Appealing to nature as an argument for hierarchy is a reactionary point of view used by many societies to make its underclasses tolerate their plight. There is a common misconception that natural selection always acts for the good of the species, therefore we should not bother changing anything about ourselves. Natural selection does not produce organisms perfectly suited to their environments. Social hierarchy typically runs counter to the needs which human beings have and creates conditions under which people become alienated from the valuable capacities that they possess. If we want human beings to thrive and realize their potential, we ought to meet their essential needs. Since hierarchy runs counter to these needs, it ought to be dismantled whenever possible. Human nature, far from being an argument against anarchism is a strong case for it, as a non-hierarchical society creates conditions under which human beings can unleash their true potential.
Capitalism is one of the most dehumanizing forces in the world. It dehumanizes workers and bosses because it is a system that is inherently anti-human nature and human needs, forcing people to act more like robots who never get sick, rarely desire vacations, and never desire self-actualization, all to turn a higher profit. I think Marx's theory of alienation is spot on. Capitalism alienates humans from their own humanity, and it turns sacred things into commodities. The conditions of social hierarchy in which people are subjected to control from above, and in which people are encouraged to compete with one another for power and resources, creates an environment in which the needs for competence, relatedness and autonomy are not met, resulting in ill-being and alienation. Subordination to authority undermines autonomous motivation, reduces our intellectual and creative faculties, and ruptures our relationships with our peers.
A human nature argument for anarchism can begin with something called the self-determination theory. Initially founded by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, SDT posits that human beings have three key psychological needs: competence, relatedness, and autonomy. In a nutshell, we need to feel that we are effective in dealing with the environment around us and that we are good at what we do. We need to feel a sense of connection with the other human beings around us and that we are cared for by others. We need to feel that we have some sense of control over our lives, that we aren't just pawns on a chessboard, and that we are acting in accordance with our integrated sense of self and the values that we have developed over time. According to SDT, these essential needs are not learned but are inherent to human nature, and exist across all societies and cultures. Remember the human need for relatedness and consider that cooperative conditions are far more suited to meeting this need than competitive ones. As anarchists, we promote cooperation over competition precisely because we see cooperation as being fundamentally more in line with our human need to feel connected to others. To the extent that these needs are met, well-being is enhanced, and to the extent that there are thwarted, we can expect people to become ill and alienated. The model of human nature that SDT supports is, in my opinion, a stable base that lends itself well to anarchism. SDT shows that we call for anarchist forms of organization, because the core needs and drives we possess as human beings require it, and because social hierarchy runs counter to these needs and drives. A 2003 study published in the *Journal of Personality and Social Psychology* found support for the notion that we have a need for autonomy, and that this need is cross-cultural.
>We found that whatever cultural practices one is considering, there appears to be a positive relation between more internalized or autonomous regulation of those practices and well-being, as measured through both hedonic (happiness) and eudaimonic (self-fulfillment) indicators (Ryan & Deci, 2001). Specifically, we found that whether one's behavior and attitudes are individualistic, collectivistic, horizontal, or vertical in nature, more autonomous enactment is associated with greater well-being. These findings support SDT's position regarding basic psychological needs and, more specifically, the controversial idea that autonomy is a basic human concern.
>However, when considering horizontal versus vertical dimensions, we see more reason to hypothesize differences in the degree to which each can, on average, be more fully internalized. Specifically, we see the very nature of vertical social arrangements as more inherently conflictual, vis-à-vis SDT's postulated basic needs for autonomy and relatedness. Vertical societies frequently require individuals to forgo autonomy and to subordinate themselves to heteronomous influences. In addition, vertical societies place boundaries around those with whos intimacy and connectedness can be established.
>In sum, this study shows that, across diverse cultures, the issue of autonomy can be similarly understood and that, across diverse practices, autonomy is associated with well-being.
Another study by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan looked at the well-being of workers in state-owned companies in Bulgaria, and compared this with workers in a United States corporation. They found that,
>The degree of autonomy-supportiveness of the work climate did predict overall need satisfaction in each culture, and need satisfaction in turn predicted both task engagement and well-being. Thus by showing that satisfying these needs promotes motivation and mental health across cultures, results of the study are consistent with the view that these needs are universal.
Autonomy is also an important need not just for adult workers, but for young people in school. A study looking at adolescent satisfaction with life in school found a relationship between support for autonomy and well-being across different cultures, particularly Denmark and the United States,
>To the extent that adolescents felt that their parents and teachers understand their perspectives and allowed them to make their own choices, adolescents positively perceived their lives and their experiences in school. In contrast, when adolescents felt controlled by their parents and teachers, and felt that these authorities treated the adolescents' own experiences and choices as relatively unimportant, they reported lower satisfaction with life in school.
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