What Is Anarchism?

The anarchy symbol spray-painted on a wall.
The anarchy symbol spray-painted on a wall.

What Is Anarchism?

The word “Anarchism” is made up of the word ‘Anarchy” with the suffix “ism.” The word ‘anarchy’ is derived from “anarchos,” a Greek word meaning “without authority,” a political philosophy advocating self-governing societies based on voluntary institutions. Often referred to as stateless societies, anarchism is negative towards the idea of state, holding it to be unnecessary, undesirable, and harmful.

In a state, the opposition is central. In anarchism, however, this entails hierarchical organization or opposing authority in the conduct of human relations. Anarchism developed in the west before spreading throughout the word early in the 20th century.

Usually, anarchy is considered to be a far-left ideology with much of anarchist economics and legal philosophy going against authoritarian interpretations of communism or participatory economics. Instead of offering a fixed body of doctrine from one particular view, anarchism fluxes and flows as a philosophy.

Types Of Anarchism

There are different interdependent types and traditions of anarchism in existence. The school of thoughts can differ and support anything from collectivism to individualism. Strains of anarchism have often been divided into the categories of individualist anarchism or social anarchism. Both schools of thought have different origins. Individualist anarchism emphasizes on negative liberty. In this case, an individualist anarchist is opposed to state or social control over an individual, while a social anarchist believes in the opposite, that for one to achieve their full potential, they need the society to fulfill their needs. This is called positive liberty.

Other types of anarchism come in a chronological and theoretical sense. There are those that were created throughout the 19th century and those that came after. The former are classical anarchist schools of thought while the latter are post-classical schools. Beyond these factions, there is philosophical anarchism. This is an anarchist school of thought that embodies a theoretical position that the state has no moral legitimacy if it does not accept the imperative of revolution to get rid of it.

Pioneer socialist and French political writer Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was the first person to call himself an anarchist willingly. He argued, in his controversial Qu’est-ce que la propriete (what is property) that real laws of the society had nothing to do with authority. He foresaw the emergence of natural social order and eventual dissolution of authority. Proudhon distinguished between ideal political possibilities and practical governance.

Mutual anarchism is apprehensive of reciprocity, federation, voluntary contract, free association and credit and currency reform. Collectivism anarchism, on the other hand, refers to revolutionary socialism. Collectivist anarchists advocate collective ownership while opposing all private ownership of any means of production. Anarcho-communism is a theory whereby money, markets, state, and private property are abolished although respect for personal property is still retained. Instead, there is common ownership of the means of production, voluntary association, and their consumption is based on the principle, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Individualist anarchism has several traditions within itself, but all emphasize on an individual and their will over any other external determinant.

Green Anarchism (also called eco-anarchism) emphasizes on environmental issues, anarcha-feminism combines anarchism with feminism viewing patriarchy as a manifestation of involuntary coercive, anarcho-pacifism rejects violence in the struggle for social change, and the teachings of a given religion inspire religious anarchism.


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