It’s all quite an achievement for a onetime broken-down drunk. And [AA co-founder Bill] Wilson’s success is even more impressive when you consider that AA and its steps have become ubiquitous despite the fact that no one is quite sure how—or, for that matter, how well—they work. The organization is notoriously difficult to study, thanks to its insistence on anonymity and its fluid membership. And AA’s method, which requires “surrender” to a vaguely defined “higher power,” involves the kind of spiritual revelations that neuroscientists have only begun to explore.
Further, AA is probably the most genuinely anarchistic organization anywhere, especially for one that has millions of members worldwide. While there is a central office in New York, all it does is print books. It can not tell any AA meeting what to do. Every AA meeting is completely autonomous and self-supporting. They pass a basket to pay for rent and coffee. AA even limits the amount any one person can donate to, I think, $1,000 a year. This is deliberate and is done to keep money from mucking things up. AA owns no rehab facilities, detoxes, or anything like that, and has no opinion on “outside issues.” If you don’t like the AA meeting you’re going to, start your own. No charters or permission is needed. All meetings are free.
This really is anarchism, in the best possible sense of the word.