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There seems to be a natural affinity between animism and anarchism. Animism sees people everywhere. Human people are most obvious to other humans-—but nonhuman people are not hard to perceive for those with eyes to see. In animism, the world is a community of people of every size and shape, with unexpected and unknowable intelligences, carrying out their own purposes.

Alan Jacobs made a very useful distinction recently:

The goal of libertarianism is to increase individual liberty, while the goal of anarchism is to expand the realm of cooperation and collaboration.

It’s useful because it could be easy to lump libertarianism and anarchism together as “small government politics.” (In fact, the first politics I discovered and adopted in college was anarcho-capitalism, which is a right-wing version of libertarianism.) But Jacobs point neatly differentiates them: anarchism is community-focused, not individualistic.

At the same time, it rejects hierarchy and the domination of the powerful. It is mutual governance, not top-down rule. A politics based on cooperation among equals, with no centralized structure demanding conformity–sounds a lot like animism, don’t you think?

An anarchic animism, politically speaking, would be centered on local governance, in community with all the local, living beings. Decisions would be based on consensus and humans would not be unduly favored. Granted, hawks and chipmunks are unlikely to attend meetings. But their concerns should be taken into account by people familiar with the habits and needs of hawks and chipmunks. The political goal would be the flourishing of the local community of beings.

Utopian, I know. And, yet, is it not an serious indictment of our current system that such ideas are taken to be absurd?

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