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Anti-statism refers to opposition to state intervention into personal, social or economic affairs. Anti-statist views may reject the state completely and immediately (e.g. anarchism), they may wish to reduce the size and scope of the state to a minimum (e.g. minarchism), or they may advocate a stateless society as the ultimate goal of a gradual or step-by-step evolution (e.g. Marxism). Henry David Thoreau expressed this evolutionary anti-statist view in his essay "Civil Disobedience:"

I heartily accept the motto,—"That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe,—"That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.[1]

General categories[edit]

Pure anti-statists ("anarchists") differ greatly according to the beliefs they hold in addition to anti-statism. Most commonly, the preferred economic system is the focus. Thus the main categories of pure anti-statist thought can be classifed as collectivist or individualist. The term "anarchism" is often contested between adherents of collectivist forms of anarchism which are opposed to private property (such as anarcho-syndicalism and anarchist communism) and individualist forms that descend from liberalism which embrace private property (such as mutualism and anarcho-capitalism). Througout history, some proponents of both sides have accused the other of not being genuinely anti-statist or anarchist.

Anti-statist philosophies that seek to minimize the role or influence of the state are difficult to delimit. They range from panarchy (states competing in the same territory for patronage), to Marxism and Christian postmillennialism, which envision statelessness in the remote future, to liberalism (or more precisely classical liberalism), which seeks only to reduce, not abolish, the role of the state.

A significant difficulty in determining whether a thinker or philosophy is anti-statist is the problem of defining the state itself. Terminology has changed over time, and past writers often used the term "state" in a different sense than we use it today. Thus, the anarchist Michael Bakunin used the term simply to mean a governing organization. Other writers used the term "state" to mean any law-making or law-enforcement agency. Karl Marx defined the state as the institution used by the ruling class of a country to maintain the conditions of its rule. According to Max Weber, the state is an organization with an effective monopoly on the use of force in a particular geographic area.

Anti-statist philosphies[edit]

This list is incomplete; revisions and additions are welcome.

Completely Anti-statist[edit]

Partially anti-statist, or anti-statism as an ideal or deferred programmatic goal[edit]

Chronology of anti-statist writing[edit]

This list is incomplete; revisions and additions are welcome.
1548 — Étienne de la Boétie, The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude
1756 — Edmund Burke, A Vindication of Natural Society
1776 — Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence
1793 — William Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice
1825 — Thomas Hodgskin, Labour Defended against the Claims of Capital
1840 — Pierre Proudhon, What is Property?
1841 — Josiah Warren, Manifesto
1844 — Max Stirner, The Ego and Its Own
1849 — Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience
1849 — Frédéric Bastiat, The Law
1849 — Gustave de Molinari, The Production of Security
1851 — Herbert Spencer, The Right to Ignore the State
1866 — Michael Bakunin, Revolutionary Catechism
1867 — Lysander Spooner, No Treason
1886 — Benjamin Tucker, State Socialism and Anarchism: How far they agree, & wherein they differ
1902 — Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid
1935 — Albert Jay Nock, Our Enemy, the State
1962 — Murray Rothbard, Man, Economy & State with Power and Market
2001 — Kevin A. Carson, The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand

See also[edit]

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