An Existential Argument for Anarchism.

Foundations of Anarchism and Socialism 8

Mr Nemo
6 min readOct 25, 2018


A guest authored edgy essay by Andrew D. Chapman with Connor Scroggins

APP Editors’ Note:

This is the eighth in a series on the historical and philosophical foundations of anarchism and socialism, with special reference to social anarchism (aka “anarcho-socialism,” “libertarian socialism,” etc.) and democratic socialism.

We decided to devote the first five installments of the series to the Democratic Socialists of America, aka the DSA, and the Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation, aka the BRRN, for three reasons:

first, to highlight the recent emergence of the Democratic Socialists of America as a significant political movement in the USA,

second, to stress the fundamental convergences, parallels, and shared ideals between contemporary social anarchism and democratic socialism in the USA, and

third, to point up the burning contemporary need for a “borderless,” constructive, cosmopolitan coalition of all serious leftists and progressives everywhere.

And then go on from there, to a critique of so-called anarcho-capitalism, in the sixth installment.

In the seventh installment, we took a retrospective look at Murray Bookchin’s classic essay, Social Anarchism or Life Style Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm.

In this essay, Andrew D. Chapman and his student Connor Scroggins present a completely original argument for social anarchism, from existentialist premises.

You can find out more about Chapman’s philosophical work and teaching, HERE.



Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm.

A Quick Explanation of Why Anarcho-Capitalism Is Not a Real Thing.

The Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation: Our Politics.

Who Are the Anarchists, and What is Anarchism?

Resistance Rising: Socialist Strategy in the Age of Political Revolution.

Towards Freedom: Democratic Socialist Theory and Practice.

A Brief History of the American Left.



Coercion: either (i) forcing people to do things or obey commands by using violence or threats of violence–e.g., imprisoning, torturing, or killing them (primary coercion) or (ii) forcing people to do things or obey commands by using salient harm or threats of salient harm that don’t involve violence–e.g., getting them fired from their jobs (secondary coercion).

Since treating people as mere means or mere things is immoral, then all coercion is immoral.

Authoritarianism: A (the purported authority) tells B to do things or obey commands, just because A has told B to do them or obey them, not for any morally or otherwise rationally well-justified reason.

Since telling people to do things or obey commands without a good reason is arbitrary and rationally unjustified, then all authoritarianism is rationally unjustified.

Anarchism: all states — especially including their governments and their laws–are rationally unjustified and immoral, because they are inherently coercive and authoritarian, no matter how they are instituted and no matter how they claim to be legitimated.

The Argument

(1) Any coercive authoritarian statist structure must function (minimally) by articulated rules, even if these rules are not always followed, even if the mechanisms of the state are sometimes or even often arbitrary — the point is that nothing can count as a “state” unless it has at least the ideal of, and appearance of, functioning via articulated rules.

(2) Any articulated rules must be articulated via some minimal language that is generally understandable by some nontrivial number of people who must follow those rules.

(3) All language is general and communal such that it does not refer to particular events in individual lives, events happening at specific times, in specific places, having specific significance. Were language not general and communal, language could not possibly function as language does, in fact, function. See, e.g., Wittgenstein on the impossibility of a “private,” i.e., particular and noncommunal, language:

What reason have we for calling “S” the sign for a sensation? For “sensation” is a word of our common language, which is not a language intelligible only to me. So the use of this word stands in need of a justification which everybody understands. a And it would not help either to say that it need not be a sensation; that when he writes “S” he has Something b and that is all that can be said. But “has” and “something” also belong to our common language. a So in the end, when one is doing philosophy, one gets to the point where one would like just to emit an inarticulate sound. a But such a sound is an expression only in a particular language-game, which now has to be described. (Philosophical Investigations §261)

(4) (3) said another way: Language is objective such that its meaning and referents are not determined from the perspective of any subject — subjectivity is not captured via language.

(5) Inasmuch as is possible, any society ought to be structured so that the society allows for and promotes the flourishing of as many of its members as possible.

(6) Our flourishing, whatever that means for our particular lives, occurs via a subjective interaction with the world, other people, and ourselves.

(7) The individual and specific is not reducible to the general. The experiences of a particular individual in that individual’s life in relation to the world, other people, and herself, are not reducible to mere descriptions or linguistic formulations of those experiences. See Nietzsche:

Every word immediately becomes a concept, inasmuch as it is not intended to serve as a reminder of the unique and wholly individualized original experience to which it owes its birth, but must at the same time fit innumerable, more or less similar cases — which means, strictly speaking, never equal — in other words, a lot of unequal cases. Every concept originates through our equating what is unequal. No leaf ever wholly equals another, and the concept “leaf” is formed through an arbitrary abstraction from these individual differences, through forgetting the distinctions; and now it gives rise to the idea that in nature there might be something besides the leaves which would be “leaf” — some kind of original form after which all leaves have been woven, marked, copied, colored, curled, and painted, but by unskilled hands, so that no copy turned out to be a correct, reliable, and faithful image of the original form. (“On Truth and Lying in an Extra-Moral Sense,” Part I)

(8) Another way of saying (7): The subjective is not reducible to the objective and the objective is not reducible to the subjective — any attempt at such a reduction either will introduce new elements into the result or will leave elements out of the result or both. That is, if X essentially is a subjective fact and Y essentially is an objective fact, it is impossible to reduce X to Y or Y to X by showing that X/Y just is Y/X (ontological reduction) or that the description of X/Y can be reformulated in terms of the concepts of Y/X (conceptual reduction).

(9) The goals of any society (viz., the goals in terms of the flourishing of members of the society) are in conflict with the existence of a coercive authoritarian statist structure (i.e., with the existence of a state).

(10) If the goals of any society are in conflict with the existence of a state, then societies ought to be free of the existence of states.

(11) According to (8) and (9), societies ought to be free of the existence of states. That is, inasmuch as is possible, if a society exists, that society ought to be stateless.

(12) If a society ought to be stateless, then that society ought to be anarchist (via the definition of anarchism).

(13) Any society ought to be anarchist.


Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Thursday 25 October 2018

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Mr Nemo

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.