David Graeber responding to the question: “Can you name a single viable example of a society which has existed without a government?”

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The dice are loaded. You can’t win. Because when the skeptic

says “society,” what he really means is “state,” even “nation-
state.” Since no one is going to produce an example of an
anarchist state—that would be a contradiction in terms—what
we're really being asked for is an example of a modern nation-
state with the government somehow plucked away: a
situation in which the government of Canada, to take a
random example, has been overthrown, or for some reason
abolished itself, and no new one has taken its place but
instead all former Canadian citizens begin to organize
themselves into libertarian collectives. Obviously this would
never be allowed to happen. In the past, whenever it even
looked like it might—here, the Paris commune and Spanish
civil war are excellent examples—the politicians running
pretty much every state in the vicinity have been willing to put
their differences on hold until those trying to bring sucha
situation about had been rounded up and shot.

There is a way out, which is to accept that anarchist forms of
organization would not look anything like a state. That they
would involve an endless variety of communities,
associations, networks, projects, on every conceivable scale,
overlapping and intersecting in any way we could imagine,
and possibly many that we can’t. Some would be quite local,
others global. Perhaps all they would have in common is that
none would involve anyone showing up with weapons and
telling everyone else to shut up and do what they were told.
And that, since anarchists are not actually trying to seize
power within any national territory, the process of one system
replacing the other will not take the form of some sudden
revolutionary cataclysm—the storming of a Bastille, the
seizing of a Winter Palace—but will necessarily be gradual, the
creation of alternative forms of organization on a world scale,
new forms of communication, new, less alienated ways of
organizing life, which will, eventually, make currently existing
forms of power seem stupid and beside the point. That in turn
would mean that there are endless examples of viable
anarchism: pretty much any form of organization would count
as one, so long as it was not imposed by some higher
authority, from a klezmer band to the international postal


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