On liberty, freedom of thought, and the workplace

The philosophy of anarchism is included in the word “Liberty,” yet it is comprehensive enough to include all things else that are conducive to progress. No barriers whatever to human progression, to thought, or investigation are placed by anarchism; nothing is considered so true or so certain, that future discoveries may not prove it false; therefore, it has but one infallible, unchangeable motto, “Freedom”: Freedom to discover any truth, freedom to develop, to live naturally and fully. Other schools of thought are composed of crystallized ideas—principles that are caught and impaled between the planks of long platforms, and considered too sacred to be disturbed by a close investigation.

Lucy Parsons (1905) The principles of anarchism

If we are having conversations about how to enhance organisational life and make our lived experience of work that much better, we need to go to the very heart of the matter and reflect upon the fundamental nature of the economic system and the associated society in which we find ourselves living.

Many people carry unwittingly in their heads a distortedly negative image of anarchism as a way of thinking about the world – and of envisaging a different sort of world. Yet this political tradition and overall philosophy has a surprising amount to offer us as we consider issues such as leadership, power and organisational form.

Moreover, the pandemic has opened up tiny glimmers of positivity, with pre-figurative instances of mutual aid appearing throughout (alongside the more shadowy behaviours encouraged by the crude individualism that is a central tenet of our neo-liberal world).

This quote offered here comes from Lucy Parsons, a truly impressive woman dedicated to the betterment of the world – and offers us a starting point as to how we might engage with our times…and work together to build out of them.

Why does anarchism matter in terms of conversations we might have about organisations, as opposed to its resonance in regard to discussions about the economy in which we work and the society in which we find ourselves? Simply this…

It is, quite simply, the most radical way of thinking about how human beings could arrange their affairs to maximise personal freedom and collective flourishing. That is why anyone interested in management should take anarchism seriously and not dismiss it as idealistic, impractical or just historical. Indeed, it is quite easy to think about anarchism as being the only really radical form of organization theory, one in which each of the variables that constitutes a particular form of organization is placed in question and forms of organizational design are not assumed.

Martin Parker; Konstantin Stoborod and Thomas Swann (2020) Anarchism, Organization and Management. Routledge: Abingdon. p241
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