John Collier on the essence of anarchy

(photo: John Collier)

John Collier, expert in complex systems and information theories, when Visiting Scholar at the Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (BCSSS) in Vienna only recently, made up his mind on the red thread of his keynote speech at the Summit.

Collier will carry us on a tour d’horizon from natural evolution to the constitution of values and a valuable future of information society.

Starting off with information accounts in a dynamical perspective, Collier will tell us which principles apply across evolutionary levels (like Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s isomorphies). He will focus on the application of those principles to social systems and end up with a view on the political organisation of society.

Here he finds an opposition of two management styles:

  • either you have an entrainment of the elements of the social system by a rather deterministic top-down control, which involves high costs for the system to be maintained (in prehuman systems this is the waste of thermodynamical or chemical energy);
  • or you have an entrainment by facilitation.

The latter style is the one that needs to be preferred and prioritised. It includes giving an equal chance for everybody to realise herself in a rather self-determined way without enabling them to dominate others. Here you have the rational core of the ideal of anarchy, Collier says. In his terms, it seems not an individualistic approach. It’s rather unity through diversity – another reminiscence of Bertalanffy. Exaggerated individualism would make the system fall apart.

What regards the implementation of such a system, Collier is very clear: you learn from the experience of the latest new social movements like the OccupyX that social change is not achievable when doing without any leadership.

See Collier’s huge variety of papers.


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2 comments on “John Collier on the essence of anarchy
  1. Joseph Brenner says:

    In 1906 in Paris as a struggling young artist, my father embraced anarchy as a political movement, stopping short of bomb-throwing, of course. I look forward to hearing how John thinks that information can facilitate the positive sides of both anarchy and democracy in opposition to the also evolutionarily determined practitioners of selfishness.

    • John Collier says:

      I follow Kropotkin. Bombs are antihetical to anarchism as I understand it. In my work on evolutionary moral realism I argue that cooperation is good for us and that we can adapt to it under certain conditions. Kropotkin (and Lorenz) argue sometimes in terms of good for the species, but that argument is flawed. I hadn’t planned to bring this up, and will be using a more rational argument about good management methods in terms of effectiveness and stability, but perhaps I should at least mention the evolutionary version as well.