Saturday, August 28, 2010

Max Weber: Traditional, Legal-Rational, and Charismatic Authority

[A rudimentary essay written about Max Weber's ideas on authority, written for a sociological theory class awhile ago. I'd undoubtedly make some changes if it was updated... Also, it was written prior to my knowledge of Sam Whimster's Max Weber and the Culture of Anarchy.]

Outline of Weber’s Theory of Authority

The influential sociologist Max Weber proposed a theory of authority that included three types. He pioneered a path towards understanding how authority is legitimated as a belief system. His essay “The three types of legitimate rule”, translated in English and published posthumously in 1958, is the clearest explanation of his theory.

Spencer interpreted Weber’s theory to say that legitimate order and authority stems from “different aspects of a single phenomenon - the forms that underlie all instances of ordered human interaction”. There are two fundamental components of order, norms and authority. Spencer explained that “authority and norms represent polar principles of social organization: In the one case organization rests upon orientation to a rule or a principle; in the other instance it is based upon compliance to commands” (Spencer 1970, 124).

Weber’s three types of authority are traditional, charismatic, and legal-rational authority. Coser points out that Weber wrote about “pure” types of authority, and that “he was aware that in empirical reality mixtures will be found in the legitimation of authority” (Coser 1971, 227). As such, many examples of the following authority types may overlap.

Authority Types

Traditional authority is legitimated by the sanctity of tradition. The ability and right to rule is passed down, often through heredity. It does not change overtime, does not facilitate social change, tends to be irrational and inconsistent, and perpetuates the status quo. In fact, Weber states: “The creation of new law opposite traditional norms is deemed impossible in principle.” Traditional authority is typically embodied in feudalism or patrimonialism. In a purely patriarchal structure, “the servants are completely and personally dependent upon the lord”, while in an estate system (i.e. feudalism), “the servants are not personal servants of the lord but independent men” (Weber 1958, 4). But, in both cases the system of authority does not change or evolve.

Charismatic authority is found in a leader whose mission and vision inspire others. It is based upon the perceived extraordinary characteristics of an individual. Weber saw a charismatic leader as the head of a new social movement, and one instilled with divine or supernatural powers, such as a religious prophet. Weber seemed to favor charismatic authority, and spent a good deal of time discussing it. In a study of charisma and religion, Riesebrodt (1999) argues that Weber also thought charisma played a strong - if not integral - role in traditional authority systems. Thus, Weber’s favor for charismatic authority was particularly strong, especially in focusing on what happened to it with the death or decline of a charismatic leader. Charismatic authority is “routinized” in a number of ways according to Weber: orders are traditionalized, the staff or followers change into legal or “estate-like” (traditional) staff, or the meaning of charisma itself may undergo change.

Legal-rational authority is empowered by a formalistic belief in the content of the law (legal) or natural law (rationality). Obedience is not given to a specific individual leader - whether traditional or charismatic - but a set of uniform principles. Weber thought the best example of legal-rational authority was a bureaucracy (political or economic). This form of authority is frequently found in the modern state, city governments, private and public corporations, and various voluntary associations. In fact, Weber stated that the “development of the modern state is identical indeed with that of modern officialdom and bureaucratic organizations just as the development of modern capitalism is identical with the increasing bureaucratization of economic enterprise (Weber 1958, 3).

However, no authority structure, Weber wrote, could actually be exclusively bureaucratic, because some positions would be held by a variety of charismatic leaders. He also stated that non-bureaucratic legal authority could be found in organizations that have rotating office holders, such as “Parliamentary and committee administration and all sorts of collegiate and administrative bodies” (Weber 1958, 3). Weber’s feelings about bureaucracies sometimes came through in his writing and he tended to view the move towards legal-rational authority as a move into an “iron cage”.


Weber’s theory of authority is very rich and intricate. Weber and others have detailed many interesting relationships and processes occurring between the types. Blau’s “Critical Remarks on Weber’s Theory of Authority” (1963) explains two of these in particular, components that either strengthen or weaken an authority type in regards to another.

The three authority types may be re-enforced by traits that differentiate them from other types. Traditional authority is impersonal (unlike charisma) and non-rational (unlike legal-rational). Charismatic authority is dynamic (unlike tradition) and non-rational (again, unlike legal-rational). Finally, legal-rational authority is dynamic (unlike tradition) and impersonal (unlike charisma). Conversely, Blau means to say that traditional is un-dynamic, charisma is personal, and legal-rational is rational. The likelihood of retaining a particular type of authority may depend on the ability of that authority system to retain the traits that make it unique and reject the traits that make it more conducive to another authority type.

To elaborate, particular authority types can lose their power to - and thus transition into - other types by some of the following ways. Revolutionary ideals can be advocated by a charismatic leader or the rational pursuit of ends via abstract formal principles can both weaken traditional authority. Revolutionary charismatic movements can be crystallized into a traditional order or bureaucratized into a rational formal organization. Finally, the irrational forces and powers of tradition or charisma can weaken legal-rational authority.

Collins observes that, for Weber, these categories of authority “do not exist merely for the sake of labeling and classifying history; they are embedded in a larger network of concepts and in an image of how they work” (Collins 1986, 6). As such, Weber’s three types of authority match up to his three categories of inequality: class, status groups, and parties. Traditional authority is the basis for status groups. Charismatic authority lends itself to a market scheme (such as the potential for life chances), and Weber considered it to be the outcome of class. Finally, parties are the codification of legal-rational authority, especially in the case of bureaucracies.

Present-Day Examples and Application

How can this theory be applied to present-day phenomenon? Here are two contemporary examples of dynamic forces in the US: the recent (and seasonal) push for the US to invade Iraq and the North American anarchist movement, which played a sizable role in organizing against the push.

Example 1: The push in the US to go to war against Iraq
Weber’s various authority types help to explain the US, pre-March 2003, in regards to invading Iraq. If Weber were alive to analyze it, he would likely say that the strongest of the types was charismatic authority, embodied by US President George W. Bush. Although he has little military experience, he was able to project a sense of urgency to much of the American populace about the need to attack Iraq. His “folksy” demeanor and the continual media attention to his threats towards Iraq were likely the only messages most Americans received. According to many polls, a good number of Americans were willing to simply trust Bush in whatever he did on the matter, a sentiment repeated again during and after the US invasion.

Weber would also point towards traditional authority as the basis for the pro-invasion sentiment of the country. The nation has a long tradition of foreign military invasion, many hundreds of episodes since its founding, and the philosophy, means, and “necessity” to invade other countries are entrenched in American institutions. The Pentagon and its corporate partners (sometimes called the “military-industrial-complex”) have widespread and relatively consistent powers over the government. Further, the institution of the presidency is what also gave Bush so much persuasive ability - the executive branch is highly influential (possibly the most influential of the three “branches of government”).

The tentative and dissident portions of the country relied on legal and rational authority for their power and influence. Legal authority would require a mandate from the US Congress to go to war (putting aside the War Power Act); but the charisma of Bush was great enough to push aside this requirement for much of the pre-invasion debate (discussion should have originated in a deliberative body, not from the Commander in Chief), and later enough to influence Congress to permit it. Legal authority also conflicted with charismatic authority internationally, as Bush flaunted international law and the United Nations by moving towards a clearly illegal act. Even though it was illegal, the legal authority of the UN (and international community) was not enough to enforce international law or to stop a US invasion.

Perhaps the most relevant authority for the anti-war constituency was a popular authority - one part charismatic in that it attempted to be a movement for social change and one part legal-rational in its attempts to use the legal system (nationally and internationally). This popular authority can be viewed as an attempt to 1) force the US and Bush to adhere to the law, and 2) use the political system as a mechanism for lobbying, as legally defined. But, in the background of the anti-war movement, is an attempt to forge a truly popular authority, where the public consensus would be one of peace-a perspective not derived from any of Weber’s types of authority, but a perspective gained through public debate and political intervention (i.e. value-rational authority).

Example 2: North American anarchist movement
Max Weber wrote during a high point for anarchism, in both the US and Europe. Although he surely would have known about it - the press ran well-funded propaganda campaigns against it for decades (Hong 1992) - he doesn’t seem to have taken it into account in his scheme. Had he, it might have caused him to create another category of authority.

The anarchist reaction to various kinds of authority is fundamental. Simply, anarchism opposes any authority that is placed above the individual and collective interest. More specifically, anarchism rejects the authority of any idea or institution that supports itself merely on the merit of being “tradition”. As such, anarchists were early critics of industrial capitalism and advocates of women’s rights (including suffrage). Anarchism likewise rejects charismatic leadership as the kind that frequently leads to despotism or reformism (various “socialist” and liberal leaders are usually the primary examples offered). However, anarchism has an ambiguous understanding of “leadership” itself. For instance, Crass (2003) points towards leaders who work to create “group-centered leadership”, as opposed to “individual-centered leadership”, thus circumventing the potential of manipulation and power-grab of individuals and thus diffusing power. Finally, anarchists reject legal-rational authority since its power is lodged within the confines of the State, which is bureaucratic (as Weber pointed out) and hierarchical. Anarchism claims that laws are made and enforced to protect the few and the expense of the many. Like Marx, they view the legal and political system as a tool of the bourgeoisie class.

By mere definition, the North American anarchist movement itself adheres to none of Weber’s authority types. At its core, anarchism is explicitly anti-authoritarian. According to George, “The fundamental principle of Anarchism is the rejection of authority, with the possible exception of ‘natural authority’” (George 1997, 55). Or, as the anarcho-punk band Crass put it: “there is no authority but yourself” - a sentiment that obviously contradicts authority, which must be over others.

Although anarchism itself does not possess any of Weber’s three authority types, it is not immune from norms. In fact, Spencer seems to suggest that norms are rather compatible to anarchism, albeit informal norms: “Norms are rules of conduct towards which actors orient their behaviour” (Spencer 1970, 124). As such, there are many unwritten rules or norms that anarchists follow, norms which do closely sync with Weber’s authority types.

“Traditionally-legitimated norms” - rules with historic legitimacy and precedent - are found in anarchist predilection for specific types of organizing, such as the use of affinity groups, a practice common since its popularized usage in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. Customs, such as the use of the “circle-A” symbol as an identifier, and parlance (words like “liberatory” and “mutual aid” in particular) have been used for a long period in anarchist culture.

Individual anarchists also have quite a swaying power, an influence that approaches charismatic authority, but still falls short - partially due to a general repulsion of leadership and partially due to a rejection by these individuals of being used as idols. Noam Chomsky is a very influential individual to many activists on the political Left, Murray Bookchin is a political force in the New England states with his theories of social ecology and libertarian municipalism, and John Zerzan is greatly admired in the Pacific-Northwest for his writings about primitivism. Thus, it is an anarchist “norm” to read these charismatic writers, but not necessarily to be compelled to agree with all they write or advocate.

The only sense in which Weberian authority might intersect with anarchism is with legal-rational. Although anarchists oppose the hierarchically-ordered modern state, they do practice a form of legal-rational authority within small organizations. In collectives, for instance, there are often rules or guidelines that must be followed, or else sanctions are lobbied. This is a voluntary reverence to authority, though, since any member of the collective can leave at any point. Also, it differs from most other forms of legal-rational authority in that individuals make a conscious effort to accept these rules, or even are involved in the rule formation themselves.

Even though it seems plausible to place some anarchist organizational structures within the legal-rational framework, Weber’s work suggests otherwise. He writes that although “legal rule” can be found in voluntary associations (such as anarchist collectives), it needs “an extensive and hierarchically organized staff of functionaries” (Weber 1958, 2). Since there is no hierarchy present in a collective, nor permanent functionaries, Weber’s own criteria discounts this possibility.

Yet, as Spencer points out, there is a difference between Weber’s legal-rational authority and an under-discussed fourth type, value-rational authority. The latter is “subordination to a principle” (Spencer 1970, n. 2). In this respect, anarchist frequently submit to value-rational authority, such as in consensus decision-making processes; decisions are made through a formalized process and assisted by one of more facilitators who are empowered to help the group reach a shared decision, but also enforce the rules of consensus. Thus, anarchists submit to the authority of the values of consensus and direct democracy, but not necessarily the legality of it.


* Blau, P. M. (1963). "Critical remarks on Weber’s theory of authority". The American Political Science Review, 57 (2): 305-316.
* Collins, R. (1986). Weberian sociological theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
* Coser, L. A. (1971). Masters of sociological thought. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
* Crass, C. (2003). Collective liberation on my mind. Montréal: Kersplebedeb.
* George, D. A. R. (1997). "Self-management and ideology", Review of Political Economy, 9 (1): 51-62.
* Hong, N. (1992). "Constructing the anarchist beast in American periodical literature", 1880-1903. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 9: 110-130.
* Riesebrodt, M. (1999). "Charisma in Max Weber’s sociology of religion". Religion, 29: 1-14.
* Spencer, M. E. (1970). "Weber on legitimate norms and authority". The British Journal of Sociology, 21 (2): 123-134.
* Weber, M. (1958). "The three types of legitimate rule". Berkeley Publications in Society and Institutions, 4 (1): 1-11. Translated by Hans Gerth.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

An Anarchist Grand Theory of Domination

Brian Martin (2007), writing in the peer-reviewed journal Anarchist Studies, claimed that certain anarchist theories are in need of further development, including “a high-level grand theory of domination, oppression, inequality and/or hierarchy... A grand theory of domination would be a specific anarchist contribution” (p. 108). While there are numerous sociological critics of grand theory (c.f. Mills 1959, Merton 1968), this task may be reasonable given the radical character of anarchism and the centrality of inequality and domination to its theoretical lens. With anarchism, it is meaningful to speak of a comprehensive theory to describe patterns of domination, since the philosophy treats these patterns as enduring phenomena in the recent human epoch and they are the ultimate consequence of hierarchical institutions and authority.

Grand theory aims to explain a large amount of how the world works, and its conclusions are not dependent upon time or place for qualification. Consequently, a grand theory needs to be universally robust in its explanatory power. Anarchism has tended to assert a broad, comprehensive argument that hierarchy creates domination and inequality. Below I describe key anarchist assumptions and observations about domination. Each may serve as a proposition needing verification from further evidence--a task that I undertake later in this paper.

Proposition 1: Domination is based upon the successful use of hierarchical power.
Hierarchy in human relations is an overwhelmingly negative and dehumanizing force. The “power over” that some possess is the foundation of domination. As Hartung (1983) notes, “Anarchism generically begins with the assumption that patterns of domination--including classism, racism, sexism and heterosexism--can be traced to the hierarchical imposition of authority” (p. 89). Each form of domination in society derives from institutionalized hierarchies where some use their privileged positions to wield power at the expense of others. For example, exploitation is the result of some people (e.g. capitalists) employing economic power within a capitalist economy, dominating those with less power (e.g. workers)--thus resulting in class inequality. In order to end domination, hierarchy needs to be removed.

Proposition 2: Domination results in negative consequences for individuals.
Domination eliminates desirable human states of being, harms individuals, and limits human potential. The process of domination robs the dominated of agency and choice, autonomy, empowerment, self-identity and self-esteem, freedom, self-determination, and personal safety. Individuals, and the groups they are in, are harmed in their present condition, sometimes through hardship, deprivation, or violence (whether physical, mental, or emotional). Domination also stunts human potential by restricting possibilities, crushing ambitions, curtailing dreams, and causing people to put up with poor conditions.

Proposition 3: Domination results in negative consequences for society.
The practice of domination taints human relationships and interactions into manipulation, tension, distrust, malice, revenge, danger, and violence. Consequently, domination pollutes society and degrades its overall cooperative potential. Even people who are in very advantageous positions are impacted by missing opportunities for broader friendships, experiences, and perspectives. Since social relationships and interactions are the meaningful fabric of daily life, it is important to reduce domination for the good of all people.

Proposition 4: Inequality takes many forms, more than we can identify or comfortably analyze at once.
In addition to major forms of social inequality—such as class, gender, and race—others can always be identified. In fact, new forms of inequality are regularly being “discovered”, noticed, and articulated. This “multidimensionalism” is an important trend in the study of inequality (Grusky & Szelényi 2007). For example, recently added forms in the field of sociology—but by no means new in the real world—include sexuality, spatial location, information access, age, nationality, ability status, and others. Even race and gender are themselves relatively new research subjects in mainstream North American sociology, since most sociologists in the first half of the 20th Century were highly-educated White men who did not appreciate forms of inequality that they did not personally face. It is likely that societies will identify new forms of inequality in the future. In addition, inequality forms in other societies are likely different and unfamiliar to foreign scholars. Understanding the varied forms of inequality helps to understand the world more accurately and thus we can formulate appropriate solutions to problems.

Proposition 5: The privileged do not have an ethical “right” to their privileges.
Existing social structures and relations are not natural, biologically-determined, or ordained by god. Thus, potential dominators do not “deserve” their power and authority, nor the privileges that accompany them. No person or group should dominate any other person or group. However, privileges do not always need to be taken from the privileged, but sometimes privileges merely need to be extended to the disadvantaged. For example, academic professors with job tenure should not have their privileging tenures taken away from them, but rather comparable tenure ought to be offered to all occupations so that other people can share the same privileges as professors. Or, men should not be stripped of the respect society offers them, but women ought to be extended comparable respect to raise them to the same level of men. Consequently, privileges may not be monopolized by some to the detriment of others, but need expansion to benefit all.

Proposition 6: The disadvantaged will regularly (but not always) rebel.
Rebellion is a “natural”--or at least expected--consequence of domination and disadvantage. Domination creates desires, emotions, and goals within dominated communities that can and will clash with various hierarchies. People who are disadvantaged and deprived will likewise seek redress and a means to improvement. Ensuing conflict may lead such communities and individuals to attempt to counter their subordination. Additionally, the ways and extent to which inequality harms people is partially dependent upon the resistance offered by those in disadvantaged positions. But, it is difficult (if not impossible) to predict in advance who will revolt, where, and when. It is usually difficult for others to identify and notice the feelings, conditions, and deprivations that some people are experiencing. Indeed, the factors that will make a certain group “snap” may confuse observers. For example, those in revolt may seem in some respects privileged, like students or middle-class Blacks in the 1960s. Therefore, analysis of a revolt is always easier in retrospect. But, why do people not always rebel when injustice is present? Anarchist-sociologists seek to determine these factors in order to help enable more rebellion. “Rebellion” is also a broad term, and may look orderly or chaotic, reformist or revolutionary. Protest could take the form of pressuring for legislative or policy-oriented changes that will help the disadvantaged. Protest could also attempt to directly stop some sort of domination from occurring. Other forms of radical protest may aim to acquire, grow, and expand the means of self-empowerment. Rebellion could even be represented by anti-social behaviors like crime or sub-cultural separatism. In every case, however, rebellion is the act of the disadvantaged against their position in a hierarchy, whether fully conceived of as such or not.

These six propositions are, I believe, a fairly conservative starting point for an anarchist-sociological view of domination. To test the veracity of these assumptions, I apply these propositions to three central, enduring forms of inequality studied most everywhere in modern sociology. Since grand theories must be robust and generalizable by their very nature, it is important to apply this theory to a diverse array of inequalities, not just one or two in isolation.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Barriers to plotting an anarchist course

[Note: from a paper to be published in Contemporary Justice Review, entitled "Why revolution ain't easy: Violating norms, re-socializing society"]

Most efforts to change one's prior socialization occur within hierarchically organized settings, called “total institutions”. For example, someone who has failed to properly adhere to established laws, as a consequence of a mental disability, may be sentenced to a mental hospital or asylum. Within this total institution, an inmate's daily life is systematically structured by staff in an effort to modify their behavior and obedience to norms (Goffman 1962). The fact that these “resocialization” efforts commonly take place in hierarchical institutions and that inmates are usually poor and disadvantaged persons who have not “properly” followed society's hierarchically-designed norms, indicates the extent to which society will go in order to maintain order.

Socialization helps to train and instruct people to follow hierarchical norms and re-socialization aims to adjust those for whom earlier socialization efforts seemingly failed. But, anarchists seek the re-socialization of people to “better” norms that will help them live their lives in anarchist fashions. Unlike the bountiful resources at the disposal of society's many total institutions, there are formidable and pronounced impediments to anarchist re-socialization efforts. Even though norms do change in revolutionary situations, re-socialization efforts tend not to last. Consider the widespread changes in norms that took place in Barcelona, Spain in 1936 during the Spanish Revolution, as described by Orwell (1980):

Waiters and shop-walkers looked you in the face and treated you as an equal. Servile and even ceremonial forms of speech had temporarily disappeared. Nobody said 'Señor' or 'Don' or even 'Usted'; everyone called everyone else 'Comrade' or 'Thou', and said 'Salud!' instead of 'Buenos días'. Tipping had been forbidden by law since the time of Primo de Rivera; almost my first experience was receiving a lecture from a hotel manager for trying to tip a lift-boy. (p. 5)

But, the revolution did not last, in part because re-socialization did not take place or did not embed itself long enough in Spanish society for the population to permanently change norms. External forces, including Communists and fascists, ended the opportunities for additional re-socialization efforts. In the present, many other barriers exist, far less time sensitive in nature. It is worth considering these barriers and pondering how they could be overcome.

First, there is much confusion about alternatives. People are rarely aware that alternative norms exist. Even when people understand problems and would like change, there is a familiar response: “But what choice do we have?” or “What else can we do?” Media and formal schooling tends to ignore non-hierarchical organizations and practices, such as cooperatives, collectives, popular assemblies, and syndicalist unions. Of course, most media is itself hierarchical and media-makers are not socialized to consider alternatives. Open discussion of alternatives would also ultimately be detrimental to the corporate and state interests that back most media. Consequently, most people have to seek out information on alternatives. The Internet helps, but one must know what to look for in order to find other models. Information may be in inaccessible formats or shrouded in weird jargon making adoption a bewildering prospect. Familiarity is one problem, but is accompanied by an equally problematic lack of alternative examples to emulate. Very few alternatives exist in most societies. For example, worker cooperatives are now numerically small in most places and have shrunk since the slow death of the 1970s cooperative movement. Re-invigorating the cooperative movement seems like a lot of work, especially without the driving passions of the 1960s. Alternatives also tend to be emphasized for economic value, not their “dual power” capacity to create egalitarian institutions in place of hierarchical ones. Consequently, alternatives do not seem like “alternatives”, but rather just “another option” and thus are not as attractive as they could be. Credit unions are seen as “cheaper than banks”, rather than as revolutionary anti-capitalist organizations. Labor unions are seen to distribute benefits, rather than for their ability to grow working class power and create self-management. And community gardens are viewed as cheaper ways to get food, rather than a means to replace corporate agribusiness and supermarkets, and to gain local food independence.

Second, there is a strong tendency to confuse legitimate concerns with liberal-ish “solutions” that do not address underlying problems of hierarchy. Lots of people are “concerned”, but how to solve problems that people face? Without widespread acceptance of radical norms, there is an inappropriate pairing of means with ends. Thus, concern with poverty is treated by charity. Concern with environmental devastation is treated by “green consumerism”. Concern over political corruption is treated by periodic voting (“If only we could elect principled, moral politicians!”). Concern with “social inactivity” and apathy is treated by volunteering at a large, mainstream non-profit organization. And concern with crime is treated by supporting get-tough-on-crime and extra policing approaches. These ready-made, yet illusory responses to people’s sincere concerns with problems deflect substantive remedies. It is important to appreciate that applying Band-Aids to gunshot wounds will not work in the long term. But, the system seeks to channel people into controllable, reformist directions, in the hopes that this approach will maintain the system's stability over time. Liberal-ish solutions will not change the fundamental arrangements of power, nor will they provide people with empowerment, self-efficacy, or liberation. Witness how the welfare state absorbs strain through rhetoric and bureaucracies. For example, Piven & Cloward (1993) argued that formal, liberal-ish organizations are often established to quell larger disruption. People get directed into the mainstream or get “cared for” instead of radicalized or encouraged to self-manage their lives. With various aspects of their lives being (briefly) cared for, people never fully understand their problems and appropriate potential solutions. The state tends to withdraw liberal benefits once societal tension dissipates. Thus, welfare state policies merely serve as capitalism's shock-troops and public-relations agent.

Third, a casual evaluation of prized norms may lead to superficial, weak, or even contradictory adherence to anarchist practice. For example, norms based upon values (like a “freedom norm”) are often Rorschach inkblots that may mean nearly anything to different people. “Freedom” does not have one, solitary meaning, but many divergent even conflicting meanings. To George W. Bush, “freedom” means the freedom to acquire unfettered access to foreign reserves of oil, to enforce regime change upon other countries, or the freedom to invest in the stock market without concern for “unintended consequences”. To an anarchist, “freedom” has a different meaning: freedom from unwarranted authority, freedom to choose how to live one’s life, freedom to seek a better future with others, and so forth. Anarchist freedom implies a rejection of domination and unilateralism that is the very basis of Bush’s freedom. To many, Western countries are already bastions of freedom, equality, justice, etc. Consequently, many people may accept anarchist norms on the basis of face value or non-agreed upon meaning, yet not have any sympathies for practiced anarchist norms. The subjective interpretation of norms is different than the off-hand, abstract reference to norms; these terms must be defined and differentiated in order to be meaningful.

Fourth, for the few “deviant” examples that do exist and are practiced openly, positive reinforcement is not given. Few people transmit positive feedback to those who practice alternatives, consequently re-socialization is apt to be unsuccessful. Instead, rebels are shunned, criticized, and scorned for their differences with mainstream society and their contempt for its norms. Media are not likely to compliment those who walk a different path, since media must play to popular opinions as well as vested interests—thus, the anti-mainstream will always lose. Politicians are also not likely to work with (let alone cede power to) those who want to disrupt their power. Given these restrictions and anarchism’s deviant image, who will want to find alternative ways of living, without approval or support from others?

Fifth, structural restraints prevent anarchist practices even for those who appreciate anarchist norms. An anarchist professor, for example, may like egalitarianism and anti-authoritarianism, but is still required to submit letter grades for student performances at the end of a semester. The positive appreciation of norms does not necessarily mean that one is able to follow that norm given constraints placed upon them in hierarchically organized institutions. A government worker may honestly wish for a society filled with mutual aid, but is likely unable to empower citizens with collective decision-making means since power is monopolized by the state and its policy-makers, and because rules stand in the way of allowing citizens to create binding rules in their communities. Kropotkin famously pointed to this problem, noting the ways in which the state—although we could extend his logic to all hierarchical institutions—gets in the way of “natural” human tendencies for mutual aid and social solidarity, and stunts people’s skills and desire to help each other (Kropotkin 2006).

Sixth, the status quo is simply comfortable and easy. The roles, privileges, and positions we are socialized into seem more attractive than the costs associated with shedding such things (see Laurer 1991). Consider how it is easier to be macho, than to be a pro-feminist male (or pro-feminist female for that matter!). It is easier to pay taxes, than go to jail for tax evasion. Workers find it much easier to be obedient than to form a labor union. Many people find it easier to be quiet about the plight of disadvantaged persons, than experience ostracization, shame, and attack from others who share one's privilege for speaking up in support for the disadvantaged. With these rewards for status quo behavior, it is very challenging to attempt counter-normative behavior that is likely to entail strong societal sanctioning.

Lastly, there is regularly roll-back after the occasional revolt. When rebellions and insurrections occur, new norms do not easily establish strong roots. Even if new norms are egalitarian, there are powerful centripetal forces pulling people back to latent, hierarchical norms. For example, Orwell (1980) noted (not long after his above quotation) that Barcelona ceased to be run by the working classes, that open displays of opulence returned to the city streets, and people expressed being “tired” of the revolution and war. Re-socialization efforts face the prospects of eternal vigilance. Thus, there is always a risk that all the prior years of socialization and sanctioning in obedience to hierarchical norms will be too imprinted in popular consciousness to easily discard after revolutionary fervor subsides. Below, Figure 2 [not shown] presents the problems associated with roll-back on re-socialization efforts. While re-socialization prior to revolts and revolutions may help to hasten such episodes, they may only create alternative spaces in society, easily crushed by the weight of long-standing convention and training. If more egalitarian norms are not strongly rooted, the old hierarchical order can re-establish itself after anti-establishment sentiment settles down.