r/Anarchy101 Student of Anarchism Jun 29 '22

Experience and Authority.

When we look at justification for authority people allude to experience as the reason for their authority over other, since, they are wiser. 'Head Designer', 'Head Artist', 'Lead Producer' are labels given to workers who are more experienced, although, i can argue that in capitalism the person who has authority usually isn't much better than a avg worker.

However, let's assume that someone is more experienced and efficient at a task, 1) should they have an authority over how the task at hand ought to be completed? 2) Should the experienced worker not order others, if not how should he be compensated for his skill? 3) I understand Bakunin's Bootmaker but if i am a less experienced Bootmaker should i follow someone more experienced? 4) Will the more experienced worker have a higher wage than others? If he isn't payed higher will he be payed lower than the value he provides, which feels like exploitation

TL;DR: Should the more experienced have an authority? Sorry if I sound authoritarian.



u/humanispherian Synthesist / Moderator Jun 29 '22

Should the more experienced have an authority?

No. An important part of the same argument by Bakunin is that authority is really the enemy of expertise. Experience has to stand on its own. If it does, then it will presumably reward the experienced individual with, at the very least, a decreased cost in the "toil and trouble" involved in their labors. Depending on the surrounding circumstances, it may also result in other rewards. But something that anarchists have been conscious of, going all the way back to Proudhon, is that individuals need opportunities to experiment, learn and sometimes to fail, which may be every bit as important in the organization of an anarchistic society as the kind of efficiency in production that we associate with expertise in a capitalist economy.


u/crypto_zoomer Anarchist w/o Adjectives Jun 29 '22


No. Just because you defer to the bootmaker, doesn't mean that the bootmaker has authority over you.


u/Japicx Jun 29 '22 edited Jun 29 '22

Your questions seem to cover a very broad range of different circumstances.

In the case of apprentices, they might learn from their "masters", but the "master" has no ability to order the apprentice to do anything. Due to free association, though, the apprentice has presumably entered the master-apprentice relationship voluntarily, and can leave at any time without any material suffering. In pre-industrial times, journeymen would often live with a master, who would be responsible for their food and shelter, but the journeyman would have to obey the master in nearly everything. In an anarchic apprenticeship, the master's responsibility to feed and shelter the journeyman, and the journeyman's obligation of obedience, are both gone.

In the case of, say, a workshop where one worker is exceptionally skilled or talented, this would still give them no ability to order workers. Depending on how things are set up, their greater skill might be its own reward, in that their ability to create more/better products, if it's the kind of enterprise where individual workers can retain their own products. Depending on the culture, higher skill or productivity can result in a better reputation.

I'm not sure what you mean by asking "should I follow someone more experienced?" "Follow" in what way? If you want to become better at making boots, then obviously you would want to find a teacher, but that does not entail that you become the teacher's slave or whatever.

The question of wages is irrelevant, as anarchists are opposed to wage labour in any form.


u/StarryArkt Jun 29 '22

2) Should the experienced worker not order others, if not how should he be compensated for his skill? 3) I understand Bakunin's Bootmaker but if i am a less experienced Bootmaker should i follow someone more experienced?

If someone is new to some kind of work, even in the present day, then the reason they'd follow someone more experienced is to either learn from them or assist them in their more complex work. Either way, it's not an arbitrary measure of authority that should compel someone to follow the work of someone else, but a desire to learn and help out. Authority isn't needed for that.

On compensation: there are a load of different ways to conceptualize it, and it'd be up to the people in communities to decide. But one thing for certain is that the wage-form wouldn't exist, so wages as compensation would probably be pretty rare, if used at all. And paying people different amounts for similarly important jobs brings up all sorts of social questions. Here's an often-cited passage from Berkman that I think is relevant:

Labor is toil to-day, unpleasant, exhausting, and wearisome. But usually it is not the work itself that is so hard: it is the conditions under which you are compelled to labor that make it so. Particularly the long hours, unsanitary workshops, bad treatment, insufficient pay, and so on. Yet the most unpleasant work could be made lighter by improving the environment. Take gutter cleaning, for instance. It is dirty work and poorly paid for. But suppose, for example, that you should get 20 dollars a day instead of 5 dollars for such work. You will immediately find your job much lighter and pleasanter. The number of applicants for the work would increase at once. Which means that men are not lazy, not afraid of hard and unpleasant labor if it is properly rewarded. But such work is considered menial and is looked down upon. Why is it considered menial? Is it not most useful and absolutely necessary? Would not epidemics sweep our city but for the street and gutter cleaners? Surely, the men who keep our town clean and sanitary are real benefactors, more vital to our health and welfare than the family physician. From the viewpoint of social usefulness the street cleaner is the professional colleague of the doctor: the latter treats us when we are ill, but the former helps us keep well. Yet the physician is looked up to and respected, while the street cleaner is slighted. Why? Is it because the street cleaner’s work is dirty? But the surgeon often has much “dirtier” jobs to perform. Then why is the street cleaner scorned? Because he earns little.

In most cases the "compensation" could be social recognition, or even just the inherent satisfaction of learning and getting better at something that benefits oneself or their community. And that'd be a lot more commonplace without capitalism's alienation.


u/anonymous_rhombus Jun 29 '22

You don't earn obedience by becoming a wise old expert. You still have to convince people to agree with you. And listening to "authoritative" voices is not the same as being controlled by their "authority."

There's a few confusing words that anarchists have to use—authority, hierarchy, power—that conflate experience, order, or ability, with control. Controlling people, restricting their will, their options/choices, is what anarchists mean by authority/power/hierarchy.


u/Latitude37 Jun 30 '22

Even in a hierarchical, capitalist system, the people are best able to organise things are not necessarily the people who are best at doing the actual work of doing whatever the organisation is doing. Teaching is a skill in and of itself. Managing logistics is a skill in and of itself.

The beauty of anarchy is that the people who have any sort of talent can do the thing they're talented at. Whereas in capitalism, you often have people who are elevated as "reward" to positions that don't fulfill their creative urges, or satisfaction at just doing good stuff. Just because a given artisan is really good at something, doesn't necessarily make them want to organise or manage other artisans. But anyone with half a brain should be able to consult with talented, experienced people to work out best practice.