Reading The Tyranny of Structurelessness, the classic 1970 essay by Jo Freeman on power relations in radical feminist collectives, and whoaaa this thing is sharp as knives! Still amused at the amount of butthurt it evidently caused anarchists

I found it via @jessmahler 's credits in their hot-off-the-press essay, What Is Hierarchy and Why It Isn’t Evil Incarnate. I'm still digesting it and it's well worth a read!

"Contrary to what we would like to believe, there is no such thing as a structureless group. . . . This means that to strive for a structureless group is as useful, and as deceptive, as to aim at an 'objective' news story, 'value-free' social science, or a 'free' economy. A 'laissez faire' group is about as realistic as a 'laissez faire' society; the idea becomes a smokescreen for the strong or the lucky to establish unquestioned hegemony over others."

- Jo Freeman, The Tyranny of Structurelessness

Why every anarchist community should have an autistic anthropologist: we have spidey-sense for emerging social power structures, the critical training to describe it, and an utter inability to shut up about it. Unless, of course, we've been traumatised into a shutdown *again*...

@yetiinabox it sounds like *every* organization would benefit from an autistic anthropologist--assuming they won't be a harmful environment, of course, and too many are :/

@ljwrites oh yeah, i read that one as well a couple of years back when i was active in anarchist-adjacent groups. there's some very important remarks in there that lead to lots of interesting discussions

@categorille yeah it looks like this essay has a lot to offer to offer those communities--it was written for and about them, after all!

@ljwrites that's a great essay and one for anarchists to take to heart. There will also be people that are more charismatic and better at leading people. We (anarchists) need to be cognitive of these effects and limit the coercion that these traits can enable.

@sabogato Maybe this is kind of shit-stirring of me, but what do you think about Freeman's solution of instituting formal structures and subjecting them to democratic accountability?

@ljwrites I completely agree with what Freeman says in "Principles of Democratic Structuring". I've found in practice that that is how long running libertarian socialist projects tend to evolve into. What Freeman describes is basically how the IWW functions. It can be messy and conflicts will always arise, but we should always strive for equity in action.

Structurelessness is its own kind of dogmatism that anarchists need to avoid. It isn't based in reality. Whenever humans coordinate, structure is created. We can't deny that reality because of dogma. We need to shape those structures so that they're consensual, liberatory, and most of all effective.

@sabogato entirely agreed, better to air the dirty laundry of conflict and inequality than hide it behind a smiley face of a total equality that doesn't exist.

@ljwrites to be completely honest, I'd be wary of any organization that didn't function along Freeman's Principles of Democratic Structuring.

@sabogato @ljwrites Illinois HOUSE (the statewide secular homeschooling organization that my family used to belong to) was organized along those lines, and used consensus for its decision making process. The meetings tended to be lengthy, as consensus is the hard way of decision making, but it's also one of the more fair methods. It has the disadvantage of excluding people who do not speak well or have social anxiety and cannot participate in the group discussion.

@WanderingBeekeeper @ljwrites unfortunately there isn't one single perfect decision making process. They all come with trade-offs. I think the most important thing is to be flexible to agree to the most appropriate method for the task at hand.

I tend to favor consensus via asynchronous online discussions to avoid the problems you mentioned with in person discussions. Unfortunately that tends to be very slow and excludes people that aren't technically savy. Those damn trade-offs never go away 😖

@WanderingBeekeeper @ljwrites let me clarify, it is important for those involved to be flexible to choose the best method that is appropriate for the task at hand.

@sabogato Yeah if any group's position is that "we are free from the informal structures of power that exist absolutely everywhere else, and so Moral and Revolutionary that we don't need structures for accountability and the prevention of abuse," I'm going to say good luck and slowly back away.

Sign in to participate in the conversation

Generalist Hometown instance with a strong focus on community standards. No TERF, no SWERF, no Nazi, no Centrist.