Thoughts on Volunteerism

The world “voluntary” is an important (albeit poorly understood) term  brandished about by many anarchists and libertarians. I am of the impression that “voluntary” can only exist under certain conditions. The foundations that this position rests on can be attributed largely to Mutualism or the meta-ethical claim that all people entering a market and or social system must do so on mutual terms. For any action to be voluntary, individual livelihood must not be used as a means to an end. This is where anarcho communism (by restricting economic freedom through imposing “democracy” sanctions/social controls on freedom of mobility and abolishing all private ownership of the MOP) and capitalism (by restricting both social and economic freedom through imposing hierarchical social systems that restrict people’s access to resources) fail. I posit that Mutualism can only be achieved through deconstructing both of these ideas and forming a synthesis which allows for equal flexibility for both social and economic freedom. A large part of this will result from; establishing a well-defined commons where free exchange based upon mutually agreed upon norms (http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/the-victory-of-the-commons) can take place and by adopting a pluralist approach to anarchism. A system in which affinity groups are able to freely associate and dissociate out of mutual interest without damaging their livelihoods.
1. The Commons; The commons as mentioned previously are a neutral ground where exchanges can take place between existing groups. Where the conditions of exchange such as interest free lending and exchange rates based on direct response to demand could be negotiated by people on mutual terms. This would also require continued defense (provided by decentralized militias made up of non-hierarchical affinity groups), against reactionary forces which would limit people’s ability to act as free agents. Eco-protection and sustainability would also be critical factors in maintaining a Commons. I believe this would be best achieved by taking a page from the distributists by radically decentralizing the means of production (http://www.anarcho-distributist.org/pdf%20Documents/A%20Brief%20Intro%20to%20Anarcho-Distributism.pdf for further reading).
2.Pluralism; The ultimate goal of utilizing a commons for mutually beneficial exchange between ideologically diverse groups is to make sure that local autonomy is preserved. The same norms and designated social control mechanisms that apply to exchange in the commons don’t necessarily have to be universalized. A nomadic merchant class could exchange items with a hypothetical group of syndicalists in the Commons and both would be able to go on their way. No group would have to bend to the will of another as long as free exchange remains possible. This arrangement in practice would  not only provide local autonomy but would offer physical mobility (achieved through abolishing state controlled borders) to refugees/migrant workers and increased autonomy to traditionally marginalized groups such as indigenous people
Volunteerism can only stem from empowering the individual to exert their will on the world and shape it in their image by allowing for freedom of exchange, association/dissociation and ensuring a shared interest in common resources and defense (it is worth noting that the responsibility of consent to volunteerist principles rests with each group. All groups who enter into an arrangement such as this ought to be willing to physically resist monopolization by another to prevent the formation of a centralized state hegemony). These simple ideas will allow for a freer and more unified world for all provided that there is high enough trust between consenting groups.
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