Chapter 6

The ideal community

Thus far, we have considered several theories and a fair amount of empirical evidence regarding whether we can rely entirely on community relations to provide the public good of peace and order. My conclusion is that we cannot. Modern society needs a regulative authority-a state-to insure peace in the situations where one cannot depend on the special incentives that community creates. But although communities may not be able to take over the job entirely, they already do a great deal to insure public order, and they may be able to do a great deal more. We have also seen how it might be advisable for the state to help certain kinds of organizations; and now we will investigate how these organizations function and how they can best live up to the ideals of quasi-anarchist theory.

My first task in this chapter is to present a summary of the theory of quasi-anarchism. Second, I address the question of whether voluntary communities can adequately produce a significant level of social order without the incentives created by economic dependence. I argue that there is a considerable body of evidence that they can do so. Finally, I examine some of the difficulties faced by communities: some of the ways in which they can fall short of quasi-anarchist ideals, and indeed some of the ways in which quasi-anarchist ideals, if taken to extremes, can offend against our normal aspirations for individual and community life. I suggest some techniques that small groups can use to guard against these pitfalls.

Statement of the theory of quasi-anarchism

A. The exercise of one's rational faculties, particularly though not exclusively in the search for one's moral duty, is one of the most important human goods. Developing the skills involved in rational thought is itself a duty.

B. Rational capacities cannot flourish without an environment that provides both liberty and involvement with other people. One must be free to investigate and speak one's mind in the quest for one's proper duty; but there is also a crucial social component in rational inquiry. Without close involvement with other people and a broad range of social experience, one's rational faculties will be incomplete or stunted.[1]

C. There is a strong presumption in most circumstances toward self-government, i.e. following the dictates of one's conscientious judgment. Although prudent judgment usually calls for consulting others' opinions in important matters, there are relatively few cases in which it is appropriate to disregard one's own judgment in favor of another's. The exceptions to this presumption were discussed in chapter 5, and are noted in H (see below).

D. The best political system will have as one of its central aims the furthering of a society in which each person has full opportunity to develop his or her rational faculties and exercise them in living his or her life. Since the development of rational faculties requires a social component, the society promoted by that political system will seek to encourage the development of the appropriate social environment for each person.

E. Some of the conditions that are necessary for the furtherance of such a society are adequate nutrition and shelter; access to education for at least the formative years of one's life; and the opportunity to use one's skills in socially or personally productive labor.

F. Development and use of one's rational faculties requires a considerable amount of practical experience and continued exercise of one's knowledge and experience. This implies more than merely the opportunity to learn and judge a situation: it implies the desirability of actual practice and work in that situation. So one of the goals of an adequate society, including such social institutions as the educational system and work environment, will be to provide people with the opportunity to use their skills practically.

G. Often, hands-on experience will be a better guide to determining one's duty in a particular situation than is knowledge derived solely from reportage or education away from real practical circumstances. Although this is not always the case, it ought to serve as a standard rule of thumb for policy decisions unless circumstances clearly indicate otherwise.

H. It is acceptable to obey the orders of a rational authority. A rational authority is someone about whom one can have a reasonable expectation that their recommendations are more likely than the dictates of one's own judgment to allow one to carry out one's duty. State authorities can count as rational authorities in many cases. But the existence of rational authorities does not exempt anyone from the duty to determine whether or not the person or institution giving orders in any particular situation counts as a rational authority in that situation.

I. The inherent remoteness, rigidity, and coerciveness of law render it undesirable as an instrument for regulating conduct. To the greatest extent compatible with an adequate level of public order and justice, people's conduct ought to be influenced by encouragement, education, and persuasion delivered by close associates who have hands-on experience of the person's character and needs. Some examples of such associates are family members, friends, fellow workers, and neighbors. Involving the state will continue to be necessary in some cases, but should be regarded as a last resort, and used only when other forms of correction have failed.[2]

J. The social institution that is most likely to provide the proper number of social contacts to carry out the social regulation described in principle I is the small, self-governing community. To the greatest extent compatible with a productive economy and a viable state government, power and decision-making ought to be decentralized and placed in the hands of small communities.



Most of these claims have been argued for previously in this dissertation. What remains is to examine some of the questions about the circumstances in which communities can be effective in maintaining public order; and ways in which communities can avoid creating social circumstances which are harmful to individual flourishing.

How can voluntary communities be effective?

What are the conditions in which a voluntary community can serve as a first resort for dispute resolution and general peace-keeping? Taylor's definition of community may serve as a guide which can be revised in light of some of the empirical studies that are discussed later in this chapter. Taylor (1982) defines community as a social group characterized by the following features:

shared beliefs and ideals;

direct and many-sided relations; and

reciprocity.

Although the focus in Taylor's book was primarily on pre-agricultural, economically interdependent communities, this definition can also apply to voluntary communities, which can meet these criteria.[3] These conditions are all desirable for effective production of social order by a community. But even some communities in which not all of these features are fully present can produce a respectable level of social order, as we shall see shortly.

We can see how these criteria work together to encourage communities to produce their own means of maintaining social order. The first criterion, that of shared beliefs and ideals, is perhaps a bit too vague as it stands. Some groups are able to tolerate a very wide range of disagreement in beliefs and ideals, provided that they agree on a central core of important ones. Also, there are some beliefs and ideals that could not serve as a binding force for any community, even if they were universally held. (A shared belief in unbridled, Stirner-style egoism, for example, is hardly a good candidate to serve as the basis for a community.)[4] Still, it is apparent that a community will not last long given deep, irresolvable differences in core beliefs and values; and that there is a very wide range of possible beliefs and values that can serve as constitutive for communities. Perhaps we can think of the rest of this chapter as an exploration of useful values that help serve the cause of community strength and solidarity.

The criterion of direct (i.e. unmediated) relations between individuals is a straightforward prerequisite for the existence of community at all. A group of people whose relations are mediated (indirect) have little claim on the title of community, however much else they may have in common with one another.[5]

To have many-sided relations in a group simply means that one can expect to relate to group members in a variety of different ways. In pre-agricultural societies, ties are typically highly complex and multiple: relations of neighborhood, kinship, food-sharing, friendship, and so on. Modern social arrangements, on the other hand, are simpler in some ways and more complex in others. Modern networks of acquaintance are less likely to be connected by a large variety of different kinds of relations. A randomly chosen member of the city (or even neighborhood) in which I live may have no relation at all to me, and if she does have a relation she is unlikely to have more than one. My fellow workers are relatively unlikely to be my next-door neighbors; my neighbors are relatively unlikely to be my cousins, and so on.[6]

On the other hand, the complexity of modern society has produced an enormous increase in the number of different possible relations that can exist between people. Most people can list a very large number of people to whom they have some relation, however slight: next-door neighbor, cousin of best friend, regular hairstylist, parent of children's high school friends, weekly customer, former teacher, and so on. The pre-agricultural community consisting of one relatively small group of people tightly networked by multiple relations has been replaced by a multiplicity of groups of acquaintance, each of which has fewer binding relations.

The many-sidedness of pre-agricultural community relations is important for the success of diffuse sanctions. My harmful actions toward someone are more likely to lead to bad consequences for me when I am likely to encounter that person repeatedly in a number of different contexts. This effect is magnified by the large number of ties that person probably has to other community members, whose opinion of me can seriously affect my well-being. And, as we noted in chapter 4, the effect is magnified even more when these people can affect not only my emotional but also my economic and physical well-being.

What becomes of diffuse sanctions in modern society? I argued in chapter 4 that a modern, technologically advanced society lacks many of the features that give small communities power over their members. Small communities no longer control their members economically, and hence are unable to use the powerful threat of economic reprisal as a means of influence over community members. Relations are no longer as many-sided as they typically were in small, self-contained villages. The tangled networks of connections that provided people with extensive reasons to stay on good terms with their neighbors are no longer as complex or as compelling as they were. The enclosed village has given way to plural, urbanized society.

It would be a practical impossibility to re-structure existing society so as to force it into the mold of pre-agricultural or even pre-industrial society. Nor is this necessarily a cause for regret or disappointment. The range of significant options available for people in modern society is enormously broader than it once was, in ways that were inconceivable only a few centuries ago. Each individual has a considerably enlarged range of choices in which to seek occupation, residence, friends, spouse, and activities that meet their particular interests. The number of different opportunities for self-enrichment and self-discovery has increased almost beyond comprehension. The self-contained village was, in more ways than one, very confining. Whatever its advantages may have been, returning to the pre-agricultural way of life is neither feasible nor particularly desirable.

What role, then, remains for communities in our theory? They will be unable to use the most powerful socially persuasive tool, namely economic survival. A continuing emphasis on the role of community in the production of social order will be defensible only if there is convincing evidence that communities based on mutual relations of weakened economic interdependence can produce socially productive results.[7] Luckily, such evidence exists.

One interesting source is Robert Ellickson's Order Without Law (1991), which provides a good example of how community relations can act as a regulating influence even in a context of mutual economic independence. A brief discussion of Ellickson's observations and conclusions can give us some idea of the best circumstances for communities to be able to exert this sort of regulatory influence.

A voluntary community that works: Shasta County

Ellickson's book investigates Shasta County, a rural county in the northernmost part of California. Its main focus is on the county's cattle ranchers, and how their social and legal conventions operate to resolve conflicts and maintain the peace. One of Ellickson's main argumentative theses is to question the doctrine of legal centralism. This doctrine claims that the state is the dominant source of social control and conflict resolution; and that other, subordinate forms of social control, if any, are largely shaped by the boundaries of the law. For example, legal centralism would expect (and many authors in fact do expect, according to Ellickson) that the parties to a dispute would give primary attention to their legal standing; that non-legal modes of conflict resolution would take place in a context of full knowledge about legal status and likely outcome of a lawsuit; that lawsuits would be fairly common in a context of conflict, limited primarily by financial constraints and financial risk analysis; and that non-legal modes of conflict resolution would be relatively rare. Ellickson notes facts about life in Shasta County that indicate the shortcomings of legal centralism. It is unable to account for the strong tendency of Shasta County citizens (especially ranchers) to rely on community relations rather than legal action to resolve their conflicts.

Ellickson reports that the residents of Shasta County typically behave in ways that directly contradict the predictions of legal centralism. Disputes are settled either in ignorance of the legal status of the disputants or on the basis of informal norms that differ quite sharply from the legal norms that ought to take precedence in such situations. Recourse to legal remedies, far from being a common occurrence, is not only rare but is explicitly frowned upon by members of the community: they view legal action as an important violation of the norms of being a good neighbor. Indeed, to deal with offenders against the community, their option of first resort (and, one might say, of second and third resort as well) is "self-help enforcement": the already familiar notion of diffuse sanctions. Furthermore, these norms sometimes are treated as binding even when the dispute is between people who are not members of the same close-knit community; for example, in disputes between residents and outside motorists involved in traffic accidents.

What is especially noteworthy about this study is that it demonstrates that community sanctions can be effective even in communities where people are not in a position to put direct economic pressure on each other. Shasta County residents are largely economically independent of one another.[8] No one is penalized economically by deciding to leave the community, and since it is an area populated by independent ranchers, the opportunities to place economic pressure on each other are very few. As a result, the sanctions they place upon each other rely primarily on their motivations to retain good standing in the community.

Ellickson's discussion illustrates both the power and the limitations of community sanctions. The typical means of dispute resolution illustrates the power of community sanctions. The case of a rancher named Frank Ellis, whose intractability and antagonism eventually forced his neighbors to resort to the law, illustrates the limitations of community social control.

Summer pasturing of cattle is problematic in Shasta County because of the hot, arid weather. Ranchers need to provide pastures where the grass has not been parched or killed by the heat. There are two main ways of dealing with the difficulty, which Ellickson calls respectively "traditional" and "modernist." Traditionalist ranchers lease large, unfenced tracts in the mountains for summer grazing; modernists keep their herds in fenced, irrigated summer pastures. While modernists typically spend considerably more than traditionalists on fencing, irrigation, and other environmental enhancements, they do not need to spend as much time riding the range to keep their herds together, nor do they incur the expenses associated with lost and trespassing cattle.

The division between traditional and modern methods of herd management led to political disputes about the legal status of the range in the county: the county government was capable of deciding whether certain tracts should be "open range" or "closed range." The legal liability incurred by the owner of trespassing livestock differed according to whether or not range was open or closed.

In closed range, ... an animal owner is strictly liable for trespass damage to property. In open-range areas, by contrast, even a livestock owner who has negligently managed his animals is generally not liable for trespass damage to the lands of a neighbor.
(Ellickson 1991, 44)
Animal owners in open range remained liable for damage caused by trespass of "goats, swine and vicious dogs" (Ellickson, 45); for damage caused by cattle trespass through the victim's "lawful fence"; and for damage caused by intentional trespass. As one might expect, traditionalists generally favored open range, and modernists favored closed range-if they had any opinion at all on the matter.

Legal centralism would predict that the legal implications of the change from open to closed range would be the primary consideration behind proposals to change the status of a particular area; and also that ranchers would differ in their attitudes toward dispute resolution depending on whether they lived in open- or closed-range territory. This prediction was falsified, though.

As Ellickson shows, Shasta County cattle ranchers had only a rough and often inaccurate grasp of the legal definitions of open and closed range. They also were unclear about some of the liability rules: they typically believed that in open range, cattle owners would not be liable for any animal trespass; but as noted above, the law retained liability for open-range ranchers in a significant number of categories of animal trespass.[9] Their most striking misapprehension, however, regarded liability in collisions between livestock and motor vehicles. It was almost universally held that in collision cases in open range, the motorist "buys the cow"; in closed range, the rancher "buys the car." The actual law regarding livestock collisions is considerably less clear-cut. Ellickson notes that principles of comparative negligence apply to both rancher and driver, regardless of whether range is open or closed. In open range, if a motorist can demonstrate a rancher's negligence, the motorist has absolutely no legal duty to "buy the cow," and can in fact recover damages from the negligent rancher. Correspondingly, in closed range, if a rancher can demonstrate a motorist's negligence, the rancher can recover damages from the motorist. Whether an area is open range or closed range may have some bearing on the likelihood that a court will find negligence (see Ellickson, 91). Nonetheless, the situation with regard to vehicle-livestock collisions remains considerably more complex than Shasta County ranchers believe.

Ironically, the ranchers' fallible understanding of animal trespass law was sometimes more accurate than the beliefs of Shasta County's lawyers and insurance adjusters.[10] One reason why the county's legal and insurance specialists had such a rudimentary knowledge of trespass law is that they almost never had to deal with it in court.[11] The county's ranchers almost never sought the aid of the legal system in resolving livestock disputes. Informal methods of dispute resolution were the rule rather than the exception, and these methods relied on widely accepted norms of interaction that did not depend on legal rules at all.

In rural Shasta County... trespass conflicts are generally resolved not in "the shadow of the law" but, rather, beyond that shadow. Most rural residents are consciously committed to an overarching norm of cooperation among neighbors. In trespass situations, their applicable particularized norm, adhered to by all but a few deviants, is that an owner of livestock is responsible for the acts of his animals. Allegiance to this norm seems wholly independent of formal legal entitlements. ... Cattlemen typically couch their justifications for the norm in moral terms.
(Ellickson 1991, 52-3)
The norm of responsibility and neighborliness is enforced by many of the means discussed by Taylor and Barclay. These include pervasive socialization that encourages the norms of neighborliness; direct action by an injured party to recover damages;[12] and diffuse sanctions aimed at offenders' reputations: that is, gossip and ridicule.[13]

The frequent success of informal sanctions in Shasta County illustrates the power that community can have over people even when they do not face the threat of serious economic reprisal. Ellickson goes on to consider some of the non-economic benefits that people gain by maintaining good standing in the community: for example, he suggests that increased social status may compensate people for the "work" they do in keeping their neighbors informed about the latest news, mediating conflicts, and so on. (See Ellickson, 232-33.) There is some reason, then, to think that community can function as a social ordering mechanism even in the absence of economic dependence. As a reminder that the state remains necessary, though, we should briefly look at the case of Frank Ellis.

Ellis was a rancher in Shasta County from about 1973 to 1982. He used traditionalist grazing in a region which, although legally an open-range area, was mostly settled by modernists who relied on fences to control their cattle. According to reports by the ranchers whose property adjoined Ellis's, Ellis ordered his ranch hands to drive the cattle onto unfenced pastures in neighboring ranches, and exhibited considerable indifference when neighbors complained. He was unwilling to cooperate in the construction of perimeter fences except in the face of considerable informal pressure, and again responded indifferently when neighbors objected to instances when his cattle damaged or destroyed stretches of their own fencing. In general, Ellis was remarkably uninterested in his reputation in the community. His neighbors reportedly exerted every informal sanction they knew of, including direct action that skirted the boundaries of outright retaliatory theft;[14] but Ellis's disregard for the conventions of social order did not change. As a result, Ellis became the object of several different lawsuits and was even the cause of a (failed) political attempt to change the legal status of his neighborhood to closed range.

Although Ellis was not the only object of livestock-related lawsuits during the time Ellickson studied the area, he was unique in that he was the only resident who proved so resistant to the informal sanctions of his neighbors. (Several other lawsuits related to livestock involved motorists with no tangible connections to the community. See Ellickson, chapter 5.) His case should instruct us that the effectiveness of community sanctions varies depending upon how much the people in these communities consider themselves to be part of the community. Diffuse sanctions can work quite well among people who value their social standing within the community. When someone in the community has little regard for his or her social standing, however, diffuse sanctions lose most of their effectiveness and the corresponding norm of avoiding legal action also loses its force.

Although this theory promotes using communities as a first resort in the quest for social order, it recognizes that the state should intervene in the cases where communities fail. As Ellickson's presentation makes clear, the tightly-knit community of ranchers in northern California regards legal action as a violation of the community norm of "being a good neighbor." But these same ranchers were willing nonetheless to resort to the law when dealing with people who did not belong to the community: either because they were outsiders, or because, like Frank Ellis, they had no concern for a role in the community and paid no attention to their increasingly bad reputation. The state must continue to exist to deal with situations such as these.

The conditions for effective community

Recall that Taylor's criteria for the existence of community are shared beliefs, direct and many-sided relations, and reciprocity. I remarked earlier that in a modern, urbanized context, the criterion of universal many-sided relations is probably too stringent. It is asking too much to expect many-sided relations to link all (or sometimes even a large majority) of community members. It is more plausible to expect an effective community to have overlapping social networks, which provide the opportunity for most community members to have many-sided relations. While these webs of acquaintance and interaction would not guarantee immediate connections between any two randomly selected community members, they should make it very likely that any two members would have several friends and acquaintances in common. A group that lacks these networks would have little claim on the title of community.

To return briefly to our case study: Shasta County residents had a high level of interaction both on business and social matters. Ellickson remarks that they had to interact regarding a large number of important issues: "water supply, controlled burns, fence repairs, social events, staffing the volunteer fire department," (Ellickson, 55) meetings of the local Cattlemen's Association, and so on. In addition, some level of social interaction was simply part of the prevailing ethos: many of the families in the county had known each other for several generations, and regarded frequent socializing as an important part of everyday life. Although not every county resident could be counted on to know every other resident, at least some social involvement with a significant number of residents was regarded as normal and desirable. Those residents and landowners who did not cultivate social ties were regarded as reclusive, eccentric, and lacking in the requisite neighborly instincts. Not surprisingly, those sorts of people were also the most likely to seek legal recourse rather than informal dispute resolution.[15]

It is important that social networks provide opportunities for group members to interact on a number of occasions other than official or formal ones. Many groups have fairly tightly defined aims to constitute their reason for existing and interacting; but if such groups are to be genuine communities, these aims should not be the sole basis of the interactions of the group's members. We can use university behavior as one possible example. An old joke goes that the university is a group of diverse departments and divisions, all united by a common heating system and demand for parking. This is a joke (except in the cases where it is a sad reality) because to function effectively, an institution must be united by more than these common denominators. It is true that the twin aims of a university-teaching and research-serve as the stimulus for a great deal of community interaction; but it is also true that the development of effective community relations generally requires more interaction than these two aims supply. Thus a good deal of university practice provides opportunities for community members to meet on occasions other than those of education and research. One can list such events as departmental social gatherings; student groups; parties and celebrations; and university-wide committees and task forces that draw together faculty from diverse parts of the university. These and other loci of social interaction help create interlocking webs of acquaintance, friendship, and mutual concern that allow the development of a sense of common interest and concern for the progress of the institution as a whole.

These examples and some of the earlier discussion suggest some content for the shared values that represent Taylor's first criterion of community. Two very helpful values are:

The attitude of group self-sufficiency is a central attribute of the traditional anarchist virtue of mutual aid. Several anarchist writers, most notably Kropotkin, have pointed out that this attitude is one of the first targets of state interference. In order for a state to relegate maximal power to itself, it tries to weaken or erode any competing centers of power such as local communities. Quasi-anarchist theory, as the discussion at the end of chapter 5 indicates, maintains that a properly constituted state would, on the contrary, aim specifically at developing local autonomy so as to enhance communities' ability to produce social order and consensus on public needs.[16]

Regard for one's standing in the community, one's reputation, is closely tied to the direct relations and overlapping social networks that we have already mentioned. Desire for good standing is likely to spur one's involvement in the community, so it plays a causal role in the creation or maintenance of the community structure. And in a mutually reinforcing relation, the existence of a healthy community is likely to produce a concern for reputation. This is especially true where a good community reputation is a prerequisite for personal goals-for example, in some cases good community standing helps one make business or political contacts outside the community.

Some of these networks of social interaction themselves qualify for the title of 'community'. This implies that the typical modern citizen may belong to several different communities simultaneously. This is itself useful in the development of concern for civic groupings larger than face-to-face communities. In a well-ordered society, most people would belong to multiple overlapping and intertwined communities. The existence of multiple connections between various communities helps increase the incentives for members of various communities to remain at peace with members of other communities. If I am concerned to maintain my standing with acquaintances who have a variety of ties to other local people, I will want to avoid serious offense when dealing with anyone who might adversely affect my reputation among those acquaintances. The more overlap there is between communities, the greater the likelihood that offenses outside my sphere of acquaintance will be noticed by those within my sphere of acquaintance.

So it seems that a great aid to the maintenance of social order is for as many citizens as possible to participate in a large number of peaceful social networks. These groups can function in the way that Godwin and the other anarchists recommended: as a source of information, a means of weighing and comparing opinions, and a forum for developing social and personal skills in an atmosphere of acceptance. A quasi-anarchist social policy (applying both to public and private spheres) would encourage and strengthen such voluntary communities. Social order in a large area will be particularly enhanced if these communities overlap and can find themselves in mutually beneficial and peaceful relations.

How can voluntary communities avoid being too effective?

Thus far, we have dealt with the question of whether and how communities can effectively produce the public good of social order and peaceful, just relations. I have put off until now the question of the best arrangements for communities, those most likely to result in satisfying and productive communal individuality. What is the best way for community members to interact-in other words, what are some guidelines for community etiquette?[17]

I should emphasize at the outset that I have no intention of prescribing specific rules for every community. One of the great benefits of community autonomy is that communities have both the authority and responsibility to create their own modes of interaction. This freedom makes it likely that the rules in one community may not match the rules in another. We can expect that the opportunities for variety and experimentation will be quite large, particularly since quasi-anarchism assumes the context of a free and open society with a modern economy.

Nonetheless, as I stressed in chapter 1, the opportunities for experimentation and autonomy does not mean that quasi-anarchist theory is either absolved of the responsibility or deprived of the authority to make suggestions for some ideals that all worthwhile communities should share. As I said when I discussed this matter earlier, it makes sense that a theory which attempts a radical critique of current social and political institutions would want to be sure that its alternative arrangements do not suffer from the same failings, or worse ones. Indeed, part of the rationale for this project was to come up with a basis for criticism of community institutions; for, as I have remarked, turning our focus from the state to the local community implies that we will have more, not less, to say about how these communities should be run.

I have titled this section "How can voluntary communities avoid being too effective?" because it is entirely possible for the desirable social goals of peace and order to be overemphasized. Peace and order are, after all, not the only goods worth having. A community which focuses on them to the exclusion of the more fundamental quasi-anarchist goals of private judgment and education of conscience is likely to produce a fruitless peace and an oppressive order. There are any number of dreadful ways in which small communities can go wrong, do their jobs badly, and cause real damage to their members. The remainder of this chapter will be devoted to discussing these problems and suggesting some strategies to avoid them.

There are also many ways in which nations can go wrong and injure their citizens. In some cases, the problems faced by communities and states will be analogous. In others, problems with the state find no analogous form in community relations. Some community problems can readily be solved by the sort of stipulations we have already made about the open society. Others require more thought and discussion. Statist ways to avoid state problems usually involve special rules or procedures which can help prevent those problems; our discussion of community problems will in some cases offer similar solutions. And although we cannot guarantee that communities will in all cases obey the rules we recommend for them, it should also be clear that statist political theorists can by no means guarantee that states will follow the rules that have been recommended for them. So although it may be easy to suggest rules that will ensure proper, fair, and equal treatment of citizens and community members, it is up to states and communities themselves to put these rules into practice.

Social problems beyond the community's power

Some anarchist writers have claimed or assumed that the removal of state rule and the switch to self-government would by itself dispose of a whole host of social problems. Godwin himself was, unfortunately, particularly prone to this sort of utopianism; this has, no doubt, encouraged many readers not to take seriously the more plausible portions of his work. While I do not wish to dwell on these matters more than is absolutely necessary, I should probably assure the reader that I do not share Godwin's beliefs that the ideal society will abandon marriage, or that mechanization will reduce the need for people to work more than half an hour per day, or that self-government will result in the power of conscious control over health and longevity.[18]

More pertinent to our current discussion are some of the other social problems that we cannot expect to vanish simply because of the decentralization of society. Racism and sexism, for example, are unlikely to wither away simply because power is shifted away from the state toward communities. Indeed, if power is moved to the wrong kinds of communities, these social problems may even be exacerbated. And although economic inequalities may be reduced if corporations are placed under worker ownership and control, there is no guarantee that all economic inequalities will vanish. Indeed, it is possible that the gap may grow even greater between those benefited workers and the unemployed or otherwise disadvantaged. For although some communities provide incentives to maintain an approximate standard of equality within the community, there is no such incentive to maintain equality between different communities.

These sorts of problems are good candidates for remedial action by the state. We should keep in mind, though, that the state's involvement will rarely be independently sufficient to solve deep-rooted problems such as racism and sexism. It is difficult for state action alone to make lasting changes in the face of entrenched popular opposition-or even indifference. Real social change typically involves a considerable amount of public education, debate, and social pressure in everyday circumstances. In a functioning democracy, it is unlikely that the necessary steps to solve social problems can be taken unless there is considerable public agreement that these problems exist, and that they need solving. The means to develop that sort of consensus is not going to be strictly political; state action is rarely enough. There will also be a profound need for social and personal action: education, consciousness-raising, and community organizing are indispensable elements of successful attempts to create long-term social change. Not to mention that grass-roots activism may be necessary in order to get the state to do its part at all.[19]

So although state involvement in social and economic justice may be necessary, communities are no less necessary to shape and reinforce desirable social trends. But are communities always up to this task? As I remark earlier, there are many ways in which communities can be actual sources of problems, ways in which they can stunt rather than promote individual flourishing. Conveniently, but not, I hope, too neatly and artificially, we can view these problems as ways in which the special virtues of community can go awry. So while communities can offer unmatched opportunities for intimate relations, group solidarity, honesty and sincerity, and flexibility (as opposed to law's inflexibility), these features can unfortunately not turn out as we had hoped. Intimacy may become insularity and xenophobia; solidarity may result in conformity and obliteration of individuality; sincere criticism may be just another name for browbeating; and the flexibility of reprimand and punishment may result in favoritism and arbitrary exercise of power. The remainder of this chapter first examines these problems and then suggests different means by which communities can try to prevent them.[20]

Community justice

As we have seen, sincerity is crucial to Godwin's system for a number of reasons. One reason is straightforwardly pragmatic: in a community whose members are responsible for continuously regulating each other's behavior, sincerity is necessary in order to carry out that process. Evasions and dissimulation render difficult or impossible the ongoing, everyday procedure of mutual advice and criticism.[21] Honest criticism and advice require honest data to work with.

Another, more "theoretical" reason for sincerity relates to the role of the community in Godwin's system: the improvement of each member's faculty of private judgment. For mutual criticism is aimed not at imposing an arbitrarily chosen social order, but at aiding each person to develop and improve the skill of discerning their actual, objective duty. So much of our knowledge is dependent on the information provided by others that it is epistemically crucial to avoid being in relationships whose dynamics tend to distort the information we receive. This was made clear by Godwin's discussion of the impossibility of a prince's receiving accurate information. The ideal situation would be one in which equal social relations and long-standing relations of concern, caring and respect permit the exercise of sincerity.

Nonetheless, there is certainly a dark side to sincerity. A decentralized society may help minimize blatant physical coercion, but it may substitute coercion of a different and no less objectionable kind. When Godwin asks

How great would be the benefit if every man were sure of meeting in his neighbour the ingenuous censor, who would tell him in person, and publish to the world, his virtues, his good deeds, his meannesses and his follies?
(Book IV, Chapter VI; Penguin Enquiry, 312)
we may well treat the question non-rhetorically: how great would be that benefit? What are its drawbacks? States have limited power to produce social order through coercion; this is perhaps just as much a blessing as a curse. Physical coercion in a few cases might be preferable to ubiquitous emotional coercion by snoops and busybodies.[22] As George Orwell puts it,
When human beings are governed by "thou shall not," the individual can practice a certain amount of eccentricity: when they are supposedly governed by "love" or "reason," he is under continuous pressure to make him behave and think in exactly the same way as everyone else.
(Quoted in Marshall 1993, 650)
Orwell's point is not merely about the danger of conformity; it is about the coercive power of community sanctions. Thus far, there have been relatively few examples of effective totalitarian states, capable of exerting continuous pressure; but small groups frequently do exert this sort of pressure, and without the need for fancy technology.[23]

Then there is the matter of the flexibility of diffuse sanctions. Recall that Godwin argued that law is objectionable (in part) because it attempts to govern from afar: divorced from particular facts and extenuating (or aggravating) circumstances. The small community provides opportunity for criticism and correction that are tailored to the individual, and that make the appropriate concessions for that person's known characteristics and quirks. Using the same law for different people assumes that these people are identical in virtue of the conditions which the law treats; and this assumption is often false.

Nonetheless, flexibility of treatment has its drawbacks. We have reason to fear that diffuse sanctions will be meted out unfairly, based on favoritism or popularity. For all its faults, legal objectivity is at least supposed to make sure that people are treated equally, without regard to considerations of personal popularity or influence. Have we any reason to think that the community can avoid taking these factors unduly into account? For that matter, should we expect that a community's sanctions have any hope of being consistent from year to year or even week to week? How can a community make it more likely that diffuse sanctions will be meted out justly?

Behavioral and intellectual conformism

Part of the appeal of communities of all kinds is that they provide opportunities for valuable relationships with other people: relationships characterized by love, caring, mutual concern, and honesty. These relationships are inherently valuable, and they also help the communities maintain peace and order.

But it is virtually a commonplace that such relationships must be particular. They cannot extend to everyone. Unfortunately, creating groups with such relationships threatens to divide the world into two categories: insiders and outsiders. In tense or disruptive situations, outsiders are likely to be shunned or treated as scapegoats for the group's problems. And even in situations of relative peace, it can still be uncomfortable to be an outsider. We are quite familiar with the stereotype of the small town and how it treats outsiders: cordially enough, but with an unavoidable coolness and distance.[24]

The contrast between insider and outsider, member and stranger, can be more than uncomfortable: it can lead to serious problems of allocation of goods, if allocation is determined by in-group status. Michael Walzer remarks:

...if states ever become large neighborhoods, it is likely that neighborhoods will become little states. Their members will organize to defend the local politics and culture against strangers. ... Where welfare monies are raised and spent locally, for example, as in a seventeenth-century English parish, the local people will seek to exclude newcomers who are likely welfare recipients. It is only the nationalization of welfare (or the nationalization of culture and politics) that opens the neighborhood communities to whoever chooses to come in.
(Walzer 1983, 38)
Current housing and urban planning trends in the United States seem to be moving in this direction: toward the creation of privately owned walled communities and the neglect or destruction of public space. Does quasi-anarchism provide any reason to value public space and public discourse?

Finally, we may note that insularity can lead, in extreme cases, to paranoia and xenophobia. A notorious case is that of Synanon, which was a narcotics treatment program that started in the late 1950s and lasted to the early 1980s. Calling it a "program" does not adequately capture its all-encompassing nature: Synanon housed its clients in residential groupings with a completely controlled environment. Access to the outside world was limited. The program was not limited to former narcotics users; anyone could join Synanon, provided they were willing to deliver up their belongings to the program and submit to the same treatment as the rest of the members.

In 1976, when journalists John Rothchild and Susan Berns Wolf visited, Synanon had developed an exaggerated fear of the outside world. The purpose of the program was no longer to rehabilitate narcotics addicts and prepare them for normal life, but rather to retain them permanently in Synanon. People who left the program were not regarded as cured, but scorned as "splittees."[25]

The paranoia progressed by leaps and bounds until 1980, when police uncovered a plot to harass former Synanon members who had turned against the institution. The plot included slander campaigns aimed at the former members' friends and employers. It even went so far as attempted murder: the plotters placed a venemous snake in the mailbox of one of the targets. So much for the benefits of intimacy and close association.

Synanon would have been problematic from a quasi-anarchist standpoint in any case, as it was based on strict centralized control of its patients and residents. Still, the quasi-anarchist must recognize the dangerous potential for small-group isolation and paranoia. As we shall see shortly, this issue is not an easy one to deal with, but I believe that there are some sensible things to be said about it, and also that I can show that it is not unique to community-based political and social theories.

Another benefit of community is the opportunity it provides for personal development: learning, in every sense of the word. Intimate relationships are one source of education, i.e. education of the sentiments. Other sorts of relationships found in communities are educational in other ways. The most obvious example is the relation between teacher and student in a classroom, or in an academic department. Other examples, though, can be found in work settings, where supervisors and workers often (though admittedly not always) can learn more about how to do their jobs well, how to organize the work environment, and so on.

But there is a serious worry about the likelihood of social pressures for conformity. No one likes a troublemaker, and the pressure not to dissent from accepted policy or procedures might be elevated when that pressure is coming from all of one's workmates, rather than just a hierarchically placed boss. For it may be easy enough to decide that your boss is an idiot and obey under protest, retaining one's own judgment about what is right. The social pressure to conform one's beliefs to the decisions of authority is considerably stronger when one is arguing not just against a supervisor, but against the majority of one's fellow workers or (worse) family members. How can autonomous communities promote the proper respect for true individuality?

Ways to avoid problems

Browbeating and civility

The principle of sincerity is not unique to Godwin. It has been present (in one version or another) in many different communitarian and utopian communities for hundreds of years. One early version was held by the antinomian Ranters in the seventeenth century.[26] A more recent version that some readers may be more familiar with is the 1960s and 70s countercultural admonition to "let it all hang out": total honesty and extensive communication as cures for modern alienation and repression. But as we have seen, this ideal seems prone to abuse: sincerity may seem to require the abolition of privacy, and can also easily turn into a cover for cruelty or emotional manipulation.

When sincerity becomes a mask for aggression, it can ruin (or at least greatly degrade) community relations. Here is an example from my own experience. Several years ago, I worked closely with several people who had worked for some years in the Industrial Workers of the World. Readers familiar with that labor union may know that it was heavily influenced from its early years by anarcho-syndicalist principles. Although the IWW is a shadow of its former self, many of its anarchist principles have remained constant, and my associates were roughly self-identified as anarcho-syndicalists. In some ways, their behavior matched Godwin's recommendations. They were always ready to offer advice and criticism, and were quite sincere and assertive about what they thought was appropriate or inappropriate.

Unfortunately, the results of this forthrightness were less than ideal. Sincerity sometimes became a cover for outright rudeness. The freely offered advice unfortunately was very often harshly critical, and frequently included second-guessing of other people's decisions and motives. The more assertive people tended to dominate conversations, and sometimes this was found intimidating by others. Eventually, the atmosphere often tended toward attack and recrimination, which (as the reader can well imagine) was wearying and counterproductive. I do not wish to make too much of this example; certainly many of the problems that arose had to do with individual personalities. But similar problems are commonplace in the histories of communal effort, indicating that sincerity is not the panacea that some had hoped.[27]

This potential for abuse suggests the need for a counterbalancing norm of civility. Godwin may have anticipated the need for this norm, since he stresses the need for censure and advice to be given in a loving and considerate manner. But Orwell's quote (above, p. 206) suggests that love, as such, is not sufficient: for loving censure is still prone to abuse. We need an explicit norm of civility and respect for privacy and autonomy. Censure by one's neighbors should not be constant, nor should it be overbearing, harsh, or insulting. One should make charitable assumptions about others' motives and rationality, unless circumstances clearly indicate that these assumptions are false.

Interestingly, a number of studies indicate that many communities recognize the need for both civility and sincerity, and manage the potential conflict between these norms by creating distinct social contexts in which each norm takes precedence. Only rarely did communities attempt to make sincerity the constant, universal norm; the sole example I am aware of is the famous Tennessee commune called the Farm. Communal censure was unremitting and frank, to the extent that the community gatekeepers felt the need to test out people's ability to cope with constant advice and criticism before even allowing them to enter the Farm for a visit.[28] Most communities and communal experiments, however, carry out daily work under a basic norm of civility. The norm of sincerity only has free rein in very specific circumstances, and for the specific purpose of airing the grievances that must be smoothed over in order for daily business to proceed at all.

Rothchild and Wolf, in discussing one urban commune's encounter meetings, note:

[This] once-a-week more elaborate session, called Encounter Night... was a version of the meetings that take place in every commune, when people get together to even scores and vent frustrations so they can stand each other for another week.
(Rothchild and Wolf 1976, 66)
The widespread institution of these sorts of meetings is important and noteworthy; and we should note that sessions like these serve other needs in addition to the rather breezily mentioned ones of evening scores and venting frustrations.

Perhaps the most important additional need is the creation of a forum for "meta-discussion": situations in which the regular norm of civility is loosened or altered, so that one can carry out discussions about how and when that norm has been violated (which may not always be possible within the normal bounds of civility), and how the norm of civility itself should be shaped and enforced. Jean L. Briggs discusses an intriguing form of meta-discussion used by Canadian Inuit as a means of resolving conflicts by indirection, and especially socializing young children:

...adults expressed in jokes-sometimes dramatic jokes...-all sorts of grievances and violent fantasies that could not be expressed seriously. They did something similar when playing with children. All the problem areas of adult life were dramatized in vividly exaggerated form in interactions with small children.
(Briggs 1994, 171-2)
The Inuit had a practice of creating "interactive dramas" as a means of indirectly expressing emotions such as anger or resentment that needed to be suppressed in order for the group to continue coexisting. Briggs notes that since the Inuit lived very peaceably and avoided conflict, there were few occasions in which people could have real experience of conflict and the means to avoid it. Thus these interactive dramas were particularly important for the process of socializing children, since they needed to learn how to experience potentially dangerous emotions and learn how to control their behavior; but they needed to do so without engaging in actual violent conflict.

Although meta-discussion is important, virtually every account of it stresses its special nature: the need to stress its separation from the proper conduct for ordinary life. As Taylor noted in a passage quoted in chapter 4 (p. 122), censure and criticism are not daily occurrences in most societies, but are "institutionalized, standardized and hedged about with conventions." This concern that the heightened acceptability of confrontation and "dangerous emotions" found in meta-discussion not extend to ordinary practice can also be found in communitarian experiments.[29] Furthermore, while the ordinary norms of civility sometimes must be abandoned in meta-discussion, this does not mean that any sort of behavior is acceptable. Some of the conventions surrounding the notion of encounter sessions, or other forms of communal criticism, also involve the kinds of interaction that are acceptable during the session. While the norm of civility is loosened in these situations, that does not mean that it is effaced.

The reader may wonder whether these sorts of conventions are really applicable to communities where interaction and social interplay are not as intense or important as they are in isolated Inuit camps, rural communes, or self-enclosed addiction treatment programs. It does seem a bit odd to imagine a business scheduling weekly encounter sessions to air unresolved psychological conflicts. But evidence suggests that while meta-discussion may not be as confrontational or as ritualized in modern culture as it is in subsistence cultures or modern sub-cultures, it still exists. One form that it takes, as we have seen in Ellickson's discussion of Shasta County, is gossip. This functions in modern communities much as it does in pre-agricultural communities: as a means of discussing mores and social strictures, and as a way of airing one's grievances. And as I note in footnote 13, it can even function as a means of community recourse and correction. Another institutionalized form of meta-discussion, sometimes involving an increased focus on sincerity, is the familiar notion of the community retreat.[30] One final example of meta-discussion is the increasingly common practice of the "intervention": when friends and family gather to confront a drug abuser or alcoholic, and to encourage deep changes in that person's mode of relating to them. This situation is explicitly designed to enhance sincerity and loosen the usual patterns of behavior, though once again it is designed to be special and set off from the normal: not every day can be an intervention.

As I have just remarked, these practices are typically not as intense or ritualized as are comparable practices in other cultures. Baumgartner (1984) suggests a number of reasons why criticism and meta-discussion in urban and suburban life are less common and much more indirect than in other modes of life. Not the least of these is one that we have already examined in chapter 4: the likelihood of brief, non-repeated interactions with little expectation of long-term reciprocity. In these situations, even a small amount of confrontation presents a substantial risk of exploding into violence, given the all too common lack of long-term ties to ensure that conflict will be kept within acceptable limits. Baumgartner suggests, correctly in my opinion, that the rules of civility and indirection are even more important in weakly connected communities, since in these situations it may be the only basis of interaction that potential disputants have in common. Correspondingly, we may surmise that the more close-knit a community, the more tolerance it can display for increased levels of sincerity, though even in these cases sincerity will need to be carefully regulated and delimited.

There are also a number of techniques groups can use to minimize another of the problems mentioned previously: arbitrary abuse of power. We should note first that this theory's ideal of egalitarianism provides a built-in barrier to the abuse of power, since there is relatively little concentrated power to abuse. But not all communities are ideally egalitarian; and even highly egalitarian communities sometimes need to place some of their members in supervisory or authority roles. One technique that a number of communities have used to good effect is requiring supervisory positions to be rotating.[31] There is considerable incentive to avoid abusing one's position of power if one knows that it is temporary, and that one's victims will be in charge when their turn comes.

Another way to avoid arbitrariness is for groups to institute some measure of formality and due process in their own operations. Although flexibility is desirable, it is not obvious just how much flexibility is best; nor need we think that all situations call for the same amount of flexibility. As I noted in chapter 3, Godwin expected that his ideal citizens of the future would make decisions on the basis of reason alone; but even this description does not obviously exclude the use of guidelines and examples from one's organizational history. And some reliance on rules and established procedures seems to be indispensable for people who fall short of complete Godwinian enlightenment. In fact, one of the most useful legacies that a group can give to succeeding generations of members is an institutional history: a guide to the sorts of problems the group has faced, and an understanding of the successes and failures the group had in dealing with those problems. Tradition and rules need not always be stifling, provided that the community has sufficient leeway to provide for creativity in their application and interpretation.[32]

Insularity, conformity, and the open society

Let us now turn to the twin threats of insularity and conformity. These are both related to the concern that communities can tend to be inward-looking, afraid of diversity both without and within. How, then, can this concern be alleviated? Although my suggestions provide no guarantee that every community can avoid these problems, I can at least suggest some circumstances which will make this less likely.

This theory is intended to apply to communities in the modern world, in which communication, travel, and diversity are already facts of life. Although that fact should be obvious, it is not. Anarchists have often been accused of romanticizing primitive culture and life. This charge is not without basis. It is easy to see how community self-rule is possible in a small, isolated village; hard to see how it is possible or even desirable in a city of seven million people. It is surely not an accident that the most powerful popular anarchist movements were in Spain and post-Revolutionary Russia, where the agrarian tradition was still strong well into the twentieth century.

But anarchism was also strong in the highly urbanized and industrialized nations of Europe, most particularly France. Its role there was not as a regressive, agrarian movement, but an attempt to move power from the hands of owners to those of workers. Anarchist writers during that time assumed that post-revolutionary society would remain largely urban and cosmopolitan.[33]

That, in fact, is one response to the worry about insularity. Community social order may be more difficult to sustain in modern urban settings; but so, also, are insularity and conformity. Pressure to conform is considerably weakened when one can see obvious examples of resistance to conformity every day, and when access to other sorts of communities is easy. If, as this theory recommends, voluntary communities are encouraged and supported, this provides even more opportunity for non-conformists to find people who are willing to accept them on their own terms and encourage their individuality.

The urban environment, as just noted, can pose problems for community social regulation. First, the power of communities over individuals is lessened when exit from communities is easy. This problem is one of the reasons I have argued that the state must continue to exist. Note, though, that it is the mirror image of the worry about insularity and conformity. The easier it is to escape a community, the less likely that the group will devolve into insularity, but also the less ability the group has to produce peaceful relations non-coercively. Correspondingly, the stronger the group's ability to encourage peaceful relations, the more likely that the group can produce insularity and conformity.

This dilemma (if it is a dilemma) is unavoidable. After all, when we talk about a community producing peaceful relations, part of what we mean is the community exerting social pressure for conformity to peaceful and just standards of conduct. The trick, of course, is to make sure that the group encourages conformity to the right sorts of standards, and does not enforce conformity in areas where individuals should be left to pursue their own interests and eccentricities. I wish that I could suggest a straightforward and reliable means to this end, but it is not clear to me that there is any sure way of moving a society from conformism to pluralism. Governmental protection of individual liberties and provision of education is a good start; and although this may not guarantee freedom for people to pursue their own individuality, I am not sure that there can be any such guarantee other than individual willingness to speak out and work for this freedom.

Another important role for the state is to take over the unpleasant and potentially divisive task of physical punishment. Unlike other forms of persuasion, punishment does not take advantage of the ties of affection and caring that can be so powerful in convincing people to change their patterns of behavior. In addition, the very gravity of physical punishment militates against its being administered as freely or frequently as other forms of persuasion. So although there are many good reasons to keep other forms of social control in the hands of the local community, these reasons do not apply as strongly to the case of physical punishment.

In addition, there are good reasons to desire that punishment be adjudicated and administered by parties who are at some remove from the circumstances that call for punishment. The intimacy and interpersonal involvement that are fostered by community are no guarantee against rivalry or downright hatred. Indeed, vindictiveness and spitefulness can be greatly magnified by one's intimate knowledge of and daily contact with one's enemy. So much more reason, then, to keep punishment in the hands of an impartial authority. The detached impersonality of the state, so ill-suited for other forms of persuasion, is very much to be desired in the case of something as serious as physical punishment. While completely self-sufficient communities can tend toward dangerous levels of intellectual isolation from the outside, state regulation of physical force has the great benefit of providing community members with outside recourse.

A second problem of urban life is that communities, if they can be created and sustained, will be in close proximity to other communities every day. Intercommunity strife may be encouraged by the close quarters of urban life. This worry is particularly pressing when we recall that one of the fundamental problems facing Taylor's theory is the difficulty of accounting for intercommunity relations.

This is a troubling problem, and of course no political theory can guarantee an end to conflict. One feature that may help solve this problem, of course, is the continuing existence of the state. But it also makes sense to try to develop ties between communities analogous to those between individuals. Important ties of reciprocity and shared history will help to establish (typically) peaceful relations between members of different communities, particularly if the members of each community are also aware of their communities' ties to other communities.

One possible aid to the production of peaceful intercommunity relations is the existence of public institutions that serve these communities and encourage the development of relationships between them. These sorts of relations are considerably more likely to develop when groups share common meeting space and public areas for demonstration and advertisement than if the groups are intent on meeting in and controlling their own separate spaces and areas to meet the public. This feature of my argument suggests that quasi-anarchism does recognize the need for public institutions, provided that these institutions are conceived not primarily as venues for the creation of mass culture and a focus on the relation of the individual to the state, but for the interaction of individuals understood both as individuals and as representatives (formal or informal) of the various communities to which they belong.

This point also applies to the final possible role for a state in encouraging good intercommunity relations: the support of a common culture for the nation. In speaking of a common culture, I do not mean mass culture, which I understand as being a culture which is intended to smooth out differences between different communities and achieve a sort of bland agreement on a wide range of matters. Rather, I understand a common culture as a shared common ground on a few basic concerns-matters of broad social and political consensus-which then can be used as a way of establishing opportunities for groups to meet in ways that allow them to explore the interesting differences that remain. This ideal, retaining a balance for the need for common ground and agreement with the need for particularity and diversity, is probably difficult to achieve and sustain, but is nonetheless a vital goal for quasi-anarchist theory.


Notes to chapter 6

[1] It is hard to think of any field of rational inquiry which does not require extensive social interaction and intellectual interchange. The popular imagination might have it that a discipline like pure mathematics or theoretical physics relies on solitary work by minds grappling with the Absolute, rather than with each other. But these disciplines are actually characterized by a considerable degree of socialization, and by an ongoing process of discussion and debate. Not to mention that such skills must have some relevance to other people if they are to provide a livelihood.

[2] The administration of physical punishment is a vexing question in the context of this theory. See below, pp. 219-220.

[3] See Philp (1986), 169-174 and 231-252, for his argument and evidence that Godwin's circle of associates constituted a community in this sense.

[4] The reference to Stirner is to The Ego and His Own, Stirner 1989.

[5] A good example of people who have significant but mediated relations is that of the subscribers to a national magazine. The subscribers are likely to have a good deal in common with each other (because of interest in the magazine's subject, or the demographic interests of the magazine's advertisers, or both), but as their relations are entirely mediated by the magazine's editorial staff, they do not constitute a community merely in virtue of being subscribers.
There is a technical question about what constitutes mediation of relations. A group who meets entirely over the telephone might be said to have all of their relations mediated by the phone company, but this sense of mediation does not seem to interfere with the directness of the relations or the existence of a real community. It might be challenging to specify exactly what constitutes mediation. Overall, though, this issue seems trivial.

[6] Obviously, there are some tightly knit neighborhoods that do not participate in this trend. But it seems clear that they are in the minority in modern society.

[7] This remark should not be taken to imply that modern economic relations are ones of complete mutual independence. This clearly false. Rather, the people on whom we are economically dependent are very often not the ones with whom we have immediate, day-to-day contact. The problem is one of producing social order in social groups where the element of economic dependence on other group members is lacking.

[8] The majority of people studied are cattle ranchers, so the most important factor in their financial well-being is the world beef market.

[9] Ellickson reports (51) that about half of the ranchers he surveyed seemed aware of the "lawful fence" rule in open range.

[10] For example, legal specialists generally believed that in closed range, ranchers would be liable for animal trespass damages only when negligent. But as mentioned earlier, in closed range the owner is strictly liable, i.e. liable even if not negligent.

[11] See Ellickson, 62: "An adjuster for the company that insures most Shasta County ranchers stated that he could not recall, in his twenty years of adjusting, a single claim by a rancher for compensation for trespass damage."

[12] Some county residents threatened to kill or steal trespassing cattle whose owners failed to respond to polite requests to take more care to prevent straying (see Ellickson, 58). On one occasion, a rancher named Owen Shellworth borrowed Frank Ellis's bulldozer without permission because he believed that Ellis had been too slow in reciprocating work that Shellworth had done on the fence along their property boundary (op. cit., 80-81).

[13] For example, see Ellickson, 57: "Another [resident] reported intentionally using gossip to sanction a traditionalist who had been "impolite" when coming to pick up some stray mountain cattle; he reported that application of this self-help device produced an apology, an outcome itself presumably circulated through the gossip system."

[14] See above, note 12, regarding one rancher's unauthorized (but temporary) appropriation of some of Ellis's heavy equipment.

[15] See Ellickson, 63.

[16] No doubt Kropotkin and like-minded anarchists would smile at the suggestion that any state would be willing to strengthen potentially competing centers of power. But it is far from obvious that states must inherently seek to enlarge their power in all cases. No doubt it is difficult to decentralize power; but it is not clearly impossible to do so, if the public at large is willing to demand decentralization and also willing to put in the work necessary for decentralization to succeed.

[17] The term 'etiquette' has unfortunate connotations, perhaps suggesting that I will be addressing the pressing questions of how to respond to a formal wedding invitation or which fork to set out for the fish course. But these connotations should not distract us from the need for guidelines in appropriate ways for community members to interact respectfully and considerately. Understood in this way, we can see that etiquette can provide common ground on which the members of a community can deal with each other in a wide range of circumstances. Godwin's stress on sincerity, which we will discuss shortly, is thus in a sense a discussion of appropriate etiquette. Also see Martin 1985.

[18] Perhaps I should mention, as I did in chapter 2, that Godwin's views on marriage are not entirely applicable to modern circumstances. Few if any Western people are now subject to arranged marriage, and divorce is considerably easier to obtain and less stigmatized than it was in the eighteenth century. Still, the institution itself (in its modern incarnation) provides a context for stability and commitment of loving relations that I do not think that Godwin entirely appreciated-at least not in the Enquiry. As is well known, Godwin married twice, and he later repudiated part of his early treatment of domestic institutions. See the introduction to St. Leon, Godwin 1994.

[19] State involvement in social regulation can also take advantage of existing community structures, lending these non-governmental organizations a semi-official status in setting state policy. See Cohen and Rogers 1993.

[20] These problems overlap a bit; and some of them are mutually reinforcing. My categorization of them is thus a bit arbitrary, but I hope that it helps to elucidate my points and smooth the presentation.

[21] Lying is, of course, also a problem for the legal system; but the legal system, designed as it is to operate in only a small number of the possible offenses against society, has more tools at its disposal than everyday observers have. If I am concerned that one of my workmates is stealing my pens, I am unlikely to have the ability to subpoena witnesses or call on the help of a forensics lab.

[22] I owe the fine phrase 'snoops and busybodies' to Don Herzog.

[23] My point here is not to minimize the threat of the totalitarian state. Rather, it is to point out that totalitarian communities are already relatively common, and can, in their own way, be almost as bad as totalitarian states.

[24] An excellent literary treatment of this subject is Sinclair Lewis's Main Street (1992 [1920]).

[25] Rothchild and Wolf 1976: 148, 167. Some exception to this disdain was made for people who had never had a drug problem, but had joined as "lifestylers."

[26] See Marshall 1993, chapter 8 for more information on the Ranters and other English predecessors to anarchism.

[27] For examples, see some of the case histories in Rothchild and Wolf 1976: particularly the case of Synanon, where the "Synanon game" appears to have been particularly prone to abuse. (See Rothchild and Wolf 1976, 155)

[28] See the fascinating account in Rothchild and Wolf 1976, chapter 8.

[29] For example, Rothchild and Wolf note that the "Synanon game" of criticism and meta-discussion was not the accepted norm for all interactions, but was carefully distinguished from normal life by the use of a ritual to start and end the game. See Rothchild and Wolf 1976, chapter 7.

[30] Not all retreats involve actually physically retreating from familiar surroundings, but they do generally imply a degree of specialness: mental removal from the standards of daily life.

[31] A number of communes have used rotating positions successfully: for example, the Farm, which has been a loosely structured co-operative since the mid-1980s. (Carroll Fry, personal communication)

[32] Sir Henry Maine, in a classic common law argument, suggests that excessively flexible legal systems are of little use to succeeding generations. A legal rule that is easily ignored is never fully put to the test; and so the decisions that result from this lax application of rules result in mere glimpses of the ephemeral prejudices of the community at each succeeding moment in time. This consideration, though it was applied specifically to early legal systems, does seem to have some application to institutional rules and procedures. See Maine 1965, 44-45.

[33] See Sonn 1992 and Marshall 1993.

Proceed to the Appendix

Return to the Table of Contents

Return to Chris Roberson's home page