13 January 2010

Audio: An Anarchist Critique of Democracy

On YouTube, you can find three videos – more truthfully: audios – outlining "An Anarchist Critique of Democracy" (Parts 1, 2, and 3). Apparently, they were created by one Moxie Marlinspike and one Windy Hart (pen names, one suspects). Here's a link to the playlist:


Description: "An explanation of why anarchists oppose democratic government, in all the varying flavors that democracy comes in."

Part 1: introduction; definition of democracy; alienation; decontextualization as a form of alienation; majorities; Part 2: immanent critiques; the reproduction of democracy; Part 3: democracy is only a single component of our lives; direct democracy isn't anarchy, you fucks; conclusion.

The audio-videos are based on a text (apparently written in 2005 by the same authors) that is available here:


Some quotes: "[W]e recognize an inherent tension between democracy and the freedom of individuals to create their own lives as they see fit. Some of the problems we find with democracy have been acknowledged by defenders of democracy as well, but have only led to the development of amended types of democracies (as various thinkers tried to prune the concept into an acceptable shape). By contrast, our analysis has led us to abandon the concept all together [sic], because we find some fundamental faults with the idea itself that can not be reconciled by new modifications or reforms. Our critique is of democracy in all its various forms, whether representative or direct. We are not echoing confused cries for more democracy, we are calling for its entire abolition. [...]

"Democracy does nothing but maintain the existence of alienated power, since it requires that our desires be separate from our power to act, and any attempts to engage in that system will only serve to reproduce it. Democracies of any type make decisions via elections, the very essence of which transfers one's will, thought, autonomy, and freedom to an outside power. It makes no difference whether one transfers that power to an elected representative or to an elusive majority. The point is that it's no longer your own. [...]

"Voting strongly resembles the capitalist economic system that always accompanies democracy. There are producers who dictate the agenda, and there are consumers who spend most of their time in the role of spectator – choosing opinions from the marketplace of ideas. These choices also become a competitive game, and every decision will end with 'winners' and 'losers.' [...]

"By providing the illusion of participation for everyone, democracy allows majorities to justify their actions, no matter how oppressive. Since democracy makes the claim that everyone can participate in the political process, there is no harm in providing suffrage for groups with minority opinions, since their losing votes will only justify the contrary actions of a majority. Likewise, if individuals choose not to participate in a vote, their actions are still interpreted as a consent of the majority opinion, since they could have voted against it if they'd wanted to. There is no escape. [...]

"Issues like campaign finance reform or subsidized media time are not interesting to us, because in recognizing the tyranny of political manipulation, we do not then seek to change things such that we can make this tyranny our own. Democracy only offers the choice of relieving yourself of oppression by becoming the oppressor – freedom lies in the entire institution's abolition. [...]

"When democracy frames our discussion and forces us to argue in its terms, all actions to change the socio-political environment must happen via its means and achieve only those ends it will sanction. For these reasons, democracy reproduces itself with little special effort from the ruling class. [...] Even the most obvious contradictions get overlooked because the system has equated its existence with freedom and so places its existence outside the realm of contestable ideas. [...]

"And so one sees presumably intelligent people tieing [sic] themselves in knots, trying to reform a system that in its best and most functional form can only hope to oppress everyone, equally, an equal percentage of the time. Again, the ruling class can rest easy as long as we place blame on ourselves and not them for our alienated position in modern society and that will continue until we realize the intrinsic flaws in the concept of democracy itself and refuse to reproduce it. [...]

"Anarchists believe in unmediated relations between free individuals, the absence of any coercive or alienating forces in societies, and an unquestionable, universal right to self-determination. [...] Even 'direct democracy' demands surrender to the status quo that produces a hierarchy of group over individual, thus separating us from our desires and our desires from their unfettered realization in direct action. Any who would give up these principles should also give up the name 'anarchist' – perhaps in favor of 'libertarian.'"

As is in the nature of anarchism, many anarchists won't agree with all or parts of this particular critique of democracy (see comments left on YouTube).

Mandatory reading/listening.

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