Economic Nihilism

An Anarchist Case Against Economics

By Bobby Whittenberg-James

Economics can be defined as a field of social science mostly focused on analysis of the production, consumption, and distribution of goods and services. The economy can be defined as the system developed to control and manage the production, consumption, and distribution of those goods and services. Note that the focus is not on meeting needs, maintaining symbiosis with the local bio-region, ecosystem, or the planet. There’s nothing about keeping land bases healthy, or species survival. Nothing is mentioned about replenishing, just production, distribution, and consumption.

The cycle of production, distribution, and consumption is not to be conflating with people coming together to find ways to best meet their needs and fulfill their lives. Like an organization, the first priority of an economy is to continue to exist and generally to grow. In most cases an economy has to continue to grow to exist. Like an organization, as a result of self perpetuation being a priority, the existence of that economy takes priority over the individuals in the economy, the land base upon which the economy is imposed, and the planet. In the same way that an organization is not an accurate representation of the wills and desires of its individual members, an economy is not an accurate representation of the needs and desires of the individuals in that society and the ways in which they want to fulfill those needs and desires.

As anarchists we seek to abolish the economy and economics and all that they entail, be it markets, remuneration, central planning, industry, or work. As such we are economic nihilists, declaring that there to no value in any system of production, consumption, and distribution of goods regardless of whether that system is feudalist, mercantilist, capitalist, socialist, or communist. Not only do such systems have no value but they are a means of social control, harmful and deadly to people, non-human animals, eco-systems, and the planet and ergo must be destroyed completely and absolutely. Whether the economy is run by a capitalist, fascist, or socialist regime, or even if it is a participatory economy, it is still a system of authority that is imposed upon people, non-humans, and land bases.

Many anarchists, from anarcho-capitalists to mutualists to anarcho-communists, define themselves by their economic theories, the ideologies and dogmas to which they adhere. I am not saying that these people are not anarchists, but that their dogmas are not anarchistic and their implementation does not result in anarchy. When what one perceives as anarchistic in theory is in practice authoritarian or hierarchical, what then? Do we cling to our economic systems and theories, declaring them infallible, and externalizing blame (Ex: “Capitalism hasn’t failed, we just have the wrong people in power” or “socialism didn’t fail, it just hasn’t been implemented right”)? Do we jump to the next economic experiment like the voter jumping to the next party? Or do we realize that anarchy and economics are mutually exclusive and can not be fused, despite the prominent use of red and black or yellow and black flags and the prefix “anarcho-”, and continue to look beyond dogmas and prefabricated economic models for something more desirable? Will we seek economic freedom, or freedom from economics?

Where we abdicate personal responsibility we grant other people, or structures authority. If we give responsibility for meeting our needs, expressing our desires and acting towards fulfilling those needs and desires to councils, unions, federations, organizations, parties, politicians, religions, or any other entity, we grant them authority. It is no different when we abdicate to an economy and economic forces which alienate us from our power and autonomy and make separate the business of coordinating the logistics of life and living it. There may not be a dictator anywhere in sight, but try going against the rules put in place by the economic order under which you live and you will likely find that it is you versus a giant, system that has all of the built in features to weed out or crush anyone that doesn’t fall in line. Because most civilizations have developed ways of getting people to identify more with their economy than other people, you will likely find people who will want to crush dissidents as well.

The capitalists seeks to manipulate production, consumption, and distribution in a way that brings them the most profit. The socialists seek to manipulate them in a way that gives them absolute control and power, and at least in rhetoric, serves society. The anarcho-economists seek to free economics from government and corporations, but fail to seek freedom for people, non-humans, and the planet from economics.

The economy is one of the key pillars of civilization; uncivilized peoples do not have economies. In most cases they have developed ways of living where face to face accountability, responsibility, and independence are maintained. The autonomous person, band or tribe needs food, so they grow it, forage for it, or hunt for it. If a friend and I are walking through the woods or down a city street for that matter and we see a peach tree and pick peaches and eat them, this is not economics. We were hungry, we saw something we could eat, and we ate it. Prairie dogs, ants, geese, salmon, bees, and every creature you can think of has found a way to meet their needs by adapting to the world in which they live, but we do not speak of “buffalo economics” or “fire ant economics.” This is not economics. This is life.

Even with supposed “anarchist economics” (sic) or “participatory economics” each individual is subjugated to the economy and economic forces. The needs of the economy are placed above the needs of each person. Keep in mind also that much like with direct democracy, participatory economics tend to be dominated by the kind of people that would run for office anyway. Good luck, however, finding someone when seeking accountability.

We are not reformists. We do not seek the right economy or even the best economy, the right people in charge of the economy, or even a counter economy. Rather we are economic nihilists who seek to destroy economics and economies altogether. If we truly seek liberation and anarchy it is not enough to oppose only capitalism and/or socialism. Anarchy stands in opposition to all economies and economic systems, regardless of the rhetoric of those implementing them. Economics presupposes a break from the face to face accountability and personal responsibility that is integral to anarchy. We seek not to reform economies or create new and better systems, but to destroy them outright, along with the state and civilization and every last vestige of authoritarian society in favor of autonomous individuals engaging in voluntary association and mutual aid.

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Guerrilla News contributor Bobby Whittenberg-James is an Iraq war veteran turned Post-Left Eco-Anarchist. He offers a unique veteran’s perspective combined with an anarchist critique. He can be found online at his blog, Veter(A)narchy!

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6 Responses to “Economic Nihilism”

  1. [...] just came across this blog article making an anarchist’s case against economics.  To summarize, the author believes that there is much greater danger in the support of any [...]

  2. “As anarchists we seek to abolish the economy and economics and all that they entail, be it markets, remuneration, central planning, industry, or work. As such we are economic nihilists, declaring that there to no value in any system of production, consumption, and distribution of goods regardless of whether that system is feudalist, mercantilist, capitalist, socialist, or communist. Not only do such systems have no value but they are a means of social control, harmful and deadly to people, non-human animals, eco-systems, and the planet and ergo must be destroyed completely and absolutely. Whether the economy is run by a capitalist, fascist, or socialist regime, or even if it is a participatory economy, it is still a system of authority that is imposed upon people, non-humans, and land bases.”

    Fair enough, what do you propose for people to earn a living, to be able to buying what they need to survive.

    I understand that you, like everyone else do no condone corruption … but can you elaborate on how people can survive on the non capitalist system ?

    Its rather pathetic to say it all should go down,but not coming forward even with a plausible alternative.

  3. veteranarchist Says:

    Not as pathetic as expecting someone else to come up with an alternative for you. I’m not here with a new religion that will bring the world salvation.

  4. veteranarchist Says:

    I do have ideas for alternatives, but that isn’t what this piece was about. Even if I didn’t, it wouldn’t invalidate a critique of existing systems.

    Questions like this imply that the status quo is justified based on a particular individual’s perceived lack of a proposed alternative.

    I didn’t offer a manifesto for a new society, but it was strongly hinted at that a better alternative would be based upon face to face interaction rather than delegated power, and that it would be concerned with meeting needs rather than production and consumption.

    It’s useful and helpful to explore alternatives, but there is no one answer, no one blueprint or ideology than can be universally applied to all people and places. Those alternatives need to come organically, through the actions of individuals and voluntary associations, not at the gunpoint of a new ruling order, and not from the ivory towers or academia, or even from my blog.

  5. i was under the suspetion you were using a few more concepts than you actually understood :)

    seems like i was right heeheheheheehe

  6. Unique is a good way of putting this perspective. Unfortunately, the masses have become complacent in their comfort zone, and little do they realize the enormous manipulation scheme that has been purported upon them. Those in power have made life very easy, then through media propaganda have steadily escalated things so that one would not notice what’s really going on. Most are simply concerned with making enough money to take care of their families. Little do they realize that they are about to be enslaved in a most horrendous manner. It is no accident that the world has become so much more complicated (i.e., traffic patterns, building demolition & rebuilding, even retail stores change regularly, etc.). This was specifically done to train all to be accustomed to change, so that when the enslavement comes it will be easily accepted. Folks are in for a rude awakening, and that will be much sooner than they could imagine.

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