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conceptions of an anarchist society

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Many political philosophers justify support of the state as a means of regulating violence, so that the destruction caused by human conflict is minimized and fair relationships are established. Anarchists argue that pursuit of these ends do not justify the establishment of a state, and in fact many argue that the state is incompatible with those goals. Much effort has been dedicated to explaining how anarchist societies would promote these values. While anarchists recognize that the use of violence is ultimately an individual decision, some have proposed mechanisms by which an anarchist society could influence that decision.

Anarchists who have renounced violence in all forms have the simplest answer. Since the state relies on violence to enforce all of its laws, even those that promote its own survival such as taxation, if a large proportion of a society ceases to provide moral or material support to any use of violence, then the state would inevitably collapse, resulting in anarchy. Since this view of anarchy presupposes the renunciation of violence by the bulk of a society, the problem of discouraging the use of violence is not an issue. From this perspective, the main challenge facing anarchists is not to devise institutions, but to convince individuals to renounce the use of violence.

However, other anarchists believe that violence is an unfortunate but inevitable part of human existence. These anarchists emphasize that violence is only justified in self-defense, though the definition of self-defense can vary widely. Various institutions have been proposed to ensure that aggressive violence is met with an overwhelming response. These institutions seek to encourage the community to intervene on behalf of the wronged person, or at least not intervene on behalf of the aggressor. For civil disputes, juries or mediators may be called upon to rule on the dispute. Refusal to submit to the decision of the jury or mediator would reflect poorly on that individual.

Larger conflicts would be addressed with larger organizations. Confederation is a popular model for such organization. Any such organization would have a "bottom up" structure, recognizing the right of individuals and small groups to leave the larger group at any time. In such a situation, it is unlikely that everyone in a country would decide to participate in the same organization. Anarchists hope that this would result in the co-existence of multiple associations with individuals changing their associations as they saw fit. Robert Paul Wolff represents those who argue for a unanimous consent democracy.