The history of anarchy
goes back to prehistory
, when humans arguably lived in anarchic societies long before the establishment of formal states, realms
. With the rise of organised hierarchical bodies, scepticism
toward authority also rose, but it was not until the 19th century that a self-conscious political movement emerged. During the latter half of the 19th and the first decades of the 20th century, the anarchist movement flourished in most parts of the world and had a significant role in workers' struggles for emancipation
. Various anarchist schools of thought
formed during this period. Anarchists have taken part in several revolutions, most notably in the Spanish Civil War
, whose end marked the end of the classical era of anarchism
. In the last decades of the 20th and into the 21st century, the anarchist movement has been resurgent once more.
Anarchism employs a diversity of tactics
in order to meet its ideal ends which can be broadly separated into revolutionary and evolutionary tactics. There is significant overlap between the two which are merely descriptive. Revolutionary tactics aim to bring down authority and state, having taken a violent turn in the past. Evolutionary tactics aim to prefigure what an anarchist society would be like. Anarchist thought, criticism and praxis
have played a part in diverse areas of human society. Criticisms of anarchism include claims that it is internally inconsistent, violent, or utopian.
Etymology, terminology and definition Wilhelm Weitling
, an example of a writer who added to anarchist theory without using the exact term
The etymological origin of anarchism
is from the Ancient Greek anarkhia
, meaning "without a ruler", composed of the prefix an-
(i.e. "without") and the word arkhos
(i.e. "leader" or "ruler"). The suffix -ism
denotes the ideological current that favours anarchy
appears in English from 1642 as anarchisme
from 1539; early English usages emphasised a sense of disorder.
Various factions within the French Revolution
labelled their opponents as anarchists
, although few such accused shared many views with later anarchists. Many revolutionaries of the 19th century such as William Godwin
(1756–1836) and Wilhelm Weitling
(1808–1871) would contribute to the anarchist doctrines of the next generation, but they did not use anarchist
in describing themselves or their beliefs.
The first political philosopher to call himself an anarchist
) was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
(1809–1865), marking the formal birth of anarchism in the mid-19th century. Since the 1890s and beginning in France, libertarianism
has often been used as a synonym for anarchism
and its use as a synonym is still common outside the United States.
On the other hand, some use libertarianism
to refer to individualistic free-market
philosophy only, referring to free-market anarchism
as libertarian anarchism
[A]narchism is really a synonym for socialism. The anarchist is primarily a socialist whose aim is to abolish the exploitation of man by man. Anarchism is only one of the streams of socialist thought, that stream whose main components are concern for liberty and haste to abolish the State.
While opposition to the state
is central to anarchist thought, defining anarchism is not an easy task as there is a lot of discussion among scholars and anarchists on the matter and various currents perceive anarchism slightly differently.
Hence, it might be true to say that anarchism is a cluster of political philosophies opposing authority
and hierarchical organisation
, the state
and all associated institutions
) in the conduct of all human relations
in favour of a society based on decentralisation
and voluntary association
. However, this definition has the same shortcomings as the definition based on anti-authoritarianism (which is an a posteriori
conclusion), anti-statism (anarchism is much more than that)
and etymology (which is simply a negation of a ruler).
Nonetheless, major elements of the definition of anarchism include the will for a non-coercive society, the rejection of the state apparatus, the belief that human nature allows humans to exist in or progress toward such a non-coercive society and a suggestion on how to act to pursue the ideal of anarchy.
Herbert L. Osgood
claimed that anarchism is "the extreme antithesis" of authoritarian communism
and state socialism
. Peter Marshall
states that "[i]n general anarchism is closer to socialism than liberalism. [...] Anarchism finds itself largely in the socialist camp, but it also has outriders in liberalism. It cannot be reduced to socialism, and is best seen as a separate and distinctive doctrine."
According to Jeremy Jennings
, "[i]t is hard not to conclude that these ideas", referring to anarcho-capitalism
, "are described as anarchist only on the basis of a misunderstanding of what anarchism is." Jennings adds that "anarchism does not stand for the untrammelled freedom of the individual (as the 'anarcho-capitalists' appear to believe) but, as we have already seen, for the extension of individuality and community." Nicolas Walter
wrote that "anarchism does derive from liberalism and socialism both historically and ideologically. [...] In a sense, anarchists always remain liberals and socialists, and whenever they reject what is good in either they betray anarchism itself. [...] We are liberals but more so, and socialists but more so."
Michael Newman includes anarchism as one of many socialist traditions
, especially the more socialist-aligned tradition following Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin
. Brian Morriss
argues that it is "conceptually and historically misleading" to "create a dichotomy between socialism and anarchism."
During the prehistoric era of mankind, an established authority did not exist. It was after the creation of towns and cities that institutions of authority were established and anarchistic ideas espoused as a reaction.
The most notable precursors to anarchism in the ancient world were in China and Greece. In China, philosophical anarchism
(i.e. the discussion on the legitimacy of the state) was delineated by Taoist
philosophers Zhuang Zhou
, Taoism has been said to have had "significant anticipations" of anarchism.
Anarchic attitudes were also articulated by tragedians and philosophers in Greece. Aeschylus
used the myth of Antigone
to illustrate the conflict between rules set by the state and personal autonomy
questioned Athenian authorities constantly and insisted on the right of individual freedom of conscience. Cynics
dismissed human law (nomos
) and associated authorities while trying to live according to nature (physis
were supportive of a society based on unofficial and friendly relations among its citizens without the presence of a state.
, religious sects preached against the state. In Europe, various sects developed anti-state and libertarian tendencies. Libertarian ideas further emerged during the Renaissance
with the spread of humanism
through Europe. Novelists fictionalised ideal societies that were based on voluntarism rather than coercion. The Age of Enlightenment
further pushed towards anarchism with the optimism for social progress.
Mikhail Bakunin, who opposed the Marxist aim of dictatorship of the proletariat
and allied himself with the federalists in the First International before his expulsion by the Marxists
Drawing from mutualism, Mikhail Bakunin
founded collectivist anarchism
and entered the International Workingmen's Association
, a class worker union later known as the First International that formed in 1864 to unite diverse revolutionary currents. The International became a significant political force, with Karl Marx
being a leading figure and a member of its General Council. Bakunin's faction (the Jura Federation
) and Proudhon's followers (the mutualists) opposed state socialism
, advocating political abstentionism
and small property holdings.
After bitter disputes, the Bakuninists were expelled from the International by the Marxists
at the 1872 Hague Congress
Anarchists were treated similarly in the Second International
, being ultimately expelled in 1896.
Bakunin famously predicted that if revolutionaries gained power by Marx's terms, they would end up the new tyrants of workers. In response to their expulsion from the First International, anarchists formed the St. Imier International
. Under the influence of Peter Kropotkin
, a Russian philosopher and scientist, anarcho-communism
overlapped with collectivism.
Anarcho-communists, who drew inspiration from the 1871 Paris Commune
, advocated for free federation and for the distribution of goods according to one's needs.
At the turn of the century, anarchism had spread all over the world.
It was a notable feature of the international syndicalism movement. In China, small groups of students imported the humanistic pro-science version of anarcho-communism.
Tokyo was a hotspot for rebellious youth from countries of the far east, travelling to the Japanese capital to study.
In Latin America, Argentina
was a stronghold for anarcho-syndicalism
, where it became the most prominent left-wing ideology.
During this time, a minority of anarchists adopted tactics of revolutionary political violence
. This strategy became known as propaganda of the deed
The dismemberment of the French socialist movement into many groups and the execution and exile of many Communards
to penal colonies following the suppression of the Paris Commune favoured individualist political expression and acts.
Even though many anarchists distanced themselves from these terrorist acts, infamy came upon the movement and attempts were made to exclude them from American immigration, including the Immigration Act of 1903
, also called the Anarchist Exclusion Act.Illegalism
was another strategy which some anarchists adopted during this period.
In the Spanish Civil War of 1936, anarchists and syndicalists (CNT
) once again allied themselves with various currents of leftists. A long tradition of Spanish anarchism
led to anarchists playing a pivotal role in the war. In response to the army rebellion, an anarchist-inspired movement of peasants and workers, supported by armed militias, took control of Barcelona and of large areas of rural Spain, where they collectivised
The Soviet Union
provided some limited assistance at the beginning of the war, but the result was a bitter fight among communists and anarchists at a series of events named May Days
as Joseph Stalin
tried to seize control of the Republicans
Rojava's support efforts for workers to form cooperatives is exemplified in this sewing cooperative
Beyond the specific factions of anarchist movements which constitute political anarchism lies philosophical anarchism
which holds that the state lacks moral legitimacy, without necessarily accepting the imperative of revolution to eliminate it.
A component especially of individualist anarchism,
philosophical anarchism may tolerate the existence of a minimal state
, but it argues that citizens have no moral obligation
to obey government when it conflicts with individual autonomy.
Anarchism pays significant attention to moral arguments since ethics
have a central role in anarchist philosophy.
Anarchism's emphasis on anti-capitalism
and for the extension of community and individuality sets it apart from anarcho-capitalism
and other types of economic libertarianism
Anarchism is usually placed on the far-left
of the political spectrum
Much of its economics
and legal philosophy
interpretations of left-wing
such as collectivism
, among other libertarian socialist
As anarchism does not offer a fixed body of doctrine from a single particular worldview,
many anarchist types and traditions exist and varieties of anarchy diverge widely.
One reaction against sectarianism
within the anarchist milieu was anarchism without adjectives
, a call for toleration and unity among anarchists first adopted by Fernando Tarrida del Mármol
in 1889 in response to the bitter debates of anarchist theory at the time.
Belief in political nihilism
has been espoused by anarchists.
Despite separation, the various anarchist schools of thought are not seen as distinct entities, but rather as tendencies that intermingle and are connected through a set of uniform principles such as individual and local autonomy, mutual aid, network organisation, communal democracy, justified authority and decentralisation.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the primary proponent of mutualism, who influenced many future individualist anarchist and social anarchist thinkers
Individualist anarchism is a set of several traditions of thought within the anarchist movement that emphasise the individual
and their will
over any kinds of external determinants.
Early influences on individualist forms of anarchism include William Godwin
, Max Stirner
and Henry David Thoreau
. Through many countries, individualist anarchism attracted a small yet diverse following of Bohemian artists and intellectuals
as well as young anarchist outlaws in what became known as illegalism
and individual reclamation
Post-classical and contemporary
Anarchist principles undergird contemporary radical social movements of the left. Interest in the anarchist movement developed alongside momentum in the anti-globalisation movement
whose leading activist networks were anarchist in orientation.
As the movement shaped 21st century radicalism, wider embrace of anarchist principles signaled a revival of interest.
Anarchism has continued to generate many philosophies and movements, at times eclectic, drawing upon various sources and syncretic
, combining disparate concepts to create new philosophical approaches.
tradition of classical anarchism has remained prominent within contemporary currents.
Contemporary news coverage which emphasizes black bloc
demonstrations has reinforced anarchism's historical association with chaos and violence. However, its publicity has also led more scholars in fields such as anthropology
to engage with the anarchist movement, although contemporary anarchism favours actions over academic theory.
Various anarchist groups, tendencies and schools of thought exist today, making it difficult to describe the contemporary anarchist movement.
While theorists and activists have established "relatively stable constellations of anarchist principles", there is no consensus on which principles are core and commentators describe multiple "anarchisms" (rather than a singular "anarchism") in which common principles are shared between schools of anarchism while each group prioritizes those principles differently. Gender equality can be a common principle, although it ranks as a higher priority to anarcha-feminists
Anarchists are generally committed against coercive authority in all forms, namely "all centralized and hierarchical forms of government (e.g., monarchy, representative democracy, state socialism, etc.), economic class systems (e.g., capitalism, Bolshevism, feudalism, slavery, etc.), autocratic religions (e.g., fundamentalist Islam, Roman Catholicism, etc.), patriarchy, heterosexism, white supremacy, and imperialism."
However, anarchist schools disagree on the methods by which these forms should be opposed.
The principle of equal liberty
is closer to anarchist political ethics in that it transcends both the liberal and socialist traditions. This entails that liberty and equality cannot be implemented within the state, resulting in the questioning of all forms of domination and hierarchy.
Anarchists' tactics take various forms, but in general, they serve two major goals, namely to first oppose the Establishment
and secondly to promote anarchist ethics and reflect an anarchist vision of society, illustrating the unity of means and ends.
A broad categorisation can be made between aims to destroy oppressive states and institutions by revolutionary means on one hand and aims to change society through evolutionary means on the other.
Evolutionary tactics embrace nonviolence
, reject violence and take a gradual approach to anarchist aims, although there is significant overlap between the two.
Anarchist tactics have shifted during the course of the last century. Anarchists during the early 20th century focused more on strikes and militancy while contemporary anarchists use a broader array of approaches.
Classical era tactics
During the classical era, anarchists had a militant tendency. Not only did they confront state armed forces, as in Spain and Ukraine, but some of them also employed terrorism
as propaganda of the deed
. Assassination attempts were carried out against heads of state, some of which were successful. Anarchists also took part in revolutions
Many anarchists, especially the Galleanists
, believed that these attempts would be the impetus for a revolution against capitalism and the state.
Many of these attacks were done by individual assailants and the majority took place in the late 1870s, the early 1880s and the 1890s, with some still occurring in the early 1900s.
Their decrease in prevalence was the result of further judicial
power and targeting and cataloging by state institutions.
Anarchist perspectives towards violence have always been perplexing and controversial.
On one hand, anarcho-pacifists
point out the unity of means and ends.
On the other hand, other anarchist groups advocate direct action, a tactic which can include acts of sabotage
or even acts of terrorism. This attitude was quite prominent a century ago when seeing the state as a tyrant
and some anarchists believing that they had every right to oppose its oppression
by any means possible. Emma Goldman
and Errico Malatesta
, who were proponents of limited use of violence, argued that violence is merely a reaction to state violence as a necessary evil
Anarchists took an active role in strike actions
, although they tended to be antipathetic to formal syndicalism
, seeing it as reformist
. They saw it as a part of the movement which sought to overthrow the state
Anarchists also reinforced their propaganda within the arts, some of whom practiced naturism
. Those anarchists also built communities which were based on friendship
and were involved in the news media
In the current era, Italian anarchist Alfredo Bonanno
, a proponent of insurrectionary anarchism
, has reinstated the debate on violence by rejecting the nonviolence tactic adopted since the late 19th century by Kropotkin and other prominent anarchists afterwards. Both Bonanno and the French group The Invisible Committee
advocate for small, informal affiliation groups, where each member is responsible for their own actions but works together to bring down oppression utilizing sabotage and other violent means against state, capitalism and other enemies. Members of The Invisible Committee were arrested in 2008 on various charges, terrorism included.
Overall, contemporary anarchists are much less violent and militant than their ideological ancestors. They mostly engage in confronting the police during demonstrations and riots, especially in countries such as Canada
. Militant black bloc
protest groups are known for clashing with the police.
However, anarchists not only clash with state operators; they also engage in the struggle against fascists and racists, taking anti-fascist action
and mobilizing to prevent hate rallies from happening.
Anarchists commonly employ direct action
. This can take the form of disrupting and protesting against unjust hierarchy
, or the form of self-managing their lives through the creation of counter-institutions such as communes and non-hierarchical collectives.
Decision-making is often handled in an anti-authoritarian way, with everyone having equal say in each decision, an approach known as horizontalism
Contemporary-era anarchists have been engaging with various grassroots
movements that are more or less based on horizontalism, although not explicitly anarchist, respecting personal autonomy and participating in mass activism such as strikes and demonstrations. In contrast with the big-A anarchism
of the classical era, the newly coined term small-a anarchism
signals their tendency not to base their thoughts and actions on classical-era anarchism or to refer to classical anarchists
such as Peter Kropotkin
and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
to justify their opinions. Those anarchists would rather base their thought and praxis on their own experience which they will later theorize.
The decision-making process of small anarchist affinity groups
plays a significant tactical role.
Anarchists have employed various methods in order to build a rough consensus among members of their group without the need of a leader or a leading group. One way is for an individual from the group to play the role of facilitator to help achieve a consensus without taking part in the discussion themselves or promoting a specific point. Minorities usually accept rough consensus, except when they feel the proposal contradicts anarchist ethics, goals and values. Anarchists usually form small groups (5–20 individuals) to enhance autonomy and friendships among their members. These kinds of groups more often than not interconnect with each other, forming larger networks. Anarchists still support and participate in strikes, especially wildcat strikes
as these are leaderless strikes not organised centrally by a syndicate.
As in the past, newspapers and journals are used, but anarchists have gone online
in the World Wide Web
to spread their message. However, anarchists have found it easier to create websites because of distributional and other difficulties, hosting electronic libraries and other portals.
Anarchists were also involved in developing various software that are available for free. The way these hacktivists work to develop and distribute resembles the anarchist ideals, especially when it comes to preserving users' privacy from state surveillance.
Anarchists organize themselves to squat
and reclaim public spaces. During important events such as protests and when spaces are being occupied, they are often called Temporary Autonomous Zones
(TAZ), spaces where art, poetry and surrealism
are blended to display the anarchist ideal.
As seen by anarchists, squatting is a way to regain urban space from the capitalist market, serving pragmatical needs and also being an exemplary direct action.
Acquiring space enables anarchists to experiment with their ideas and build social bonds.
Adding up these tactics while having in mind that not all anarchists share the same attitudes towards them, along with various forms of protesting at highly symbolic events, make up a carnivalesque
atmosphere that is part of contemporary anarchist vividity.
As anarchism is a philosophy
that embodies many diverse attitudes, tendencies and schools of thought; disagreement over questions of values, ideology and tactics is common. Its diversity has led to widely different uses of identical terms among different anarchist traditions which has created a number of definitional concerns in anarchist theory
. The compatibility of capitalism
with anarchism is widely disputed. Similarly, anarchism enjoys complex relationships with ideologies such as communism
and trade unionism
. Anarchists may be motivated by humanism
, divine authority
, enlightened self-interest
, or any number of alternative ethical doctrines. Phenomena such as civilisation
(e.g. within anarcho-primitivism
) and the democratic process
may be sharply criticised within some anarchist tendencies and simultaneously lauded in others.
Gender, sexuality and free love Émile Armand
, a French individualist anarchist who propounded the virtues of free love in the Parisian anarchist milieu of the early 20th century
As gender and sexuality carry along them dynamics of hierarchy, anarchism is obliged to address, analyse and oppose the suppression of one's autonomy because of the dynamics that gender roles traditionally impose.
Sexuality was not often discussed by classical anarchists, but the few that did felt that an anarchist society would lead to sexuality naturally developing.
However, sexual violence was a concern for anarchists such as Benjamin Tucker
, who opposed age of consent laws, believing they would benefit predatory men.
A historical current that arose and flourished during 1890 and 1920 within anarchism was free love
. In contemporary anarchism, this current survives as a tendency to support polyamory
and queer anarchism
Free love advocates were against marriage, which they saw as a way of men imposing authority over women, largely because marriage law greatly favoured the power of men. The notion of free love was much broader and included a critique of the established order that limited women's sexual freedom and pleasure.
Those free love movements contributed to the establishment of communal houses, where large groups of travelers, anarchists and other activists slept in beds together.
Free love had roots both in Europe and the United States. However, some anarchists struggled with the jealousy that arose from free love.
Anarchist feminists were advocates of free love, against marriage, pro-choice (utilising a contemporary term) and had a similar agenda. Anarchist and non-anarchist feminists differed on suffrage
, but they were nonetheless supportive of one another.
During the second half of the 20th century, anarchism intermingled with the second wave of feminism
, radicalising some currents of the feminist movement and being influenced as well. By the latest decades of the 20th century, anarchists and feminists were advocating for the rights and autonomy of women, gays, queers and other marginalised groups, with some feminist thinkers suggesting a fusion of the two currents.
With the third wave of feminism
, sexual identity and compulsory heterosexuality became a subject of study for anarchists, yielding a post-structuralist
critique of sexual normality.
However, some anarchists distanced themselves from this line of thinking, suggesting that it leaned towards an individualism that was dropping the cause of social liberation.
Anarchism and education
Anarchist vs. statist perspectives on education
Ruth Kinna (2019)
The interest of anarchists in education stretches back to the first emergence of classical anarchism. Anarchists consider proper education, one which sets the foundations of the future autonomy of the individual and the society, to be an act of mutual aid
Anarchist writers such as William Godwin
) and Max Stirner
("The False Principle of Our Education
") attacked both state education and private education as another means by which the ruling class replicate their privileges.
In 1901, Catalan anarchist and free thinker Francisco Ferrer
established the Escuela Moderna
in Barcelona as an opposition to the established education system which was dictated largely by the Catholic Church.
Ferrer's approach was secular, rejecting both state and church involvement in the educational process whilst giving pupils large amounts of autonomy in planning their work and attendance. Ferrer aimed to educate the working class and explicitly sought to foster class consciousness
among students. The school closed after constant harassment by the state and Ferrer was later arrested. Nonetheless, his ideas formed the inspiration for a series of modern schools
around the world.
Christian anarchist Leo Tolstoy
, who published the essay Education and Culture
, also established a similar school with its founding principle being that "for education to be effective it had to be free."
In a similar token, A. S. Neill founded what became the Summerhill School
in 1921, also declaring being free from coercion.
Anarchist education is based largely on the idea that a child's right to develop freely and without manipulation ought to be respected and that rationality will lead children to morally good conclusions. However, there has been little consensus among anarchist figures as to what constitutes manipulation. Ferrer believed that moral indoctrination was necessary and explicitly taught pupils that equality, liberty and social justice were not possible under capitalism, along with other critiques of government and nationalism.
Late 20th century and contemporary anarchist writers (Colin Ward
, Herbert Read
and Paul Goodman
) intensified and expanded the anarchist critique of state education, largely focusing on the need for a system that focuses on children's creativity rather than on their ability to attain a career or participate in consumerism
as part of a consumer society.
Contemporary anarchists such as Ward have further argued that state education serves to perpetuate socioeconomic inequality.
While few anarchist education institutions have survived to the modern-day, major tenets of anarchist schools, among them respect for child autonomy and relying on reasoning rather than indoctrination as a teaching method, have spread among mainstream educational institutions. Judith Suissa names three schools as explicitly anarchists schools, namely the Free Skool Santa Cruz in the United States which is part of a wider American-Canadian network of schools, the Self-Managed Learning College in Brighton, England and the Paideia School in Spain.
Anarchism and the state
Objection to the state
and its institutions is a sine qua non
Anarchists consider the state as a tool of domination and believe it to be illegitimate regardless of its political tendencies. Instead of people being able to control the aspects of their life, major decisions are taken by a small elite. Authority ultimately rests solely on power, regardless of whether that power is open
, as it still has the ability to coerce people. Another anarchist argument against states is that the people constituting a government, even the most altruistic among officials, will unavoidably seek to gain more power, leading to corruption. Anarchists consider the idea that the state is the collective will of the people to be an unachievable fiction due to the fact that the ruling class
is distinct from the rest of society.
Specific anarchist attitudes towards the state vary. Robert Paul Wolff
believed that the tension between authority and autonomy would mean the state could never be legitimate. Bakunin saw the state as meaning "coercion, domination by means of coercion, camouflaged if possible but unceremonious and overt if need be." A. John Simmons
and Leslie Green
, who leaned toward philosophical anarchism, believed that the state could be legitimate if it is governed by consensus, although they saw this as highly unlikely.
Beliefs on how to abolish the state also differ.
Anarchism and the arts
Les chataigniers a Osny (1888) by anarchist painter Camille Pissarro, an example of blending anarchism and art
The connection between anarchism and art was quite profound during the classical era of anarchism, especially among artistic currents that were developing during that era such as futurists, surrealists and others.
In literature, anarchism was mostly associated with the New Apocalyptics
and the neo-romanticism
In music, anarchism has been associated with music scenes such as punk.
Anarchists such as Leo Tolstoy
and Herbert Read
argued that the border between the artist and the non-artist, what separates art from a daily act, is a construct produced by the alienation caused by capitalism and it prevents humans from living a joyful life.
Other anarchists advocated for or used art as a means to achieve anarchist ends.
In his book Breaking the Spell: A History of Anarchist Filmmakers, Videotape Guerrillas, and Digital Ninjas
, Chris Robé claims that "anarchist-inflected practices have increasingly structured movement-based video activism."
Throughout the 20th century, many prominent anarchists (Peter Kropotkin
, Emma Goldman
, Gustav Landauer
and Camillo Berneri
) and publications such as Anarchy
wrote about matters pertaining to the arts.
Three overlapping properties made art useful to anarchists. It could depict a critique of existing society and hierarchies, serve as a prefigurative tool to reflect the anarchist ideal society and even turn into a means of direct action such as in protests. As it appeals to both emotion and reason, art could appeal to the whole human and have a powerful effect.
The 19th-century neo-impressionist
movement had an ecological aesthetic and offered an example of an anarchist perception of the road towards socialism.
In Les chataigniers a Osny
by anarchist painter Camille Pissarro
, the blending of aesthetic and social harmony is prefiguring an ideal anarchistic agrarian community.
argued that anarchism was unable to provide all the services that government does
The most common critique of anarchism is that humans cannot self-govern and so a state is necessary for human survival.
Philosopher Bertrand Russell
supported this critique, stating that "[p]eace and war, tariffs, regulations of sanitary conditions and the sale of noxious drugs, the preservation of a just system of distribution: these, among others, are functions which could hardly be performed in a community in which there was no central government."
Another common criticism of anarchism is that it fits a world of isolation in which only the small enough entities can be self-governing. Colin Ward
responds that major anarchist thinkers advocated federalism
Philosophy lecturer Andrew G. Fiala also believed that humans could not self-govern and included it in his list of arguments against anarchism. Fiala's other critiques were that anarchism is innately related to violence and destruction, not only in the pragmatic world, i.e. at protests, but in the world of ethics as well. Secondly, anarchism is evaluated as unfeasible or utopian since the state can not be defeated practically. This line of arguments most often calls for political action within the system to reform it. The third argument is that anarchism is self-contradictory. While it advocates for no-one to archiei
, if accepted by the many, then anarchism would turn into the ruling political theory. In this line of criticism also comes the self-contradiction that anarchism calls for collective action whilst endorsing the autonomy of the individual, hence no collective action can be taken. Lastly, Fiala mentions a critique towards philosophical anarchism of being ineffective (all talk and thoughts) and in the meantime capitalism and bourgeois class remains strong.
Philosophical anarchism has met the criticism of members of academia following the release of pro-anarchist books such as A. John Simmons
' Moral Principles and Political Obligations
Law professor William A. Edmundson authored an essay arguing against three major philosophical anarchist principles which he finds fallacious. Edmundson claims that while the individual does not owe the state a duty of obedience, this does not imply that anarchism is the inevitable conclusion and the state is still morally legitimate.
In The Problem of Political Authority
, Michael Huemer
defends philosophical anarchism,
claiming that "political authority is a moral illusion."
Another criticism is that anarchism defies and fails to understand the biological inclination to authority as first articulated in an 1886 article for the North American Review
by Frances L. Ferguson. Joseph Raz
argues that the acceptance of authority implies the belief that following their instructions will afford more success.
Raz believes that this argument is true in following both authorities' successful and mistaken instruction.
Anarchists reject this criticism because challenging or disobeying authority does not entail the disappearance of its advantages by acknowledging authority such as doctors or lawyers as reliable, nor does it involve a complete surrender of independent judgment.
Anarchist perception of human nature, rejection of the state and commitment to social revolution has been criticised by academics as naive, overly simplistic and unrealistic, respectively.
Classical anarchism has been criticized for relying too heavily on the belief that the abolition of the state will lead to human cooperation prospering.
, considered to be one of the principal founders of Marxism, criticized anti-authoritarianism as inherently counter-revolutionary.
Academic John Molyneux
writes in his book Anarchism: A Marxist Criticism
that "anarchism cannot win", believing that it lacks the ability to properly implement its ideas.
The Marxist criticism of anarchism is that it has a utopian character because all individuals should have anarchist views and values. According to the Marxist view, that a social idea would follow directly from this human ideal and out of the free will of every individual formed its essence. Marxists argue that this contradiction was responsible for their inability to act. In the anarchist vision, the conflict between liberty and equality was resolved through coexistence and intertwining.
- ^ Merriam-Webster 2019, "Anarchism"; Oxford English Dictionary 2005, "Anarchism"; Sylvan 2007, p. 260.
- ^ Joll 1964, pp. 27–37.
- ^ Guérin 1970, "The Basic Ideas of Anarchism".
- ^ Ward 2004, p. 62; Goodway 2006, p. 4; Skirda 2002, p. 183; Fernández 2009, p. 9.
- ^ a b Guérin 1970, p. 12.
- ^ McLaughlin 2007, p. 166; Jun 2009, p. 507; Franks 2013, pp. 386–388.
- ^ McLaughlin 2007, pp. 25–29; Long 2013, pp. 217.
- ^ McLaughlin 2007, pp. 25–26.
- ^ Graham 2005, pp. xi–xiv.
- ^ Marshall 1993, pp. 4, 66–73.
- ^ Adams 2014, pp. 33–63.
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