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Anarchism

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Anarchism

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Anarchism is a political theory which aims to create anarchy, "the absence of a master, of a sovereign." (Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, What is Property, p. 264) 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 opposes all forms of imposed hierarchical control - be that control by the state or a state capitalism - as harmful to the individual and their individuality, as well as unnecessary.

In the words of anarchist L. Susan Brown:

"While the popular understanding of anarchism is of a violent, anti-State movement, anarchism is a much more subtle and nuanced tradition then a simple opposition to government power. Anarchists oppose the idea that power and domination are necessary for society, and instead advocate more co-operative, anti-hierarchical forms of social, political and economic organisation." [The Politics of Individualism, p. 106]

However, "anarchism" and "anarchy" are undoubtedly the most misrepresented ideas in political theory. Generally, the words are used to mean "chaos" or "without order," and so, by implication, anarchists desire social chaos and a return to the "laws of the jungle."

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 precisely like "anarchy", to imply disorder and confusion. 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." [Anarchy, p. 12].

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." [Ibid., pp. 12-13].
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The meaning of anarchism

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To quote Peter Kropotkin, anarchism is "the no-government system of socialism." [Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 46]. In other words, "the abolition of exploitation and oppression of man by man, that is the abolition of private property [i.e. capitalism] and government." [Errico Malatesta, '"Towards Anarchism,"' in Man!, M. Graham (Ed), p. 75]

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. Or, in Bakunin's famous dictum:

"We are convinced that freedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice, and that Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality." [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 269]

The history of human society proves this point. Liberty without equality is only liberty for the powerful, and equality without liberty is impossible and a justification for slavery.

While there are many different types of anarchism (from individualist anarchism to communist-anarchism , there has always been two common positions at the core of all of them -- opposition to government and opposition to capitalism. In the words of the individualist-anarchist Benjamin Tucker, anarchism insists on "the abolition of the State and the abolition of usury; on no more government of man by man, and no more exploitation of man by man." [cited in Native American Anarchism - A Study of Left-Wing American Individualism by Eunice Schuster, p. 140] All anarchists view profit, interest and rent as usury (i.e. as exploitation) and so oppose them and the conditions that create them just as much as they oppose government and the state.

More generally, in the words of L. Susan Brown, the "unifying link" within anarchism "is a universal condemnation of hierarchy and domination and a willingness to fight for the freedom of the human individual." [The Politics of Individualism, p. 108] For anarchists, a person cannot be free if they are subject to state or capitalist authority.

So anarchism is a political theory which advocates the creation of anarchy, a society based on the maxim of "no rulers." To achieve this, "[i]n common with all socialists, the anarchists hold that the private ownership of land, capital, and machinery has had its time; that it is condemned to disappear: and that all requisites for production must, and will, become the common property of society, and be managed in common by the producers of wealth. And. . . they maintain that the ideal of the political organization of society is a condition of things where the functions of government are reduced to minimum. . . [and] that the ultimate aim of society is the reduction of the functions of government to nil -- that is, to a society without government, to an-archy" Peter Kropotkin, Op. Cit., p. 46]

Thus anarchism is both positive and negative. It analyzes and critiques current society while at the same time offering a vision of a potential new society -- a society that fulfills certain human needs which the current one denies. These needs, at their most basic, are liberty, equality and solidarity.

Anarchism unites critical analysis with hope, for, as Bakunin pointed out, "the urge to destroy is a creative urge." One cannot build a better society without understanding what is wrong with the present one.

Why Anarchism?

The government can do whatever it wants and it is shown to do whatever it wants, which isn't often in the people's wants.

See also

Historical events

Main article: history of anarchism


Books

Publications

Theoretical concepts


Anarchist organizations


Anarchism by region

Main article: anarchism by region


External links

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