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The workers who operate the means of production have power;

The bosses who tell them how to use it have authority.

The tenants whose rent maintains the building have power;

The landlord whose name is on the deed has authority.

Armies have power;

Generals have authority.

A hurricane has power;

A meteorologist has authority.

Anarchism is not a rejection of power itself. There are so many kinds of power we affirm: the power to provide for ourselves and one another, to defend ourselves and sort out conflicts, to perform acupuncture and steer a sailboat and swing on a trapeze. We prize the freedom to develop our capacities and capabilities, especially in ways that increase others’ freedom as well. Every time one of us acts to achieve her full potential it is a gift to all.

Authority over others, on the other hand, always comes at the price of power over one’s own life. It is always derived from outside oneself:

The authority of the Constitution, the president, the general, the soldier—

Of the law, the judge, the attorney, the police officer—

The economy, the executive, the manager, the customer—

The scripture, the pope, the cardinal, the bishop, the priest—

The text, the critic, the professor—

The bluest eye, the deepest voice, the thinnest waistline.

Just in time for Rolling Thunder #8, we’ve produced a new sticker on this subject. Screen-printed on vinyl and 4” in diameter, they are going out free in every single order.

For a nuanced discussion of various forms of power and authority, one could try Uri Gordon’s Anarchy Alive; an expanded version of the relevant chapter is available in pdf form here. Uri is currently touring North America.