Ambiarchy, A Unity of Opposites: Transcending the Divide with Anarchic Good Governance


Ambiarchy is a word rarely used, which I would like to adapt to a specific notion in the area of the political and anti-political. The prefix, Ambi, is Latin, and means “both,” “on both sides,” or “rounded.” A common word that utilizes the prefix, ambivalent, means “unsure” or “indecisive,” or, more precisely, the holding of mutually-contradictory beliefs. Similarly, when combined with archy, which comes from the Latin archia, I intend to express a view of rulership that holds mutually-contradictory views. In particular, I am referring to a view which can encompass and reconcile all of the redeeming or desirable qualities from both statist or governmentalist and anarchist or antiauthoritarian philosophy, functionalism and conflict theory. It is ambivalent to whether or not there is a state or government, but is more concerned with whether or not a given organization, governmental or not, is good, whether it is defensive or aggressive.

Statists and governmentalists, while all having different views of what constitutes good government and defensive action, are in agreement that their own view is an expression of the very best of governments, and often acknowledge one another’s status as state or government. Usually, these governments are justified by a philosophy which demonstrates the defensive nature of its actions, that it is protecting certain values which are central to the wellbeing of the group. In communist philosophy, it is the commune that is to be defended from private interests, monarchical and capitalist. In capitalism, it is the individual who is to be defended against the threat of other individuals, including communists or nationalist advances. In fascism, it is the nation that is to be defended against the encroachment of capitalism on traditional society, and its plummets further into the depths of communism. Each of these philosophies are in agreement that the others present a form of government and state, but each also holds their own to be the best, the most justified, of them. Each seeks good government and legitimate statehood, and this is predicated on defense of some positively-held value or another.

Anarchists and antiauthoritarians, likewise, hold different views as to the specifics, but agree that what they are after is freedom from the state and governments. These individuals understand states to always be illegitimate and based on aggressive activity on behalf of a ruling class, represented by the government. They suggest that no states or governments can be legitimate, because they are always established on illegitimate foundations of violence, and suppress one group for the benefit of another. Anarchist and antiauthoritarian philosophy is necessarily negative, defending against values being made into absolutes, but otherwise tolerating them.[1]

Ambiarchy would distort the difference between anarchy and good government, such that a participant wouldn’t necessarily know for sure how to distinguish the two, or so that each description could be understood to work. According to the ambiarchist viewpoint, good government requires defensive action only, which makes it compatible with anarchism on some level. Similarly, as anarchists require organizations, such as confederations, to abolish states, and these organizations are understood to be acting defensively, these organizations are not fundamentally alien from the concept of good government, as understood from the perspective of a statist. Again, semantics seems to be the main barrier to agreement.[2] Ambiarchy would unite those striving for good government with those striving to abolish bad government, in an effort to lay the semantics aside, and get to the real content of what defines aggression and defense and good action. The ambiarchist lexicon holds the two concepts of good government and anarchy to describe the same goal or phenomenon, and is more concerned with establishing an ambiarchy that could be readily considered good government by the advocates of government, and anarchy by anarchists, but bad government by neither.

Advocates of good government require enforcement of rules, and fear anarchy would entail a lack of such enforcement. However, anarchists are not necessarily opposed to rules or their enforcement, so much as rules being made that they have to follow, without their consent having been given to do so. Anarchists fear that advocates of good government would impose their will on them, but advocates of good government understand government to be defensive in character, and just another word for social organization. Anarchists aren’t against defensive social organization by any means, but believe any conception of good government, instead, to be an oxymoron, because they define government with a historical lens, suggesting that all governments of the past have committed acts of aggression, which is true. The advocate of good government may counter from an idealist or futurist (or sometimes romanticized traditionalist) lens that this is government imperfectly serving its defensive purposes, and being in need of a tune up or change for the future, believing any form of anarchy to be chaotic, an assertion anarchists would either widely disagree with, or defend in contrast to rigidity.

Ambiarchy would recognize the need for strong enforcement of rules, as advocates of good government would press for, while recognizing the importance of consent to the establishment of those rules, as demanded by anarchists. The first rule strictly enforced, for example, could be that anyone who is opposed to others participating in the creation of rules or exercising their rights will be excommunicated. Anarchists have long insisted that it was social power that was necessary to abolish state power, and could understand rules such as this to be an extension of social power continually abolishing the state. Advocates of good government, on the other hand, may understand that the best forms of government likewise rely on social power in some form, whether it is the democratic majority, a particular class, or a nationality, to justify their state power of their good government. The difference between social and state power, as an anarchist sees it, is that social power depends exclusively on non-coercive or defensive activity. An advocate of good government would agree as far as coercion goes, but would suggest that defensive or otherwise just use of coercion is an act of good government, which they understand to be synonymous with good rule-enforcement. They may suggest, further, that this coercion is legitimized by or depends on social power to exist, because otherwise social power would inevitably result in or legitimize state power of another kind, headed by a good government. Anarchists in an ambiarchy may do best to make the case to statists that they want to achieve the best of governments, while statists may wish to make the appeal that they are hoping for the most just of anarchies, which depends on strict enforcement of rules that prevent unjust government from developing out of sustained criminal activity.

Recognizing the wide array of participants, statist and anarchic, an ambiarchy would, in practice, be something of a meritocratic panarchist confederation. All of the particularities of a given state or anarchist confederation would be allowed to persist, but restricted to their particular realm. Shared institutions, their social contracts, and rules would be established upon consent, and the confederation at large governed by unanimity. However, the ambiarchy will draw from certain structures and organizational characteristics as well, and membership in the ambiarchy will depend upon agreement to abide by these. Rules and traditions of the ambiarchy will be enforced without preferential treatment and with a fair and level hand, in a strict and authoritive fashion, and in accord with the rule by laws laid out in a constitution. Courts will be able to be relied on for a mediating body and fair trial for offending societies.

Recognizing the wide array of preferred property and exchange arrangements, the ambiarchy would, in practice, be Georgist as to the macro-territorial claims of participating groups, but would defer micro-territorial arrangements to those communities and individuals affected, such that communists can be communists; capitalists, capitalists; nationalists, nationalists; and so on. A confederal mutual credit clearing house will be maintained for inter-nodal exchanges and debt-settling between the realms, functioning on a floating standard, and sustaining reciprocity between them. It will issue mutual credit for any collateral with demonstrable value, including private currencies, gold certificates, warehouse receipts, bills of credit, IOUs, potlatch invites, and more, allowing exchanges to be made between societies with different mediums of exchange or otherwise without a means of exchange (such as those who prefer to barter or use a gift economy or planned economy or something else).

In order to foster and facilitate mutual aid and fair regard between societies, a mandatory joint insurance plan will cover all inter-societal and natural mishaps which are not due to the actions of a given society, but which result from war crimes and inter-societal liabilities, to fires, storms, and droughts, and all other matters of inter-societal concern. Pigovian taxes, which are arguably not taxes at all (and of which taxes associated with Georgism are a subset), will also apply in the name of defense, but otherwise the principle of non-aggression will be upheld in relation to all properties with holders recognized and issued title by the ambiarchy.

In its structures, the ambiarchy would take especially from the organizationalist forms of anarchism, primarily mutualism, syndicalism, and platformism, and from libertarian, populist republican and democratic, Marxist, and nationalist grassroots political perspectives. It would be cooperative in its social functions, syndicated in its structure, follow a clear platform, strict rule of law, democratic decisions, be classless, and folkish, with a clearly organic corporatist federal composition and a strict regard for subsidiarity, autogestion, consensus, constitutionalism, and meritocratic but authoritive leadership. It would not be entirely futurist or technophilic, nor fully agrarian or primitive, but convivial in duration and appropriate in its use of technology. Such a confederation would be composed primarily of member-societies and their constituents, including national groups, communes, workers syndicates or councils, labor unions, fraternal societies, cooperative federations, freelancer guilds, third parties, party caucuses, new paleoconservative republics, private enterprises, social democratic leagues, Christian reformist communities, church federations, Buddhist monasteries, punk squat networks, vegetarian intentional communities, or any number of other possible conceptions for a culture, covenant, code, or basis of living. The management of each society would be up to its own standards on its own territories, outside of some uniform environmental matters. They would only be held to common rules when relating together or when on federal territory. Within their own territories, and outside some environmental limitations, member socieities can do whatever they please. The rights of member societies would be stated within a Bill or Declaration of Rights, and protected through a Constitution with Articles of Confederation. The goals and purpose of the ambiarchy supersociety would be similarly declared in a General Organizational Platform, which should be considered binding. Autonomy, participatory decision-making, and due process will be a focus in these documents.

Leadership would be selected from among graduates of an open leadership academy (testing out by self-studied students would be acceptable) and according to advancement within a nested or cellular network. Payment for officers would be allocated according to the asking prices and bid prices of candidates and voters, as tallied and rated by an open-source computer algorithm, as well as by the rating history of the candidate in their previous positions, such that candidates with asking prices that overlap with voter bid rates and with acceptable rating histories will proceed to finals, where the computer will determine the best deal among them. The academy ensures a demonstration of legal merit, while the rating history ensures practical credibility and trust, and the bid allows voter preference. Once selected, officers cannot be challenged except in open defiance of laws, outside of referendum and recall, or due process in the courts. Their duties and privileges are to be laid out in the constitution, and are restricted to matters of a federal nature. Decisions are bottom-up, directly-democratic, and their results liberal and socialistic; but their enforcement is top-down, authoritarian, and its outcome conservative and libertarian. The result is the consensual rule of law, anarchic good governance— in one word, ambiarchy.

Ambiarchy, in practice, is geo-mutualist panarchism, but with more open and diverse influences, less emphasis on the specifics of my own priorities (which haven’t changed), and more fun to say. In other words, it’s geo-mutualist panarchism on the level of the confederation, without much to say regarding the specifics of the geo-mutualist sub-society I would hope to participate in. It is my attempt to lessen my own dogmatism, and move to a more pragmatic ideological position, in which I can have more agency, without always having to defend the semantics of my preferred system (geo-mutualism). I feel that an ambiarchy is dynamic enough that its holder can work with any other party that the current ochlocracy is not serving, without letting semantics get the final word.

[1] These two views, anarchism and good government, are also separated by way of conflict and functionalist theories of the state.

[2] Of course, when viewed in contrast, their philosophies also differ in content, but this is true between the two camps as well as within them: One could expect that an individualist anarchist and a council communist, both anti-statists, would clash nearly as much as a minarchist capitalist and a totalitarian nationalist. As individuals, the most reasonable participants of these groups may bump shoulders in the grocery store and mutually exchange apologies; society has brought some degree of peace or balance between them, even if imperfectly so.

The imperfections, which result from the dominance and exclusion of values, result further in a need to change society still more. Tensions from imperfections build until the next approximation of justice is established. This approximation is the balancing of the interests that exist between societies, as society had done with individuals with each release of their tension. In this way, societies manipulate individuals, and individuals manipulate societies.

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