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Anarchism
A definition
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Political authority in all its forms and especially in the form of the state is both evil and unnecessary.
Anarchists look to a stateless society through abolition of law and government.
The state is evil because as repository of sovereign ,compulsory and coercive authority it is an offence against
principles freedom and equality.
Core value of anarchism is unrestricted personal autonomy..
State is unnecessary because order and social harmony can arise naturally and spontaneously requiring no
direction from above.
It is utopian and has highly optimistic assumptions regarding human behaviour but draws on two different
ideological traditions- liberalism and socialism hence rival individualist and collective forms of anarchism.
First classic statement anarchist principles William Godwin Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793).
C19 anarchism significant component growing socialist movement..
Late C19 anarchists sought support amongst landless peasants Russia and southern Europe but more
successfully through anarcho-syndicalism industrial working classes. Syndicalism is a form of revolutionary
trades unionism based on class war and emphasises use direct action and general strike..
Syndicalism popular France, Italy and Spain and a genuine mass movement early C20 CGT union France and
CNT Spain and anarcho syndicalism movements spread to South America.
However, undermined both South America and Europe by repressive authoritarianism and by influence and
success of Bolsheviks in Russia.
The one ideology which has never achieved power at a national level hence anarchists look to historical societies
that reflect their principles such as cities Ancient Greece, Medieval Europe traditional peasant communes
Russian Mir or egalitarian nature many traditional societies.
Anarchism undermine by fact its goal of overthrow state and dismantle all forms political authority considered
unrealistic.
Anarchists reject as corrupting conventional means exercise political influence- forming political parties standing
for elections- depriving themselves in this way advantages political organisation and strategic planning placing
faith in mass spontaneity
Anti statism
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Sebastien Faure in Encyclopedie anarchiste defined anarchism as ‘the negation of the principle of Authority’
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Why do anarchists oppose authority?
An offence against principles of freedom and equality.
Anarchism unique as it endorses principles absolute freedom and political equality.
Authority is based on political inequality as it gives the alleged right of one person to dominate another and in the
process corrupts and damages both authority and those under it.
Since humans are free and autonomous creatures, being subject to authority diminishes the subject and
suppresses their essential nature and forces them to succumb to debilitating dependency.
To be in authority gives rise to a ‘psychology of power’ based on a pattern ‘dominance and submission’. The US
anarchist Paul Goodman (1911-1972) described such society many are ruthless and most live in fear .
Anarchism defined by rejection of state power.
Anarchists reject liberal notion that political authority arises from voluntary agreement . The state is a coercive
body enforcing obedience to its laws on fear punishment. Emma Goldman (1869-1940) government symbolised
by the club, the gun, the handcuff or the prison.
The state is exploitative in that it robs individuals of property via taxation. The state in alliance with wealthy and
privileged serves to oppress poor and weak.
The state is destructive, Randolph Bourne (1886-1918) war is the health of the state individuals required to ght
in wars invariably about territorial expansion, plunder, national glory.
Anarchist view of state also triggered by concern of corrupting influence political authority and economic
inequality- Circumstances in which they live. Power in any shape or form will corrupt absolutely
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Natural order
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Anarchists believe the state unnecessary William Godwin (1756-1836) in
Enquiry Concerning political Justice (1773) argued that via education and
social conditioning humans capable genuinely disinterested benevolence.
As rational beings, humans inclined by education and enlightenment to live
in accordance with truth and universal moral laws. In his view, it is
corrupting influence of government and unnatural laws rather than original
sin that creates injustice, greed and aggression- government is the cause
and not the solution.
At heart of anarchism is utopianism- social order arises naturally and
requires no machinery of law and order. Collectivist anarchists stress
human capacity for sociable cooperative behaviour whilst individualist
anarchists highlight importance of enlightened reason.
Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin accept that a capacity for corruption lurks
within each individual.
Human nature is plastic. Opponents of anarchism have argued that
however socially enlightened institutions may be, if selfish or negative
impulses are basic to human nature the prospect of natural order is
utopian dream.
Anti clericalism
• Historically, anarchists expressed as much bitterness towrds the
church as the state- prospered therefore in countries with strong
religious traditions such as Spain, France and Italy.
• Idea of God represents the notion of a supreme being who
commands absolute obedience. For Proudhon and Bakunin only
with rejection of Christianity could human beings be free and
independent. Also earthly rulers often look to religion to legitimise
power.
• Religion seeks to impose set moral principles on individual robbing
the individual of moral autonomy.
• However, anarchists do not reject religious impulse entirely- holding
essentially spiritual conception human nature a utopian belief in
virtual unlimited possibilities human self development. Early
anarchists sometimes influenced by millenarianism a sudden and
complete emancipation from misery and oppression.
Economic freedom
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Aim of anarchism is not just overthrow of state but social/economic
transformation.
Bakunin (1814-1876) political power and wealth are inseparable.
Capitalism was understood in terms of class- ruling class exploits and
oppresses however Bakunin defined it more broadly- anyone who exercised
wealth, privilege and power so included Kings, police and judges etc…
According to Bakunin society was divided into an exploited class which
exploited others, a ruling elite at the top and the vast majority who were
exploited.
All anarchists opposed managed capitalism of post 1945 as propping up a
system class exploitation. Individualist anarchists suggest state intervention
distort competitive market creating public and private monopolies. Both
individualist and collectivist anarchists oppose state socialism of Soviet
model as a contradiction as the state replaces capitalism as the means of
exploitation.
Anarchists of all kinds preference for an economy where free individuals
manage affairs without state regulation but this does not preclude very
different economic models under anarchism.
Collectivist (social) anarchism
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Philosophical roots of this lie in socialism.
At heart humans are sociable, gregarious and cooperative- when people are
linked together by recognition of common humanity they do not require
regulation by government.. Bakunin Social solidarity is the first human
law; freedom is the second law.
Government only makes social solidarity impossible by replacing freedom
with oppression.
Like Marxism, anarchism rejection of capitalism as system class exploitation
and structural injustice. Also believe in revolution as means to bring about
political change, a preference for collective ownership, a communist society
would be anarchic, humans have no need for political authority.
Anarchism differs from socialism on dismissal parliamentary socialism as a
contradiction in terms. It is impossible to humanise capitalism and any
expansion of role of the state will entrench oppression. Anarchists reject
proletarian dictatorship as another form of evil and oppression. The state
cannot be allowed to wither away, it must be abolished.
Mutualism
• A system of fair and equitable exchange in which individuals/ groups
bargain with one another, trading goods and services without
profit/exploitation.
• Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-65) in What is Property? (1840)
rejected traditional property rights and communism ( not opposed to
all forms private property admired independence and initiative small
holding peasants, craftsmen and artisans- admired the watchmakers
of Switzerland who managed their affairs on basis mutual
cooperation), arguing for mutualism a cooperative productive system
geared towrds need not profit and organised in self governing
communities. Also Property is theft.
• Mutualism would produce social interaction in a system which was
voluntary, mutually beneficial and harmonious requiring no
government intervention
Anarcho-syndicalism
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Anarcho syndicalism was the only way anarchism developed into a mass movement
C19 and C20.
Syndicalism is a form of revolutionary trades unionism from French syndicat.
First emerge in France CGT pre 1924 and spread to Italy, S. America, USA and
Spain
Workers and peasants oppressed and industrialists, landlords, politicians, judges,
police as exploiters. Workers would from syndicats which would act in same way as
trades’ unions but were revolutionary. Georges Sorel (1847-1922) in Reflections on
Violence (1908) a revolution would come via general strike revolution of empty
hands. For Sorel the general strike was a myth a symbol of working class power.
Two features inspired anarchists about syndicalism- reject conventional politics as
corrupting and pointless, working class power exerted through direct actionultimately the general strike. Secondly, the syndicates a model for democratic, grass
roots decentralised society of the future.
Anarcho syndicalism had genuine mass support e.g. pre SCW but failed to develop a
clear political theory of revolution relying on spontaneous uprising of the masses. It
was also criticised for over concentrate on short term trade union goals.
Anarcho-Communism
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In most radical form a belief in social solidarity leads to full communism (common ownership of
wealth). All forms of private property is theft as it represents exploitation of the workers who
produce the wealth, and encourages selfishness and promotes conflict.
Anarcho-Communism is highly optimistic about human capacity for cooperation or ‘mutual aid
Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921)- drawing on theory of evolution he saw mutual aid as principal
means of human and animal development i.e. challenges Darwin.
Arguing against social Darwinist theory of Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) who saw humans as
naturally competitive and aggressive, successful species must have a propensity for mutual aid.
Mutual aid flourished in Ancient Greece and city states Medieval Europe but was subverted by
capitalism.
Proudhon argued that communism could only be brought about by authoritarian state anarchists
like Kropotkin argue that true communism requires the abolition of the state, a collection of self
sufficient communes.
For anarcho communist the communal organisation of social and economic life has three key
advantages; communes are based on principle sharing and collective endeavour, strengthen
bonds compassion/solidarity, keep greed and selfishness at bay, Secondly, decisions are made
via process participatory or direct democracy which guarantees high level popular participation
and political equality. Third they are small scale communities allowing humans to manage affairs
via face to face interaction. Centralisation always asscoaited with depersoanlised bureaucratic
social process.
Individualistic anarchism
• Philosophical basis of individualist anarchism lies in liberal idea of
the sovereign individual but pushes it to logical extreme- i.e.
individual sovereignty- absolute and unlimited sovereignty.
• Any constraint on the individual is evil, the individual cannot be
sovereign in a society ruled by law and government.
• Unlike anarchists liberals believe that individual liberty cannot be
guaranteed in stateless society. However anarchists believe that
individuals can conduct themselves peacefully, harmoniously and
prosperously without government individuals are rational and moral
creatures.
• Unlike liberals who believe that government can be tamed by
development of representative institutions, constitutions which limit
government power, checks and balances, regular elections which
anarchists see all this as façade as all laws infringe liberty and all
states an offence against individual liberty.
Egoism
• Max Stirner (1806-56) in The Ego and His Own (1845).
• Egoism can mean all individuals are self seeking- this
was accepted by Hobbes and Locke and because it can
generate conflict amongst individuals can justify
existence of state
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• In Stirner view individual self is at centre of moral
universe who can act as he chooses without
consideration for law, social conventions, religious/moral
principles. It points towrds nihilism or a belief in nothing.
It also points to atheism and extreme form of individualist
anarchism
Libertarianism
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The belief that the individual should enjoy widest possible realm of freedom.
David Thoreau (1817-62) adapted Tho. Jefferson motto that government is
best which governs least to that government is best which governs
not at all. The individual has to be faithful only to his conscience and do
what he believes right irrespective of social demands or laws and can lead
to a justification for civil disobedience.
Benjamin Tucker (1854-1939) believed that autonomous individuals could
live and work together without danger of conflict or disorder. Godwin
argued that human rationality meant that disagreement could be resolved
by reasoned discussion. Extreme individualists such as Tucker op cit and
Josiah Warren argued some sort of mechanism through which independent
actions of free individuals could be harmonised. Tucker and Warren said
this could be done via system market exchange. Warren said whilst
individuals a sovereign right to property they produce by logic are forced to
work with others to gain advantages of division of labour- ‘labour for labour’
exchange and creation ‘time stores’ through which one person’s labour
exchanged for promise for labour in kind. Tucker said genuine anarchism
is consistent anarchism referring to C19 free market principles
Cobden/Bright
Anarcho-capitalism
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Murray Rothbard (1926-95) and Ayn Rand (1905-82) and David Friedman pushing
free market principles to the limit have developed a form of anarcho capitalism,
government should be abolished and replaced by unregulated market competition.
Property should be owned by private individuals who may choose to enter into
contracts in pursuit of self interest. The market beyond control of any individual or
group regulates all social interaction.
Free market liberals argue that some services –maintenance domestic order,
protection against external attack, enforcement contracts are ‘public goods’ cannot
be supplied via market competition but by the state.
Rothbard however recognised that individuals will seek protection from one another
and can be delivered competitively by privately owned protection associations or
private courts.
Profit making protection agencies better service than present police because
competition provides consumers with choice forcing agencies to be cheap, efficient
and responsive to consumer needs. Private courts would develop a reputation for
fairness to attract custom from individuals to resolve conflict. Unlike the state,
contracts made with private agencies would be entirely voluntary regulated only by
impersonal market forces. In the USA several states use private prisons, in UK
private prisons and use of private protection agencies. Schemes such as
Neighbourhood Watch transfer responsibility for public order from police to
neighbourhood.
Anarchism
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Individualist
Ultra-liberalism
Extreme Individualism
Sovereign individual
Civil disobedience
Atomism
Egoism
Contractual obligation
Market mechanism
Private property
Anarcho-capitalism
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Collectivist
Ultra-socialism
Extreme collectivism
Common humanity
Social revolution
Class politics
Cooperation/mutualism
Social duty
Communal organization
Common ownership
Anarcho-communism
Roads to anarchy
• Traditionally turned away from active
politics concentrating on writing or
experiments in communal living.
• As state regarded as evil anarchists reject
attempts to win power.
• Anarchists also reject political parties as
bureaucratic and hierarchic…
Revolutionary violence
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C19 anarchist leaders try to induce oppressed masses to revolt. Bakunin led The
Alliance for Social democracy took part in risings France, Italy. Others such as
Malatesta in Italy, Populists (Russia) and Zapata in Mexico worked for peasant
revolution- however filed as the uprisings having faith in spontaneous uprising lack
organisation- instead turn towrds syndicalist and more disciplined communist
movement.
Late 1890s and 1970s peak in terrorist violence (clandestine violence). Terrorism
designed to induce climate of fear for political ends. Typical anarchist terrorist lone or
small group- People’s Will in Russia. 1970s Baader-Meinhof West Germany, Italian
Red Brigades, Japanese Red Army, Angry Brigade in UK.
Why? Violence is a form of revenge or retribution originating in oppression by state
against oppressed masses, therefore a form of revolutionary justice. Also aims to
demoralise ruling classes and a way of stimulate masses to revolt.
It has failed because anarchist violence is counterproductive provoking public horror
and outrage and failed to persuade ruling class to relinquish power. Violence
challenge the state on the territory on which its superiority is clearly overwhelming. In
1890s and 1970s only encouraged state to expand and strengthen repressive
machinery generally with public backing.
Direct Action
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Political action taken outside the constitutional and legal framework- can be
passive resistance or terrorism.
Anarcho syndicalists refusing to take part in conventional representative
politics, pressure their employers by boycott products, industrial sabotage,
strike action. Modern anti globalisation movement strategy mass popular
protest and direct political engagement. For anarchist such action has two
advantages
Firstly uncontaminated by processes of government and machinery of state
therefore opposition can be expressed openly and honestly rather than be
diverted in constitutional direction or managed by professional politicians.
Secondly, it can be organised on basis decentralisation and participatory
decision making. This is sometimes seen as ‘new politics’ turning away
from more conventional politics of established parties/pressure groups,
representative institutions towrds innovative/theatrical forms protest
examples new social movements.
However it may damage public reputation by opening it to charge of
extremism, and while attract media attention may restrict political influence
because leads to group being defined as outsider.
Non-violence
• Most anarchists see violence as tactically misguided. Godwin and
Proudhon condemn it in principle…
• Non violence reflects a respect for human beings as moral and
autonomous creatures. Optimistic view of human nature therefore
dictates other people are treated with compassion and respect.
• To refrain from force especially when subjected to intimidation and
provocation demonstrates strength and moral purity of one’s
convictions. However, anarchists who attracted to principles
pacifism and non-violence shy away from mass political activism,
preferring to build model communities which reflect principles
cooperation and mutual respect. They hope that anarchist ideas will
be spread not by political campaigns and demonstrations but via
contrast between peace and contentment in such communities and
the quiet desperation (Thoreau) that typifies life in conventional
society.
The 21st Century
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Anarchism has challenged and thereby fertilised other political creeds.
Anarchists have highlighted coercive and destructive nature of political power thereby countering
statist tendencies within other ideologies e.g. liberalism, socialism ,conservatism.
Anarchism a growing influence on modern political thought- left and right exhibited libertarian
tendencies which bear imprint anarchist thought.
New left encompassed wide range movements 1960s/70s e.g. student activism, anti colonialism,
feminism, environmentalism. Unifying theme new left was goal of ‘liberation’ to mean personal
fulfilment, endorsing an activist style of politics based on popular protest and direct action.
New right also emphasise importance individual freedom but via market competition. Anarchocapitalists sought to highlight what they see as evils state intervention.
Anarchists have addressed issues such as pollution, environmental destruction, consumerism (
personal happiness equated with material possessions) urban development, gender, global
inequality. Many of these concerns expressed via modern social movements such as anticapitalist or anti-globalisation. T argue that anarchism is over because no longer a mass
movement is to forget that as world becomes more complex and fragmented mass politics is over.
By association with values such as individualism, participation, decentralisation and equality
anarchism may be better equipped than other political creeds to respond to challenges post
modernity.
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