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Anarchism is a political theory which aims to create anarchy, which is defined by Proudhon as "the absence of a master, of a sovereign."[1] In other words, anarchism is a political theory which aims to create a society within which individuals freely co-operate together as equals. As such, anarchism should not be defined as a "social chaos" or a return to the "laws of the jungle."

Anarchism holds that the state is undesirable, unnecessary, and/or harmful[2] and advocates a stateless society instead, often based on self-governed voluntary institutions or non-hierarchical free associations.[3] Anarchism rejects the state,[4][5] authoritarianism,[6] and hierarchical organisation in general.[7]

This process of misrepresentation is not without historical parallel. For example, in countries which have considered government by one person (monarchy) necessary, the words republic or democracy have been used in a manner similar to anarchy, to imply disorder, confusion and chaos. Those with a vested interest in preserving the status quo will obviously wish to imply that opposition to the current system cannot work in practice, and that a new form of society will only lead to chaos. Or, as Errico Malatesta expresses it:

since it was thought that government was necessary and that without government there could only be disorder and confusion, it was natural and logical that anarchy, which means absence of government, should sound like absence of order.[8]

Anarchists want to change this "common-sense" idea of anarchy, so people will see that government and other hierarchical social relationships are both harmful and unnecessary:

Change opinion, convince the public that government is not only unnecessary, but extremely harmful, and then the word anarchy, just because it means absence of government, will come to mean for everybody: natural order, unity of human needs and the interests of all, complete freedom within complete solidarity.[8]
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The meaning of anarchism[edit]

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Hello, World! Anarchism, and I
Kropotkin defines anarchism as "the no-government system of socialism."[9] Errico Malatesta elaborates on this point, stating that "the abolition of exploitation and oppression of man by man, that is the abolition of private property [capitalism] and government." [10]

Anarchism, therefore, is a political theory that aims to create a society which is without political, economic or social hierarchies. Anarchists maintain that anarchy, the absence of rulers, is a viable form of social system and so work for the maximisation of individual liberty and social equality. They see the goals of liberty and equality as mutually self-supporting. As Bakunin famously said:

We are convinced that freedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice, and that Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality. [11]


  1. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, What is Property, p. 264)
  2. "Anarchism." The Shorter Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2005. p. 14 "Anarchism is the view that a society without the state, or government, is both possible and desirable."
  3. "In a society developed on these lines, the voluntary associations which already now begin to cover all the fields of human activity would take a still greater extension so as to substitute themselves for the state in all its functions." Peter Kropotkin. "Anarchism" from the Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. Errico, ({{{year}}}). "Towards Anarchism," MAN!, {{{volume}}}, . Siri, ({{{year}}}). "Working for The Man," The Globe and Mail, {{{volume}}}, . (2006). Anarchism. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. Archived from source 14 December 2006. URL accessed on 29 August 2006. , (2005). "Anarchism," The Shorter Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, {{{volume}}}, 14. The following sources cite anarchism as a political philosophy: Mclaughlin, Paul (2007). Anarchism and Authority, Aldershot: Ashgate. Johnston, R. (2000). The Dictionary of Human Geography, Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers.
  5. Slevin, Carl. "Anarchism." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics. Ed. Iain McLean and Alistair McMillan. Oxford University Press, 2003.
  6. "ANARCHISM, a social philosophy that rejects authoritarian government and maintains that voluntary institutions are best suited to express man's natural social tendencies." George Woodcock. "Anarchism" at The Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  7. "anarchists have stressed, it is not government as such that they find objectionable, but the hierarchical forms of government associated with the nation state." Judith Suissa. Anarchism and Education: a Philosophical Perspective. Routledge. New York. 2006. p. 7
  8. 8.0 8.1 Anarchy, pp. 12-13.
  9. Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 46.
  10. Errico Malatesta, '"Towards Anarchism,"' in Man!, M. Graham (Ed), p. 75
  11. The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 269

See also[edit]


  • Living Utopia - Vivir la utopía about Anarchy in Action in Spain, Documentary by Juan Gamero

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