Welcome to my new blog.  The title of this blog is not intended to shock, annoy or upset anyone; it is a purposeful attempt to raise awareness that Agile is a compassionate form of anarchy — a gentle movement away from hierarchical, controlling structures and towards collaborative, self-organized ones.  The compassionate anarchist values his fellow humans on an equal footing, encourages emergent solutions, supports individual empowerment, and seeks to avoid dehumanization and marginalization.  The parallels with Agile are clear.  Both the anarchist and the agilist believe that real change does not come about through compliance and coercion, cannot be commanded from on high, but begins at a grass roots level, with the individual.  Each one of us is responsible for change.  That is our beginning.

I have hand-picked a few quotes that suitably describe this view of anarchy.

“While the popular understanding of anarchism is of a violent, anti-State movement, anarchism is a much more subtle and nuanced tradition then a simple opposition to government power. Anarchists oppose the idea that power and domination are necessary for society, and instead advocate more co-operative, anti-hierarchical forms of social, political and economic organisation.”L. Susan Brown, The Politics of Individualism, p. 106

“Anarchism, to me, means not only the denial of authority, not only a new economy, but a revision of the principles of morality. It means the development of the individual as well as the assertion of the individual. It means self-responsibility, and not leader worship.” Voltairine de Cleyre

“People forgot that industry is not an end in itself, but should be only a means to insure to man his material subsistence and to make accessible to him the blessings of a higher intellectual culture. Where industry is everything and man is nothing begins the realm of a ruthless economic despotism whose workings are no less disastrous than those of any political despotism.”Rudolf Rocker

“Anarchism is a philosophy of freedom. It is a body of revolutionary ideas which reconciles, as no other revolutionary concept does, the necessity for individual freedom with the demands of society. It is a philosophy which starts from the individual and works upwards, instead of starting from the State and working downwards. Social structure in an anarchist society would be carefully and consciously kept to a minimum and would be strictly functional; where organisation is necessary, it would be maintained, but there would be no organisation for its own sake. This would help to prevent the hardening of organisations into institutions – the hard core of government.” — Bill Christopher, Jack Robinson, Philip Sansom and Peter Turner, article published in Freedom in 1970, included in The State is Your Enemy

“Compassion is what keeps anarchy from degenerating into violent chaos and individual autonomy from resulting in disrespect and disregard for others. Anarchy is what keeps our compassion from becoming a hollow shell of the real thing – it’s what keeps our love for others from becoming a commodity that is sold back to us or a ploy to make us acquiescent to the dictates of authority. Compassionate anarchy is about finding and appreciating the genuine soul in human beings and keeping it free from all authority, submission, moralism, and static roles.”

“I am an anarchist not because I believe anarchism is the final goal, but because there is no such thing as a final goal.”Rudolf Rocker

12 responses to “Anarchism

  1. you never have to explain yourself toby.
    your friends always know what you mean
    even in silence.


  2. Marco Mustapic

    Just a couple of quotes from Ursula LeGuin’s “The Dispossessed” (one of my favourite books)

    “You see, what we’re after is to remind ourselves that we didn’t come to Anarres for safety, but for freedom. If we must all agree, all work together, we’re no better than a machine. If an individual can’t work in solidarity with his fellows, it’s his duty to work alone. His duty and his right. We have been denying people that right. We’ve been saying, more and more often, you must work with the others, you must accept the rule of the majority. But any rule is tyranny. The duty of the individual is to accept no rule, to be the initiator of his own acts, to be responsible. Only if he does so will the society live, and change, and adapt, and survive. We are not subjects of a State founded upon law, but members of a society formed upon revolution. Revolution is our obligation : our hope of evolution. The Revolution is in the individual spirit, or it is nowhere. It is for all, or it is nothing. If it is seen as having any end, it will never truly begin. We can’t stop here. We must go on. We must take the risks.”

    “A child free from the guilt of ownership and the burden of economic competition will grow up with the will to do what needs doing and the capacity for joy in doing it. It is useless work that darkens the heart. The delight of the nursing mother, of the scholar, of the successful hunter, of the good cook, of the skilful maker, of anyone doing needed work and doing it well, – this durable joy is perhaps the deepest source of human affection and of sociality as a whole.”

    If you haven’t read the book, I can send it to you.

  3. My regards to the agile anarchist.

    Tobias, I look forward to reading your thoughtful and thought-provoking work here.

  4. The timing of reading this is quite uncanny for me since I have been (dare I admit it) on PRINCE2 training this week. That methodology is more about the exertion of top-down control using hierarchical organisational structures than anything I have been involved with. It certainly follows more of the “starting from the State and working downwards” approach. My trainer continually refers to the project work as “just digging the coal” – something that we are not concerned with at the project management level. This is to say nothing of the attitude towards the lowly “resources” performing this work. Apparently, a team doing any work that they believe they should do without formal authorisation from above equates to “chaos” and them “going feral”. Imagining the number of managers who view the world from this perspective troubles me. I expect that this blog post would be read like seriously scary heresy to many who have been trained this way and had it reinforced by their organisational environment.

    For me, this is another reminder of just how wide the gap is. I’m thinking that we (still) have a lot of work to do to bridge it with many people.

  5. Tobias, For me as well the timing of this is good. Not even sure why. I took an improv class from a guy named Joe Bills (sp?) from Chicago a couple years ago, and he said, “There’s too much listening going on”. YES! We see actors on stage compulsively watching eachother when all they really need is compassion to jar the door open. There’s room in the system for the guy who can’t breath in the system. Let him work his own system. Let those of us who are capable absorb his (hers) into ours. Dennis Rodman (ask!). I’m not sure how this applies to anarchy but all this has me going. Bravo and thanks….

  6. Toby,

    I look forward to reading your new blog. The subject intrigues me…I like the idea, expressed in the quote from anarchopedia, of compassionate anarchy–it makes sense to me. I’ll be interested to see how you elaborate on this topic…

  7. Very powerful quotes. I particularly love what you said about how in agile, as in anarchy, change begins “with the individual. Each one of us is responsible for change.”

    Too often I hear people say that by having people collaborate, agile means the end of individual responsibility. But I think you have it right, that for agile to be successful we need just the opposite – we need heightened individual responsibility. We need people to care enough to want to make those changes to move us towards success.

    Maybe that is the true challenge behind agile…

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  9. I have encountered this experience first hand and now have the gifts of forgiveness and hindsight. I can only do better this time around, learning from early mistakes. There is always transformation beyond anarchy for the indomitable human spirit.

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