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Political philosophy that considers government unnecessary and advocates instead a stateless society
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  • Anarchism (from Greek ἀν-, and ἀρχή, contrary to authority) is the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government—harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being. 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. They would represent an interwoven network, composed of an infinite variety of groups and federations of all sizes and degrees, local, regional, national and international—temporary or more or less permanent—for all possible purposes: production, consumption and exchange, communications, sanitary arrangements, education, mutual protection, defense of the territory, and so on; and, on the other side, for the satisfaction of an ever-increasing number of scientific, artistic, literary and sociable needs. Moreover, such a society would represent nothing immutable. On the contrary—as is seen in organic life at large—harmony would (it is contended) result from an ever-changing adjustment and readjustment of equilibrium between the multitudes of forces and influences, and this adjustment would be the easier to obtain as none of the forces would enjoy a special protection from the state.

    Notable Topics

    • Anarchism, Individualist - Anarchism that emphasizes the individual and his or her preferences over other considerations
    • Anarcho-Capitalism - Political theory that rejects governmental authority and advocates laissez-faire capitalism
    • Mutualism - Anarchist doctrine proposed by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
    • Voluntaryism - Libertarian philosophy that advocates non-political strategies to delegitimize the State


    Anarchism, by Voltairine de Cleyre, Free Society, 13 Oct 1901
    Examines various economic propositions for anarchism (socialist, communist, individualist and mutualist) and opines that all could be tried out; reprinted in Selected Works of Voltairine de Cleyre (1914)
    It no longer seems necessary to me ... that one should base his Anarchism on any particular world conception; it is a theory of the relations due to man and comes as an offered solution to the societary problems arising from the existence of these two tendencies of which I have spoken ... Anarchism is concerned with present conditions, and with the very plain and common people; and is by no means a complex or difficult proposition. Anarchism, alone, ... is just the latest reply out of many the past has given, to that daring, breakaway, volatile, changeful spirit which is never content.
    'Anarchist' Idiocy, by David Boaz, 14 May 2011
    Discusses a Washington Post story about Greek so-called "anarchists" who were protesting the "rolling back of social safety nets"
    The Washington Post splashes a story about "anarchists" in Greece across the front page today. The print headline is "Into the arms of anarchy," and a photo‐​essay online is titled "In Greece, austerity kindles the flames of anarchy." ... Real anarchists ... might have something useful to say to Greeks in their current predicament. But disgruntled young people, lashing out at the end of an unsustainable welfare state, are not anarchists in any serious sense. They're just angry children not ready to deal with reality. But reality has a way of happening whether you're ready to deal with it or not.
    Related Topics: Government, Greece
    Auberon Herbert, Part 1, by Wendy McElroy, Freedom Daily, Feb 2011
    First part of biographical essay on Auberon Herbert; discusses Spencer's influence on him, his views on anarchism vs. voluntaryism, self-ownership, majority rule, war and imperialism
    To the extent there is debate about Herbert's beliefs, the focus is generally upon whether he was an anarchist. He consistently rejected the label. He wrote,
    My charge against Anarchism is that it sees many forms of crime existing in the world, and it refuses to come to any settled opinion as to what it will do in the matter. If it says it will do nothing, then we must live under the reign of the murderer ...; if it says it will have some form of local jury, then we are back into government again at once.
    ... The focus on the anarchism question loses the true importance of the man.
    Benjamin Tucker, Individualism, & Liberty: Not the Daughter but the Mother of Order, by Wendy McElroy, Literature of Liberty, 1981
    Bibliographical essay covering the people and radical movements that influenced Tucker in his founding and publishing of Liberty, its major themes and contributors
    Tucker's attitude toward the use of force polarized the anarchist movement. The individualist-anarchists, who generally opposed all but defensive force on moral grounds, were labelled "Boston anarchists" since Liberty was issued from Boston. The communist-anarchists, who often accepted the use of force as a strategy, were labelled "Chicago anarchists" since Chicago was the site of the violent Haymarket affair in 1886. Burnette G. Haskell, editor of the San Francisco Truth, first applied these polarizing labels ...
    Benjamin Tucker's Liberty, by Carl Watner, Reason, Apr 1979
    Examines several of the themes discussed by Tucker in Liberty, e.g., anarchism, natural rights, monopoly, and how his views changed throughout the years
    For Tucker, anarchism meant the absence of State ... but not necessarily the abolition of all laws and all coercion. He maintained that anarchists oppose government, not because they disbelieve in punishment of crime and resistance to aggression, but because they disbelieve in compulsory protection ... [He] originally relied on the theory of natural rights to defend anarchism ... [Later he] replaced it with the concept of equal liberty. "It is true," he claimed, "that Anarchism does not recognize the principle of human rights. But it recognizes human equality as a necessity of stable society."
    Foreword, by R.A. Childs, Jr., Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays, Jan 1974
    Foreword to the 1974 edition, compares Rothbard to Karl Marx as a "system builder" of anarchist thought; reprinted in second edition (2000) and as "The System Builder" on 7 Nov 2008 at
    [C]ompared with Marx, all of the anarchist theorists can be considered superficial. Not that Warren, Tucker, Spooner, Stirner, Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Tolstoy, just to mention a few of the most famous anarchists, were in any way ignorant. Few theorists ... are as rigorous, passionate, and systematic as Lysander Spooner. And few considered as many issues and events as Tucker. Bakunin, too, was the founder of a movement that ... rivaled that of Marx. But ... no anarchist theorist has reached the stature, intellectually speaking, of the great political philosophers ... Until now, that is.
    Henry David Thoreau: Founding Father of American Libertarian Thought, by Jeff Riggenbach, 15 Jul 2010
    Biographical essay, transcript of "The Libertarian Tradition" podcast of 8 July 2010
    [A]s George Woodcock notes ..., despite his periodic anarchistic outbursts, "one cannot regard Emerson as a complete anarchist ..." Thoreau is another kettle of fish altogether. As Woodcock writes, "Thoreau's condemnation of the state was more thorough, and in many other ways he fits more closely into the anarchist pattern than Emerson could ever do." Certainly the opening paragraph of his famous 1849 essay ... signals a willingness to boldly go where Emerson had been a little too timid to tread. "I heartily accept the motto, 'That government is best which governs least,'" Thoreau wrote ...
    How I Became a Libertarian, by Mary Ruwart, 14 Dec 2002
    Dr. Ruwart recounts some key moments in her path to libertarianism and anarchism, from Swamp Fox to Atlas Shrugged to Morris and Linda Tannehill; reprinted in Walter Block's I Chose Liberty (2010)
    My first introduction to hard-core libertarian concepts was in my freshman year of college when a friend insisted that I read Atlas Shrugged ... In the next couple of years, I quickly went from an objectivist to anarchist. In the late 1960s, Morris and Linda Tannehill lived in the E. Lansing, Michigan area, where I was going to school. Through the friend who encouraged me to read Ayn Rand's books, I met this fascinating couple and obtained a copy of their libertarian-anarchist book, The Market for Liberty. I was easily won over to anarchy.
    James M. Buchanan and the Rebirth of Political Economy, by Peter J. Boettke, Economics and its Discontents, 1998
    Examines Buchanan's contributions in bursting the "romantic vision of political science," advancing subjectivism as a challenge to modern economics formalism and re-integrating moral philosophy into economics
    Frustrated with the failure of the classical liberal political philosophy to constrain the growth of government, some free market theorists ... had suggested in the 1960s and 1970s that the market could provide endogenously the infrastructure that would govern its operation: anarcho-capitalism ... But, Buchanan believed ... [f]reedom was to be found in the constitutional contract, not in the absence of government (despite the philosophical attractiveness of anarchism) nor in the submission to the forces of evolution. Anarchism promised de-evolution into Hobbes war or all against all ...
    Karl Hess: 1923-1994: His Words, by Karl Hess, Libertarian Party News, Jun 1994
    Selections from "The Death of Politics", Dear America, "The Playboy Interview", "If I Were Running Against Reagan", "Why Me?", "The Most Unforgettable Libertarian I Ever Knew" and "A Fond Farewell"
    PLAYBOY: But no man is without ambition. What's yours?
    HESS: I want to be the perfect anarchist.
    PLAYBOY: Which is?
    HESS: A good friend, good lover, good neighbor.
    PLAYBOY: That's all there is to being an anarchist?
    HESS: What did you expect, a lot of rules?
    PLAYBOY: We expected one rule: "Resist authority at all cost."
    HESS: By resistance you seem to be implying armed revolution. But that's not always necessary. For example, the Presidency could be overthrown tomorrow if the American people suddenly began laughing at it, or ignoring it.
    Libertarian Anarchism: Responses to Ten Objections, by Roderick T. Long, 6 Aug 2004
    Transcript of informal talk given at the 2004 Mises University. First makes the case for anarchism and then responds to objections others have raised against it
    Anarchy doesn't mean that each person makes their own shoes. The alternative to government providing all the shoes is not that each person makes their own shoes. So, likewise, the alternative to government providing all the legal services is not that each person has to be their own independent policeman ... In fact, if you're worried about not having sufficient force to resist an aggressor, well, a monopoly government is a much more dangerous aggressor than just some gang of bandits or other because it's unified all this power in just one point in the whole society.
    Ludwig von Mises and the Justification of the Liberal Order, by William Baumgarth, The Economics of Ludwig von Mises, 15 Nov 1974
    Critically examines various Mises' writings on liberalism, democracy, the wisdom of the masses, special-interest politics, equal treatment under the law, anarchism, self-determination and of course economics
    According to Mises, liberalism is necessarily opposed to anarchism ... But ... Mises' defense of liberalism may, in fact, point the way to anarchism. Why cannot any minority suddenly claim to be the majority by a geographical redefinition of the electorate? Anarchism need not endorse a belief in man's natural goodness ... Anarchism may be a corollary of Mises' own belief in self-determination—something that he himself considered more important than majority rule ... This implies that individual self-determination, or anarchism, is ruled out only on technical grounds ...
    Lunar prisoners fight for freedom in Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, by Howard Baetjer, 1 Feb 2017
    Discusses Heinlein's (and book character professor Bernardo de la Paz's) views on government and anarchism in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, with several excerpts, and ending with "Don't miss it"
    [T]he revolutionaries debate anarchism among themselves, as in the following ... "... A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as 'state' and 'society' and 'government' have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, ... as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly ... But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world ... aware that his effort will be less than perfect ..."
    Lysander Spooner, Part 1, by Wendy McElroy, Freedom Daily, Oct 2005
    Lengthy biographical and bibliographical essay; from Spooner's birth to 1850-1860, examining his writings on economics, money, banking, mail delivery and slavery
    Through these writings, [Spooner's] evolution towards anarchism becomes clear. To some, it seemed clear from the beginning ... [I]n responding to Unconstitutionality, Phillips had remarked, "Mr. Spooner's idea is practical no-governmentism. It leaves every one to do what is right in his own eyes." (One term for an "anarchist" in those days was a "no-government man.") The evolution can be seen from ... Unconstitutionality, in which Spooner defends the right of slaves to armed resistance against oppressors, to A Defence for Fugitive Slaves, in which he extends that argument to all individuals.
    Manning Show Trial Exposes the Fraud of Representative Democracy, by Kevin Carson, 30 Jul 2013
    Analyzes the court martial of Bradley Manning and explains what the trial shows about the state
    Major Ashlend Fein, US Army prosecutor in Bradley Manning's court martial, caught my attention when he referred to Manning as an "anarchist" in closing arguments ... Manning ... has certainly helped to promote anarchism. Exposing the corrupt reality of the state—its lies, torture, atrocities and collusion with authoritarian governments against their own people—behind all the talk of "peace" and "freedom" is the method of promoting anarchism. But equally deserving of credit, in helping us further the cause of anarchy, are Major Fein himself and everyone else involved in the Manning show trial.
    Related Topic: Democracy
    Neither Bullets nor Ballots [PDF], by Wendy McElroy, The Voluntaryist, Oct 1982
    First editorial, describing the two major goals of The Voluntaryist, namely, to construct a theory of voluntaryism and to examine non-political strategies
    It is common for libertarians to view anarchism and minarchism as two trains going down the same track; minarchism simply stops a little before anarchism's destination. This is a mistaken notion. The destination of anarchism is different from and antagonistic to the destination of minarchism. The theory and the emotional commitment are different ... Minarchists give reserved, qualified agreement all the while explaining the alleged distinction between a government and a state. Political anarchists are in the gray realm of agreeing heartily in words to principles which their actions contradict.
    Objectivism and the State: An Open Letter to Ayn Rand, by Roy A. Childs, Jr., The Rational Individualist, Aug 1969
    Published by the Society for Rational Individualism (later merged into the Society for Individual Liberty); responds to five of Rand's arguments in her essay "The Nature of Government"
    There are only two alternatives, in reality: political rule, or archy, ... the condition of social existence wherein some men use aggression to dominate or rule another, and anarchy which is the absence of the initiation of force, the absence of political rule, the absence of the state. We shall replace the state with the free market, and men shall for the fist time in their history be able to walk and live without fear of destruction being unleashed upon them at any moment–especially the obscenity of such destruction being unleashed by a looter armed with nuclear weapons and nerve gases.
    The Political Thought of Étienne de La Boétie, by Murray N. Rothbard, 1975
    Introduction to The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude (Free Life Editions, 1975), translated by Harry Kurz; summarizes the key insights of La Boétie's work
    Prominent among the anarchist advocates of nonviolent resistance have been Thoreau, Tolstoy, and Benjamin R. Tucker, all of the 19th century, and all ... associated with the nonviolent, pacifist branch of anarchism ... Several historians of anarchism have gone so far as to classify La Boétie's treatise itself as anarchist, which is incorrect since [he] never extended his analysis from tyrannical government to government per se. But while La Boétie cannot be considered an anarchist, ... the universality of his political philosophy lend themselves easily to such an expansion.
    Robert A. Heinlein's Soaring Spirit of Liberty, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Jul 1997
    Biographical essay, including multiple quotes from fellow authors and significant excerpts from Heinlein's novels and stories
    In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966), Heinlein offers perhaps his most well-developed libertarian vision ... Asked to expand on his views, [Professor Bernardo de la Paz] says: "I'm a rational anarchist. ... A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as 'state' and 'society' and 'government' have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame ... as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else ..."
    Society Without A State, by Murray N. Rothbard, 28 Dec 1974
    Paper delivered before the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy, Washington, DC; published in The Libertarian Forum, Volume VII, No. 1, January 1975
    The second criticism ... is the common charge that anarchists "assume that all people are good" ... In my view, the anarchist society is one which maximizes the tendencies for the good and the cooperative, while it minimizes both the opportunity and the moral legitimacy of the evil and the criminal. If [this] view is correct, and the State is indeed the great legalized and socially legitimated channel for all manner of antisocial crime—theft, oppression, mass murder—on a massive scale, then surely the abolition of such an engine of crime can do nothing but favor the good in man and discourage the bad.
    Related Topics: Law, The State, Taxation
    Tucker, Benjamin R. (1854-1939), by Aaron Steelman, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
    Biographical and bibliographical essay
    In perhaps his most famous essay, "State Socialism and Anarchism: How Far They Agree, and Wherein They Differ," ... Tucker argued that individualist anarchism should be viewed as part of the broader socialist movement. But he was quick to draw the distinction between Marxian socialism, which he defined as "the doctrine that all the affairs of men should be managed by the government, regardless of individual choice," and his own view, "the doctrine that all the affairs of men should be managed by individuals or voluntary associations, and that the State should be abolished."
    Related Topics: Benjamin Tucker, Liberty, Socialism
    Liberty's Heritage: Voltairine de Cleyre, by Sharon Presley, Libertarian Review, Mar 1979
    Biographical essay, discussing Cleyre's life, views on anarchism and marriage, and contrasting her to Emma Goldman
    [Voltairine] eventually grew to the conclusion that neither individualism nor collectivism nor even mutualism was entirely satisfactory. "I am an Anarchist, simply, without economic labels attached," she was finally to declare. Unhyphenated anarchism or "anarchism without adjectives" had other adherents as well—Errico Malatesta, Max Nettlau and Lum among them. These advocates ... tried to promote tolerance for different economic views within the movement, believing that economic preferences would vary according to individual tastes and that no one person or group had the only correct solution.
    Related Topics: Voltairine de Cleyre, Marriage
    Voltairine de Cleyre: Penitent Priestess of Anarchism, by Jeff Riggenbach, 17 Jun 2010
    Biographical essay, transcript of "The Libertarian Tradition" podcast of 8 June 2010
    Voltairine ... argued for an idea ... called "anarchism without adjectives." She wrote in 1901 ... that "there are ... several economic schools among Anarchists; there are Anarchist Individualists, ... Mutualists, ... Communists and ... Socialists. In times past these several schools have bitterly denounced each other and mutually refused to recognize each other as Anarchists at all." A "far more reasonable idea," she proposed, is
    that all these economic conceptions may be experimented with, and there is nothing un-Anarchistic about any of them until the element of compulsion enters ...
    Why I Am An Anarchist, by Caleb Johnson, The New Hampshire Free Press, 12 Mar 2008
    Contrasts the general public view of anarchism with the reality of national governments and their actions
    What an anarchist objects to is being forced to adhere to an organization to which he has not given his consent, from which he may not withdraw if it violates his conscience ... At the heart of the anarchist argument is a desire to uphold peace and morality, freedom and brotherhood. An anarchist acknowledges a simple truth: that any relationship that is not consensual can only result in further violence; but that a relationship among a group of people that recognizes the value of each individual, that acknowledges his ultimate ability to choose ..., is based on the greatest bonds of fraternity.


    'V for Vendetta', by Butler Shaffer, 20 Mar 2006
    Review of the 2006 film V for Vendetta, praising both the story as well as the cinematography
    The openly anarchistic nature of this movie will produce shudders in well-conditioned statists who, in the words of F.A. Hayek, cling to their "fear of trusting uncontrolled social forces." Such people will trot out historic instances in which self-proclaimed "anarchists" killed a few score of people, as evidence of the need for government. That states managed, in the 20th century alone, to slaughter some 200,000,000 people in wars and genocides has never provided an occasion for defenders of political systems to do a practical cost/benefit analysis of these alternative systems!
    Related Topics: Terrorism, V for Vendetta
    V for Vendetta, by Wendy McElroy, 31 Jul 2010
    Review of V for Vendetta (2006) both as a movie and as a political statement, comparing it to The Count of Monte Cristo (1934) (which is shown in some scenes)
    [I]s V a movie about anarchism as it is sometimes claimed to be? Certainly V demands the utter absence of a coercive government ... There is nothing inherently anarchist or libertarian about destroying a political symbol or regime; everything depends on why you do it ... Whereas the graphic novel was a wholesale cry to rebel against statism itself, the movie rebels against a particular criminal government ... The close and constant identification with Fawkes, however, implies that he is not against all government but merely seeking revenge on the government that tortured him.


    Anarchy, State and Utopia
        by Robert Nozick, 1974
    Partial contents: Why State-of-Nature Theory? - The State of Nature - Moral Constraints and the State - Prohibition, Compensation, and Risk - The State - Distributive Justice - Equality, Envy, Exploitation, Etc. - Demoktesis - A Framework for Utopia
    Related Topic: The State
    Escape From Leviathan: Liberty, Welfare, and Anarchy Reconciled, by Jan Clifford Lester, 21 Jun 2000
    Excerpts from each major section of the book available at Libertarian Alliance website; contents: Introduction - Rationality - Liberty - Welfare - Anarchy
    Related Topic: Liberty


    Anarchism in America, by Karl Hess (Interviewee (three segments))
    As shown on The Documentary Channel
    Related Topic: Anarchism in America


    Are You an Anarchist?, by Roderick T. Long, The Lew Rockwell Show, 14 Nov 2008
    Long explains what is anarchism and describes his intellectual influences

    The introductory paragraph uses material from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition article published in 1911, which is in the public domain..