On the limits of anarchy

by Gil from Cambia  (previously published on the Cambia site , 7/20/2015)

I’m writing this section with deep appreciation for anarchy, but with some realizations about its limits, at least in the way we tried implementing it.

in founding cric house (culture rehabilitation internship center) we wanted to create a real experiment in anarchist utopia. we posited, that some people are ready for anarchy because they don’t need any external system of authority or incentives. and in general, when you trust people to operate out of their best selves they would rise to the occasion.

I want to talk about the way we failed but not without analogies.

the mud room
why do we have mud rooms and not just muddy entrance to the house? the mudroom is a “liminal space” in anthropological terms. it means its in between places, where both muddy boots and clean socks are welcomed. in the house no muddy boots are allowed, but the mud room enables the transition. if a muddy entrance was allowed it would be continuously extended into the living space until its all muddy and nobody takes off their boots.

I am speaking from experience as I’ve seen this happen in public spaces in my community. people want to take their boots off but they don’t want to step where mud from other boots is on the floor. so they take a step further in to take them off. sometimes, just a line drawn on the ground or a carpet can create that 


Meetings are not compulsory, so people attend them at first and one by one find something they would rather do than attend. or they might do other things symultaneously, or move in and out of the meeting, or chat at the same time. after a while people stop coming and only ask “what did you guys discuss at the meeting?” down to “was there anything interesting at the meeting?” down to “did anyone go to the meeting?”


Oh sleeping together, what radical cuteness. I get so nostalgic looking at these pictures. but guess what, it doesn’t last. with time, people get more in tune with their sleep schedule and some people like to stay up late and some like to get up early, and they end up needing different sleeping spaces. since its anarchy, and no “bedtime”

I wonder if I’m ironically trying to hold on to a favorite part of a song by pausing it when I wish we could just keep loving one another and want to be together to the point, where it doesn’t matter what we do, just being together is so fun, that we stay together wherever we go. maybe its just a honeymoon phase and it can’t be sustained.

as time goes by relationships solidify and start to form cracks until the community all falls apart. but how?


we aren’t bad people, just like communism, we were too optimistic thinking we could be our best acting from our best intentions. but even the completely “rational” players in economic models can act to shrink the economy under certain conditions.we failed the way many couples fail to grow their love to one another and end up keeping parallel lives. imagine how much harder it is when its way way easier to leave the relationship.

love and intentions are just not enough. there needs to be designations of time, of space, and a forum for investment in relationships. love needs maintenance and maintenance needs a schedule.

in our new community good things will be scheduled, like celebrations, gratitudes, art, intimacy, work, education, snuggles, even orgies if necessary.

there is a basic fallacy here:
we think love is something we feel towards people for who they are. its actually what we feel towards people for what the relationship is. we think the value we experience towards community is the sum (or average) of its members. but its not. not at all. its the square sum of COORDINATED love everyone expresses at the same time.

On the limits of anarchy

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