Talking Rulership

The concept of rulership, ruler, rule, and rules is absolutely central to anarchism. Those four words are clearly related and anarchists apply a strict interpretation. We contend that rulership is where a ruler enacts rule by the imposition of rules.

A ruler is an individual or collective that has attained a position of social or organisational dominance over others, forming an authoritarian hierarchy, a vertically orientated social or organisational structure, the purpose of which relates to governance. Any ruler may in turn be ruled over by further tiers of rulership.

Therefore, from the anarchist perspective, rules in the strictest sense can only originate from within an authoritarian hierarchy. Agreements reached by consensus (not majority), and which can likewise be rescinded, are not strictly considered rules per se. However, in the context that anarchy may be deemed self rulership, such agreements would indeed constitute a self imposed form of governance, and could be loosely referred to as ‘rules’. Every anarchist should be cognisant of the distinction between being ruled by oneself, and being ruled over by a third party though…

It is therefore reasonable to assert, that while a collective workplace or some other form of horizontal association, will possess a clearly defined structure and perhaps even a constitution, it will not be subject to an authoritarian ruleset. Less apparent to the outsider, but absolutely crucial by way of implication, the main function of such governance is to preserve equality of power, in order to mitigate the hijacking of such an entity by any portion of its membership.

Some people express concerns around the nature of groups and their risk of being perverted by minority agendas. Anarchists share these reservations, and horizontal structures are therefore engineered to militate against such outcomes. Horizontal modes of organisation should not be conflated with disorganised or organic mobocracy. Hence why a horizontal entity cannot by definition be authoritarian.

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