalism for a majority of life’s necessities. Since a limited government would most likely have limited if any regulations on the free market, the worst corporate actions would be perpetuated on a daily basis. Ravaging and spilling the Earth for oil, the lack of safety in the workplace, the denial of living wages and other rights to the workers are all reasons why having an unrestricted economy would be dangerous.
Thus the best way to combat the disease of statism while avoiding the band-aid solutions of other alternatives is through the doctrine of anarchism. Anarchos, the original Greek word, is by definition ‘without rulers.’ One of the most complex and detailed definitions for the anarchist doctrine was summarized by Emma Goldman:
Anarchism really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraints of government. Anarchism stands for a social order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the Earth and the full enjoyments of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations.
This idea of human organization does not apply to the stereotypical views of the anarchist creed. Most assume that anarchists are just radicals who will use violence and other means to achieve a state of chaos. While anarchism is a radical philosophy, it is the anarchists that have put so much attention and criticism on the use of violence to reinforce power and inequalities. Most anarchist would also say that it is statism which is chaotic; the constant fear of life and death, the ravaging of the worlds resources, the systematic machinery of life.
Anarchism thus aims to achieve individual and collective freedom from the restraints of authority in order to flourish natural social bonds. This methodology is specifically key to solve the problems of statism already highlighted. On the issue of the environment, it is assumed that social domination is linked with environmental domination; so liberating the social sphere from domination which anarchism aims to accomplish, is a prerequisite to solving ecological plundering (Schwarz). On the aspect of violence, such as war, a stateless society that decentralizes militarized power and is built on foundations that hold that violence is a tool to reinforce oppression and authority will practically eliminate the amount of aggressive behaviour in a society. Violence in anarchy can also be described as a novelty factor; there may be an initial burst of brutish behavior but that disregards the conditioning of right and wrong, as well as the fact that human nature is to cooperate, not conflict (Purchase). Since anarchism criticises the mechanization of human existence that the statism and capitalism have so successfully done, dehumanization would ultimately cease to exist because of the organic methodology that all oppression is wrong and should be eliminated.
The most convincing objection to anarchism is its ability to actually be successful in resisting the state and maintaining the society that it aims to achieve. While it is ignorant to think that the transition between these two opposing societies can occur immediately, the conception of participatory change is already understood and proven effective. The way most anarchist thinkers represent our path to this organization is through direct action. It is the opportunities we get at every point to resist authority and establish organic relationships that culminate in collective change. This idea of individual action and choice that Goldman suggests is also proven empirically; she references the actions of James Brown and his comrades against Southern slaveowners, and without them we may still be dealing in the flesh of slaves today. It has been empirically proven that direct action leads to collective change, but only when action is taking; this transcends to the choices we make every day to change the structure and behavior of society. Goldman notes that revolution is but thought carried into action, and that action is the fuel to create change (Goldman). But mere revolution is not enough to destroy the state. Statism is dominative behavior, not a totalizing institution of power; thus we destroy it by behaving and acting differently. But it still boils down to individual choice. The elimination of statism will not be swift, but it can only be gone by resistance in every opportunity and front, only brick by brick. Even though statism and other forms of authoritative power may live years ahead, doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for anarchist behavior and organizing as resistance. Living our lives in the methodology of anarchist doctrine is what all humans value: the ability to be the authors of our own life’s.
It has become apparent that the implications of statism have spread like a disease into every sphere of human life. We have seen the consequences increasing as centralized power persists. It is unlikely that the survival of the life on this planet will be possible in the near future if the status quo continues. However, even changing minimal aspects in our behavior do nothing for collective change, such as reforming our actions or minimizing existing institution’s powers, because they are still flawed fundamentally. Anarchism seems to be the only light at the end of the tunnel that has hope left for change in our authoritative behavior, but it is still at the end of a tunnel. Undertaking this doctrine, while it may take time and patience, is a moral obligation to the condition of life; but a journey of a thousand miles only starts with a single step.
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