What Bonobos Taught Me About Anarchism (Anarchism for Civilians series)

Lesson 2: Anarchism isn’t about hyper-individualism. Anarchism is about community and cooperation.

When people think of anarchists, they often have in mind a loner, a rebel, somebody who rejects all social norms. This is because we wrongly associate the absence of hierarchy with the absence of social order. Though there are some individualist forms of anarchism, many are actually communalist. Communalist forms of anarchism recognize that no person is an island, that we exist a priori (“always already”) in society, that our identities are formed in relation to one another. 

This runs counter to the hyper-individualist philosophy that informs much of American politics today, which assumes that individuals exist prior to our relationships and that human relations are inherently adversarial. This belief be traced to the philosopher John Locke, who theorized that individual human beings exist “naturally” outside of society in a state of war of all against all. Eventually, he imagined, individuals enter into a “social contract” in which they agree to respect the individual rights of others in exchange for the same respect of their own rights. This view of social relations is atomistic and adversarial. …

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Published by John Halstead

John Halstead is the author of *Another End of the World is Possible*, in which he explores what it would really mean for our relationship with the natural world if we were to admit that we are doomed. John is a native of the southern Laurentian bioregion and lives in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago. He is a co-founder of 350 Indiana-Calumet, which worked to organize resistance to the fossil fuel industry in the Region. John was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.” He strives to live up to the challenge posed by the Statement through his writing and activism. John has written for numerous online platforms, including Patheos, Huffington Post, PrayWithYourFeet.org, and Gods & Radicals. He is Editor-at-Large of HumanisticPaganism.com. John also facilitates climate grief support groups climate grief support groups affiliated with the Good Grief Network.

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