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Anarchism derives from the Greek αναρχία ("without archons (ruler, chief, king)"). Thus anarchism, in its most general meaning, is the belief that rulers are unnecessary and should be abolished. Anarchism refers to various political philosophies and related social movements that advocate the elimination of authoritarian institutions and relationships, particularly the state. In place of authoritarian political structures and coercive institutions, anarchists advocate social relations based upon voluntary association of autonomous individuals, cooperation, mutual aid, and self-governance.

While anarchism is defined by what it is against, anarchists also offer positive visions of what they believe to be a truly free society. The word "anarchy," as anarchists use it, does not imply chaos or anomie, but rather a harmonious anti-authoritarian society. However, ideas about how an anarchist society might work vary considerably, especially with respect to economics. Also, there is disagreement about how a free society might be brought about.

Note: Many anarchists use the term to refer only to anti-capitalist movements; however, most theorists and almost all dictionaries define anarchism as opposition to the State regardless of economic system.[1]


Origins of anarchism

Political ideology map, showing anarcho-socialism at the upper left and anarcho-capitalism at the upper right. The up-down dimension represents the extent of government; the left-right dimension represents the outward appearance (legal fiction) of property ownership. In theory, both socialism and capitalism have statist and anti-statist variants. The placement of persons and parties on this graph are only approximate, and suject to debate.
Political ideology map, showing anarcho-socialism at the upper left and anarcho-capitalism at the upper right. The up-down dimension represents the extent of government; the left-right dimension represents the outward appearance (legal fiction) of property ownership. In theory, both socialism and capitalism have statist and anti-statist variants. The placement of persons and parties on this graph are only approximate, and suject to debate.

Before recorded history, human society was organized on anarchist principles. Hunter-gatherer bands had an egalitarian structure due lack of a division of labour, accumulated wealth, or decreed law. Some see Taoism in ancient China as an example of anarchistic attitudes [2][3]. Similarly, anarchistic tendencies can be traced to the philosophers of Ancient Greece, such as Zeno, the founder of the Stoic philosophy. Later movements, such as Stregheria in the 1300s, the Free Spirit in the Middle Ages, the Anabaptists, The Diggers, and the Ranters, have also expounded ideas that have been interpreted as anarchist.

Ancient Greece saw the first European instance of anarchism as a philosophical ideal, in the form of the stoic philosopher Zeno of Citium, who was, according to Kropotkin, "[t]he best exponent of Anarchist philosophy in ancient Greece". As summarized by Kropotkin, Zeno "repudiated the omnipotence of the state, its intervention and regimentation, and proclaimed the sovereignty of the moral law of the individual". Within Greek philosophy, Zeno's vision of a free community without government or slavery is opposed to the state-Utopia of Plato's Republic. Like some modern anarchists, he believed that if people follow their instincts, they will have no need of law, courts, or police, no temples and no public worship, and use no money (a gift economy taking the place of the exchanges).[4]

The Anabaptists of 16th century Europe are sometimes considered to be religious forerunners of modern anarchism. Bertrand Russell, in his History of Western Philosophy, writes that the Anabaptists "repudiated all law, since they held that the good man will be guided at every moment by the Holy Spirit...[f]rom this premise they arrive at communism...." The Diggers or "True Levellers" were an early anarchistic and communistic movement during the time of the English Civil War. They are considered by some as forerunners of modern anarchism. The Diggers were engaged in the squatting of common land in England until eventual supression by local landowners and Cromwell's men.

William Godwin
William Godwin

The first use of the term anarchy in the modern era to mean something other than chaos was by Louis-Armand, Baron de Lahontan in his Nouveaux voyages dans l'Amérique septentrionale, (1703), where he described the indigenous American society, which had no state, laws, prisons, priests, or private property, as being in anarchy [5]. Russell Means, a leader in the American Indian Movement, has repeatedly stated that he is "an anarchist, and so are all [his] ancestors."

The first essay explicitly advocating the absence of government was "A Vindication of Natural Society" (1756) by Edmund Burke. The first positive theory of anarchism was William Godwin's An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793). This was a very influential tract; though he did not use the word anarchism, some today regard him as the "founder of philosophical anarchism." The themes of his work would become central to the future development of anarchism. But at this point no anarchist movement yet existed, and the term anarchiste was known only as an insult hurled by the bourgeois Girondins at more radical elements in the revolution.

Anarchist schools of thought

There are several ways to categorize anarchist thought. One approach looks a how a school sees property; in particular whether or not they approve of it. Anarcho-socialist (alternatively 'socialist anarchist' or 'libertarian socialist') schools contend that capital ("the means of production) should be held collectively, either by everyone or by certain approved corporate entities (e.g. communes, syndicates). Others - individualist anarchists, geoanarchists, and anarcho-capitalists - believe that private property is preferable. Thus, anarchist schools can be divided into the economic collectivists and economic individualists.

Another way to separate the schools is to look at how they see profit. Anarcho-socialists and (traditional) individualist anarchists both held an exploitation theory, generally based on the labor theory of value. To these schools, profiting from other people's labor is exploitative and wrong. So is profiting from land or capital, again because of their belief that only labor can impute value. On the other hand geoanarchists (except possibly for land) and anarcho-capitalists see profit as not only permissable, but good. Hence, in with respect to profit, we have "anti-capitalists" vs. "capitalists."

The first self-labelled anarchist

Pierre Proudhon
Pierre Proudhon

It is commonly held that it wasn't until Pierre-Joseph Proudhon published "What is Property?" in 1840 that the term "anarchist" was adopted as a self-description. It is for this reason that some claim Proudhon as the founder of modern anarchist theory. In What is Property Proudhon answers with the famous accusation "Property is theft." In this work he opposed the institution of "property" (propriété) in the special sense of idle and occupied land and other natural resources bestowed and enforced by state privilege. Proudhon opposed the idea of an individual having dominion over land that he was not using, as this would enable the owner to charge rent to others and thereby be paid without laboring. Besides opposing individual ownership of land itself, he opposed the idea of social ownership (as in communism) as well: "instead of inferring from this that property should be shared by all, I demand, as a measure of general security, its entire abolition." For Proudhon, individuals may rightfully "occupy and use" land (calling this "possession" rather than "property"), but not restrict others from using land or charge rent to use land that they are not themselves putting to use.

However, Proudhon did not oppose property in the sense of individual ownership of the produce of his labor. Proudhon's vision of anarchy, which he called mutualism (mutuellisme), involved an exchange economy where individuals and groups could trade the fruits of their labor by using labor-backed money (labor notes). The use of labor notes would insure that no one purchased a good with less of his own labor than the labor undertaken to produce the good he was purchasing. Hence, with labor notes, profitless transactions would be facilitated (However, Proudhon was not the first to advocate such an economic system). Proudhon's ideas began to exert some influence within French working class movements, and his followers were active in the Revolution of 1848 in France.

Individualist anarchism

Main articles: Individualist anarchism, American individualist anarchist, Mutual aid, Mutualism

Max Stirner and Egoism

Max Stirner
Max Stirner

Max Stirner is considered to be the first egoist of the individualist anarchists. Stirner considered the world and everything in it, including other persons, available to one's taking or use without moral constraint --that rights do not exist in regard to objects at all. Stirner is a supporter of property but holds that a right to property is an illusion, or "ghost"; property is only a matter of control --it is not based in any moral right but solely in the right of might: "Whoever knows how to take, to defend, the thing, to him belongs property." He sees no rationality in taking the interests of others into account unless doing so furthers one's self-interest, which he believed is the only legitimate reason for acting. His embrace of egoism is in stark contrast to Godwin's altruism. He denies society as being an actual entity, calling society a "spook" and that "the individuals are its reality" (The Ego and Its Own). Stirner argued that most commonly accepted social institutions - including property rights and the very notion of society itself - were mere illusions or ghosts, saying rather that "the individuals are its reality." He advocated a form of amoralism, in which individuals would unite in 'associations of egoists' only when it was in their self interest to do so.

The philosophy of Max Stirner, which he described as egoism is considered a form of individualist anarchism. Whether individualist anarchism is properly justified by self-interest (egoism) or natural law has been a subject of debate among later individualists. For example, Lysander Spooner argued that private property was based in natural law and espoused a labor theory of property, while Benjamin Tucker's ideas on property were founded on egoism, as he believed that property could only come about by self-interested parties contracting to establish it: "the right of might and the right of contract -are the only rights that ever have been or ever can be."

Liberal anarchism

Radicalized liberalism developed primarily in France and the United States in the 19th century, combining features of socialist political economy with a desire for a laissez-faire market society of individuals.

In the 19th century liberalism was slandered as anarchy by monarchists. Liberals desired liberty, a minimal state, individual rights, and popular government. Frederic Bastiat[6] represents this anti-state trend in liberalism. For Gustave de Molinari[[7] and other économistes laissez-faire economics led to demands to privatise the security functions of the state. This idea of "voluntary taxation" and "private defense" was also adopted by the labor-value individualist anarchists in the United States in the 19th century.

American individualist anarchism

In 1825 Josiah Warren had participated in a communitarian experiment headed by Robert Owen called New Harmony, which failed in a few years amidst much internal conflict. Warren blamed the community's failure on a lack of individual sovereignty and a lack of private property. Warren proceeded to organise experimenal anarchist communities which respected what he called "the sovereignty of the individual' at Utopia and Modern Times Benjamin Tucker became interested in anarchism through meeting Josiah Warren and William B. Greene. Tucker conception of individualist anarchism incorporated the ideas of a variety of theorists: Greene's ideas on mutual banking; Warren's ideas on cost as the limit of price (a heterodox variety of labour theory of value); Proudhon's market anarchism; Max Stirner's egoism; and, Herbert Spencer's "law of equal freedom". Tucker strongly supported "private property" in the product of labor and a market economy for trading in private property. The economic system of the individualists was called mutualism, which differs from capitalism as it sees profit as subverting labor-value and therefore exploitation. Tucker believed that in a laissez-faire system, the ability to make a profit would be nearly non-existent due to an abundance of economic competition. Other 19th century individualists include Lysander Spooner, Stephen Pearl Andrews, and Victor Yarros.

Murray Bookchin writes that individualist anarchism was attacked by the anarcho-communists and anarcho-syndicalists in the early 19th century as being "petty-bourgeois exotica" and that "they often attacked it quite directly as a middle-class indulgence, rooted far more in liberalism than in anarchism."[[8]] However, individualist anarchists also made claims against anarcho-communism. For example, Benjamin Tucker referred to it as "pseudo-anarchism" (Labor and Its Pay). Individualist anarchism of the native American sort was marginalized in France and the United States in the 20th century due to the popularity of anarcho-communism and syndicalism. It has achieved limited success outside of the England and France.

Political historian Carl Levy writes that "Since World War II, this tradition has been reborn and modified in the United States as anarcho-capitalism or libertarianism."[[9]] However, labor-value individualist anarchism is still extant today, primarily in the United States, and is currently espoused by Joe Peacott and Kevin Carson.


See also: Anarcho capitalism

 Murray Rothbard(1926-1995)
Murray Rothbard

Anarcho-capitalism is a predominantly United States based theoretical tradition that desires a stateless society with a free market economy. Anarcho-capitalists believe all voluntary transactions between consenting adults should be legal. They do not oppose employment or interest. Unlike 19th century American individualism, anarcho-capitalism does not generally hold with the labour theory of value, but rather holds the subjectivist theory of value. As such they do not oppose profit.

Murray Rothbard's synthesis of classical liberalism and Austrian economics was germinal for the development of contemporary anarcho-capitalist theory. Rothbard defines anarchism in terms of the non-aggression principle. For Rothbard, "an anarchist society [is] one where there is no legal possibility for coercive aggression against the person or property of any individual." Though the term anarcho-capitalism was coined by Rothbard, similar philosophies existed prior to Rothbard that some historians (as well as noted anarcho-capitalists) consider to be anarcho-capitalist. These include the philosophies of 18th and 19th theorists such as Gustave de Molinari, Julius Faucher, Jakob Mauvillon, and Auberon Herbert. Rothbard's conception is based on the concept of Natural Law. Competiting theorists use egoism, utilitarianism (David Friedman), or contractarianism (Jan Narveson).

Important anarcho-capitalists include Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Lew Rockwell, and Bryan Caplan. Some minarchists, such as Ayn Rand, Robert Nozick, and Robert A. Heinlein, have influenced anarcho-capitalism.

Most anarchists deny that anarcho-capitalism is a form of anarchism, arguing that capitalism is an inherently authoritarian institution. This is contested by anarcho-capitalists, and by some American individualist anarchists.[10][11] [12] Anarcho-capitalism is compared and contrasted with classical individualist anarchism in the article Individualist anarchism and anarcho-capitalism.

Collectivist Anarchism

The International

In Europe, harsh reaction followed the revolutions of 1848. Twenty years later in 1864 the International Workingmen's Association, sometimes called the 'First International', united some diverse European revolutionary currents including anarchism. Due to its genuine links to active workers movements the International became signficiant.

From the start Karl Marx was a leading figure in the International: he was elected to every succeeding General Council of the association. The first objections to Marx came from the Mutualists who opposed communism and statism. Shortly after Mikhail Bakunin and his followers joined in 1868, the First International became polarised into two camps, with Marx and Bakunin as their respective figureheads. The clearest difference between the camps was over strategy. The anarchists around Bakunin favoured (in Kropotkin's words) "direct economical struggle against capitalism, without interfering in the political parliamentary agitation." At that time Marx and his followers focused on parliamentary activity.

Bakunin characterised Marx's ideas as authoritarian, and predicted that if a Marxist party gained to power its leaders would end up as bad as the ruling class they had fought against.[13] In 1872 the conflict climaxed with a final split between the two groups at the Hague Congress. This is often cited as the origin of the conflict between anarchists and Marxists. From this moment the authoritarian ([[Social democracy|Social democratic) and libertarian (Libertarian socialist) currents of socialism had distinct organisations including rival 'internationals'.

Anarchist Communism

Main article: Anarchist communism

Unlike Marxism, anarchism has never had one central set of texts or authorities. However, in the late nineteenth century Bakunin's followers gradually developed an anarchism which embraced communism.

In 1857 Joseph Déjacque argued for the satisfaction of human needs over remuneration of labour in his US published journal Le Libertaire (1858-1861). Déjacque is also notable as the first person to describe himself as a "libertarian", and an 1857 letter contains the first appearance of the term in print.[14][15]

Peter Kropotkin
Peter Kropotkin

The Italian federation of the First International, which overwhelmingly took the Bakuninist line, was the first organisation to set out an explicit vision of communist anarchism. The Italian anarchists included Carlo Cafiero, Errico Malatesta, Andrea Costa and other ex-Mazzinian Republicans. Unlike the individualists, the anarcho-communists oppose both private ownership of the means or production and private ownership of the product of labor. In Anarchie et Communisme Cafiero argued that any private property will lead to private accumulation of capital, and therefore to class distinctions: "If we preserved the individual appropriation of the products of labour, we would be forced to preserve money, leaving more or less accumulation of wealth according to more or less merit rather than need of individuals." At its Florence Conference of 1876, their federation stated its principles as follows:

"The Italian Federation considers the collective property of the products of labour as the necessary complement to the collectivist programme, the aid of all for the satisfaction of the needs of each being the only rule of production and consumption which corresponds to the principle of solidarity."

Peter Kropotkin was the most important nineteenth century proponent of anarchist communism. In The Conquest of Bread and Fields, Factories and Workshops Kropotkin outlined anarchist communist society and how to achieve it. Kropotkin's communism was based on his theory of mutual aid where co-operation is more beneficial than competition, illustrated in nature in Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution (1897).

Subsequent anarchist communists include Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman. The anarcho-syndicalist movements (see below) generally saw anarchist communism as their objective. Isaac Puente's 1932 Comunismo Libertario was adopted by the Spanish CNT as its manifesto for an anarchist communist society.

Propaganda by the deed

Anarchists have often been portrayed as dangerous and violent, due mainly to a number of high-profile violent acts including riots, assassinations, insurrections, and terrorism by some anarchists. Some revolutionaries of the late 19th century encouraged acts of political violence, such as bombings and the assassinations of heads of state to further anarchism. Such actions have sometimes been called 'propaganda by the deed'.

One of the more outspoken advocates of this strategy was Johann Most, who said "the existing system will be quickest and most radically overthrown by the annihilation of its exponents. Therefore, massacres of the enemies of the people must be set in motion." Most's preferred method of terrorism, dynamite, earned him the moniker "Dynamost."

However, there is no consensus on the legitimacy or utility of violence in general. Mikhail Bakunin and Errico Malatesta, for example, wrote of violence as a necessary and sometimes desirable force. At the same time, they both denounced violence and terrorist acts (Malatesta in "On Violence" and Bakunin when he refuted Nechaev).

Other anarchists, sometimes identified as pacifist anarchists, share a belief in nonviolence. Leo Tolstoy, whose philosophy is often viewed as a form of Christian anarchism, believed that nonviolent resistance was the only method to achieve any lasting social change. For Tolstoy and other pacifists all violence is illegitimate, irrespective of whether it is perpetrated by the state or by its opponents. Some of Proudhon's French followers took a similar position: some saw strike action as coercive and refused to take part in such traditional socialist tactics. (citation needed) In addition, the American individualist anarchists were opposed to "propaganda by the deed," which was being advocated and committed in the name of communist anarchism; they sought to distinguish their philosophy as "the only school of modern sociologists who are in the line of true peace, progress, and good order." (Boston anarchists).

Anarchism at work

The red-and-black flag of anarcho-syndicalism.
The red-and-black flag of anarcho-syndicalism.

Anarcho-syndicalism and industrial unionism are two early 20th century working class industrial movements which sought to overthrow capitalism, states and institute a worker controlled society.

In the late 19th century, anarcho-syndicalism developed as a movement pursuing industrial actions, especially the general strike, as the primary strategy to achieve anarchist revolution, and "build the new society in the shell of the old". Most anarcho-syndicalists shared a belief in anarchist communism as the best form of the future society, although not all anarchist communists agreed with syndicalism.

After the 1871 repression French anarchism began to resurface and influenced the Bourses de Travails of autonomous workers groups and trade unions. From this movement the Confédération Générale du Travail (General Confederation of Work, CGT) was formed in 1895 as the first major anarcho-syndicalist movement. Emile Pataud and Emile Pouget's writing for the CGT saw libertarian communism developing from a general strike. After 1914 the CGT moved away from anarcho-syndicalism due to the appeal of Bolshevism. French-style syndicalism was a significant movement in Europe prior to 1921, and remained a significant movement in Spain until the mid 1940s.

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was founded in 1905 in the United States. It espoused industrial union, and sought to use the general strike to usher in an Industrial Commonwealth (a stateless society). At its peak in 1923 the organization claimed some 100,000 members in good standing, and could marshal the support of perhaps 300,000 workers, the IWW's influence extended to Australia, New Zealand and Canada. While not explicitly syndicalist or anarchist, the IWW organised using working class rank and file democracy, and embodied a spirit of resistance and freedom which has inspired many Anglophone syndicalists.

Spanish anarchist trade union federations were formed in the 1870's, 1900 and 1910. The most successful was the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (National Confederation of Labour: CNT), was founded in 1910. Prior to the 1940s the CNT was the major force in Spanish working class politics. It had a membership of 1.58 million in 1934. The CNT played a major role in the Spanish Civil War. See also: Anarchism in Spain.

In the 1910-1917 Mexican Revolution anarcho-syndicalists like Ricardo Flores Magón were key figures. This success has been influential for Latin American anarchism. This influence extends to the Zapatista rebellion and the factory occupation movements in Argentina and elsewhere.

In Berlin in 1922 the CNT was amongst trade unions who joined together to form the International Workers Association, an anarcho-syndicalist successor to the First International.

Contemporary anarcho-syndicalism continues as a minor force in many socities; much smaller than in the 1910s, 20s and 30s.

The largest organised anarchist movement today is in Spain, in the form of the Confederación General del Trabajo and the CNT. The CGT claims a paid-up membership of 60,000, and received over a million votes in Spanish syndical elections. Other active syndicalist movements include the US Workers Solidarity Alliance, and the UK Solidarity Federation. The revolutionary industrial unionist Industrial Workers of the World also exists, claiming 2,000 paid members. Contemporary critics of anarcho-syndicalism and revolutionary industrial unionism claim that they are workerist and fail to deal with economic life outside work. Post-leftist critics such as Bob Black claim anarcho-syndicalism advocates oppressive social structures, such as work and the workplace.

Anarcho-syndicalists in general uphold principles of workers solidarity, direct action, and self-management.

The Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a seismic event in the development of anarchism as a movement and as a philosophy.

Anarchists participated alongside the Bolsheviks in both February and October revolutions, many anarchists initially supporting the Bolshevik coup. However the Bolsheviks soon turned against the anarchists and other left-wing opposition, a conflict which culminated in the 1918 Kronstadt rebellion. Anarchists in central Russia were imprisoned or driven underground, or joined the victorious Bolsheviks. In Ukraine anarchists fought in the civil war against both Whites and Bolsheviks within the Makhnovshchina peasant army led by Nestor Makhno).

Expelled American anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman before leaving Russia were amongst those agitating in response to Bolshevik policy and the suppression of the Kronstadt uprising. Both wrote classic accounts of their experiences in Russia, aiming to expose the reality of Bolshevik control. For them, Bakunin's predictions about the consequences of Marxist rule had proved all too true.

The victory of the Bolsheviks in the October Revolution and the resulting Russian Civil War did serious damage to anarchist movements internationally. Many workers and activists saw Bolshevik success as setting an example; Communist parties grew at the expense of anarchism and other socialist movements. In France and the US for example, the major syndicalist movements of the CGT and IWW began to realign themselves away from anarchism and towards the Communist International.

In Paris, a group of Russian anarchist exiles around Nestor Makhno concluded that anarchists needed to develop new forms of organisation in response to the structures of Bolshevism. Their manifesto known as the platform, or the "Organizational Platform of Libertarian Communists", was supported by some Anarchist Communists, but opposed by many others.

The fight against fascism

In the 1920s and 1930s the familiar dynamics of anarchism's conflict with the state were transformed by the rise of fascism in Europe. In many cases, European anarchists faced difficult choices - should they join in popular fronts with reformist democrats and Soviet-led Communists against a common fascist enemy? Luigi Fabbri, an exile from Italian fascism, was amongst those arguing that fascism was something different:

Fascism is not just another form of government which, like all others, uses violence. It is the most authoritarian and the most violent form of government imaginable. It represents the utmost glorification of the theory and practice of the principle of authority.

In France, where the fascists came close to insurrection in the February 1934 riots, anarchists divided over a 'united front' policy.[16] In Spain, the CNT initially refused to join a popular front electoral alliance, and abstention by CNT supporters led to a right wing election victory. But in 1936, the CNT changed its policy and anarchist votes helped bring the popular front back to power. Months later, the right responded with an attempted coup, and the Spanish Civil War was underway.

In Spain, years of social, political and religious turmoil coupled with decades of anarchist agitation and organisation led to class conflict. The old ruling class (church, army and monarchy) and capitalists were horrified by the new freedoms and social changes within the Second Spanish Republic. So an army rebellion or coup d'état was initiated so as to regain control of the country. The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) as it became known, pitched the ruling class and fascists against the middle-class liberals and politicised workers. In reponse to the army rebellion an anarchist-inspired peasant and workers movement (supported by militias initially tolerated by the republic) took control of huge areas of urban and rural Spain (including most major cities) in 1936-1937 and collectivized the land.

However, some express disapproval at the methods of the anarchists, such as killing those who disagreed with them. Burnett Bolloten, in The Spanish Civil War, notes that "Thousands of members of the clergy and religious orders as well as of the properties classes were killed, but others, fearing arrest of execution, fled abroard, including many prominent liberal and moderate Republicans."

But even before the eventual fascist victory, the anarchists were losing ground in a bitter struggle with the Stalinists. The CNT leadership often appeared confused and divided, with some members entering the government. Stalinist-led troops suppressed the collectives, and persecuted both dissident marxists and anarchists. Along with the POUM, they were eventually suppressed by the Stalinist-controlled republican army, which later lost to Franco's army in 1939. In the Soviet Union from 1918 and in Europe during the World War, thousands of anarchists were killed or sent to prisons and concentration camps.

Religious Anarchisms

Main articles: Christian anarchism, Anarchism and religion

Leo Tolstoy 1828-1910
Leo Tolstoy 1828-1910

Most anarchist culture tends to be secular if not outright anti-religious. However, the combination of religious social conscience, historical religiousity amongst oppressed social classes, and the compatability of some interpretations of religious traditions with anarchism has resulted in religious anarchisms.

Christian anarchists believe that there is no higher authority than God, and oppose earthly authority such as government and established churches. They are also strict pacifists. The most famous advocate of Christian anarchism was Leo Tolstoy, author of The Kingdom of God is Within You, who called for a society based on compassion, nonviolent principles and freedom. Christian anarchists tend to form experimental communities. They also occasionally resist taxation. Many Christian anarchists are vegetarian or vegan.

Spiritual Anarchism, or Divine Anarchy, was originally expressed by the political revolutionary, poet and yogi Sri Aurobindo. The experimental community of Auroville was originally intended to be organized as a Divine Anarchy.

Chinese Anarchism was most influential in the 1920s. Strands of Chinese anarchism included Tai-Xu's Buddhist Anarchism which was influenced by Tolstoy and the well-field system.

Anarchism and feminism

Emma Goldman 1869-1940
Emma Goldman 1869-1940

See also: Anarcha-Feminism

Anarcha-feminism is a kind of radical feminism that espouses the belief that patriarchy is a fundamental problem in society. While anarchist feminism has existed for more than a hundred years, its explicit formulation as anarcha-feminism dates back to the early 70s [17], during the second-wave feminist movement. Anarcha-feminism, views patriarchy as the first manifestation of hierarchy in human history; thus, the first form of oppression occurred in the dominance of male over female. Anarcha-feminists then conclude that if feminists are against patriarchy, they must also be against all forms of hierarchy, and therefore must reject the authoritarian nature of the state and capitalism.

Anarcho-primitivists see the creation of gender roles and patriarchy a creation of the start of civilization, and therefore consider primitivism to also be an anarchist school of thought that addresses feminist concerns. Eco-feminism is often considered a feminist variant of green anarchist feminist thought.

Anarcha-feminism is most often associated with early 20th-century authors and theorists such as Emma Goldman and Voltairine de Cleyre, although even early first-wave feminist Mary Wollstonecraft held proto-anarchist views, and William Godwin is often considered a feminist anarchist precursor. In the Spanish Civil War, an anarcha-feminist group, "Free Women", organized to defend both anarchist and feminist ideas.

In the modern day anarchist movement, many anarchists, male or female, consider themselves feminists, and anarcha-feminist ideas are growing. The publishing of Quiet Rumors, an anarcha-feminist reader, has helped to spread various kinds of anti-authoritarian and anarchist feminist ideas to the broader movement. Wendy McElroy has popularized an anarcho-capitalist take on feminism in her books, articles, and individualist feminist website.

Other branches and offshoots

  • The platformist tradition - A number of anarchist organisations in different countries take their inspiration from the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists, a manifesto for anarchist organisation written by the Dielo Truda group of exiled Russian anarchists in Paris in 1926[18]. Platformists tend to describe themselves as anarchist-communists, and as 'class struggle' anarchists. Like the anarcho-syndicalists, they thus see themselves as continuing a tradition of revolutionary anarchism rooted in working class movements. Unlike anarcho-syndicalists, however, they believe in a role for separate and dedicated Anarchist revolutionary organisations outside of the trade union movement which are characterised by four principles of 'theoretical unity', 'tactical unity', 'collective responsibility' and 'federalism'. Platformist groups today include the Workers Solidarity Movement in Ireland, the UK's Anarchist Federation, and the late North Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists in the northeastern United States and bordering Canada.
  • Post-left anarchy - Post-left anarchy (also called egoist-anarchism) seeks to distance itself from the traditional "left" - communists, liberals, social democrats, etc. - and to escape the confines of ideology in general. Post-leftists argue that anarchism has been weakened by its long attachment to contrary "leftist" movements and single issue causes (anti-war, anti-nuclear, etc.). It calls for a synthesis of anarchist thought and a specifically anti-authoritarian revolutionary movement outside of the leftist milieu. It often focuses on the individual rather than speaking in terms of class or other broad generalizations and shuns organizational tendencies in favor of the complete absence of explicit hierarchy. Important groups and individuals associated with Post-left anarchy include: CrimethInc, the magazine Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed and its editor Jason McQuinn, Bob Black, Hakim Bey and others. For more information, see's Anarchy After Leftism section, and the Post-left section on See also: Post-left anarchy
  • Insurrectionary anarchism - Insurrectionary anarchism is a form of revolutionary anarchism critical of formal anarchist labor unions and federations. Insurrectionary anarchists advocate informal organization, including small affinity groups, carrying out acts of resistance in various struggles, and mass organizations called base structures, which can include exploited individuals who are not anarchists. Proponents include Wolfi Landstreicher and Alfredo M. Bonanno, author of works including "Armed Joy" and "The Anarchist Tension". This tendency is represented in the US in magazines such as Willful Disobedience and Killing King Abacus.
  • Small 'a' anarchism - Small 'a' anarchism is a term used in two different, but not unconnected contexts. Dave Neal posited the term in opposition to big 'A' Anarchism in the article Anarchism: Ideology or Methodology?. While big 'A' Anarchism referred to ideological Anarchists, small 'a' anarchism was applied to their methodological counterparts; those who viewed anarchism as "a way of acting, or a historical tendency against illegitimate authority." As an anti-ideological position, small 'a' anarchism shares some similarities with post-left anarchy David Graeber and Andrej Grubacic offer an alternative use of the term, applying it to groups and movements organising according to or acting in a manner consistent with anarchist principles of decentralisation, voluntary association, mutual aid, the network model, and crucially, "the rejection of any idea that the end justifies the means, let alone that the business of a revolutionary is to seize state power and then begin imposing one's vision at the point of a gun." [19]
  • Anarcho-primitivism - John Zerzan wrote in Elements of Refusal, and later, Future Primitive that civilization — not just the state — would need to fall for anarchy to be achieved. A rejection of industrial technology is also prominent in the views of many green anarchists. This worldview, which harkens back to some of the themes in the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Luddites, was associated with the growth of the anti-roads movement in the UK, Earth First! and the Earth Liberation Front in the US. Primitivism is a philosophy advocating a return to a pre-industrial and usually pre-agricultural society, and a critique of industrial civilization, and the alienation that technology, progress, etc, have created between people and the natural world.


  • Conceptions of an anarchist society - Many political philosophers justify support of the state as a means of regulating violence, so that the destruction caused by human conflict is minimized and fair relationships are established. Anarchists argue that pursuit of these ends does not justify the establishment of a state; many argue that the state is incompatible with those goals and the cause of chaos, violence, and war. Anarchists argue that the state helps to create a monopoly on violence, and uses violence to advance elite interests. Much effort has been dedicated to explaining how anarchist societies would handle criminality.See also: Anarchism and Society
  • Environmentalism - Eco-anarchism (or Green anarchism) generally is a belief in deep ecology, which is a worldview that embraces biodiversity and sustainability. Eco-anarchists often use direct action against what they see as earth-destroying institutions. The philosophy usually involves a critique of industrial capitalism, and less commonly against civilization per se. The largest segment of 'eco-anarchists' is the Earth First! movement, which engages in activities such as tree sitting and 'locking down'.
  • Civil rights and cultural sovereignty - Black anarchism opposes the existence of a state, capitalism, and subjugation and domination of people of color, and favors a non-hierarchical organization of society. Theorists include Ashanti Alston, Lorenzo Komboa Ervin, and Sam Mbah. Anarchist People of Color was created as a forum for non-caucasian anarchists to express their thoughts about racial issues within the anarchist movement, particularly within the United States. National anarchism is a political view which seeks to unite cultural or ethnic preservation with anarchist views. Its adherents propose that those preventing ethnic groups (or races) from living in separate autonomous groupings should be resisted. Anti-Racist Action is not an anarchist group, but many anarchists are involved. It focuses on publicly confronting racist agitators. The Zapatista movement of Chiapas, Mexico is a cultural sovereignty group with some anarchist proclivities.
  • Neo-imperialism and Globalization - To anarchists, neo-imperialism amounts to inter-state loan-sharking. All anarchists oppose neo-imperialism and the state cartels which carry it out, such as the World Bank, World Trade Organization, Group of Eight, and the World Economic Forum. Globalization is an ambiguous term that has different meanings to different anarchist factions. Most anarchists use the term to mean neo-imperialism, with many active in the anti-globalization movement. Others, particularly anarcho-capitalists, use "globalization" to mean the worldwide expansion of the division of labor and trade, which they see as beneficial so long as governments do not intervene.
  • Parallel structures - Many anarchists try to set up alternatives to state-supported institutions and "outposts," such as Food Not Bombs, infoshop, educational systems such as home-schooling, neighborhood mediation/arbitration groups, and so on. The idea is to creating the structures for a new anti-authoritarian society in the shell of the old, authoritarian one.
  • Pacifism - Some anarchists consider Pacifism (opposition to war) to be inherent in their philosophy. anarcho-pacifists take it further and follow Leo Tolstoy's belief in non-violence. Anarchists see war as an activity in which the state seeks to gain and consolidate power, both domestically and in foreign lands, and subscribe to Randolph Bourne's view that "war is the health of the state"[21]. A lot of anarchist activity has been anti-war based.
  • Parliamentarianism - In general terms, the anarchist ethos opposes voting in elections, because voting amounts to condoning the state.[22]. Voluntaryism is an anarchist school of thought which emphasizes "tending your own garden" and "neither ballots nor bullets." The anarchist case against voting is explained in The Ethics of Voting by George H. Smith. (Also see "Voting Anarchists: An Oxymoron or What?" by Joe Peacott, and writings by Fred Woodworth).
  • Sectarianism - Most anarchist schools of thought are, to some degree, sectarian. There is often a difference of opinion within each school about how to react to, or interact with, other schools. Some, such as panarchists, believe that it is possible for a variety of modes of social life to coexist and compete. The opposition of some anarchists to minority schools such as individualist anarchism (historically) and anarcho-capitalism are prime examples of sectarianism. Fundamental differences divide the thinking of these schools. Some view the other as a social impossibility and resist interaction; others see opportunities for coalition-building, or at least temporary alliances for specific purposes. See anarchism without adjectives.

Cultural phenomena

 Noam Chomsky (1928–)
Noam Chomsky (1928–)

The kind of anarchism that is most easily encountered in popular culture is represented by celebrities who publicly identify themselves as anarchists. Although some anarchists reject any focus on such famous living individuals as inherently élitist, the following figures are examples of prominent publicly self-avowed anarchists:

In Denmark, the Freetown Christiania was created in downtown Copenhagen. The housing and employment crisis in most of Western Europe led to the formation of communes and squatter movements like the one still thriving in Barcelona, in Catalonia. Militant resistance to neo-Nazi groups in places like Germany, and the uprisings of autonomous Marxism, situationist, and Autonomist groups in France and Italy also helped to give popularity to anti-authoritarian, non-capitalist ideas.

In various musical styles, anarchism rose in popularity. Most famous for the linking of anarchist ideas and music has been punk rock, although in the modern age, hip hop, and folk music are also becoming important mediums for the spreading of the anarchist message. In the UK this was associated with the punk rock movement; the band Crass is celebrated for its anarchist and pacifist ideas. The Dutch punk band The Ex further exemplifies this expression. For further details, see anarcho-punk

See also

NaodW29-HTMLCommentStrip478588886f33bf7100000001 There are many concepts relevant to the topic of anarchism, this is a brief summary. There is also a more extensive list of anarchist concepts.

Historical events



  • Frederic Bastiat, The Law Radical classical liberalism
  • Davidson & Rees-Mogg, The Sovereign Individual Historians look at technology & implications
  • David Friedman, The Machinery of Freedom Classic utilitarian defense of anarchism
  • Auberon Herbert, The Right and Wrong of Compulsion by the State
  • Albert Jay Nock, Our Enemy the State Oppenheimer's thesis applied to early US history
  • Franz Oppenheimer, The State Analysis of State; political means vs. economic means
  • Murray Rothbard Father of modern anarcho-capitalism:
    • Man, Economy, and State The ultimate Austrian economics book,
    • Power and Market Classification of State economic interventions,
    • The Ethics of Liberty Moral justification of a free society
  • Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia Academic philosopher on libertarianism
  • Herbert Spencer, Social Statics Includes the essay "The Right to Ignore the State"
  • Morris & Linda Tannahill, The Market for Liberty Classic on PDAs (private defense agencies)




External links

The overwhelming diversity and number of links relating to anarchism is extensively covered on the links subpage.

  • Anarchoblogs Blogs by Anarchists.
  • Anarchy Archives extensively archives information relating to famous anarchists. This includes many of their books and other publications.
  • Hundreds of anarchists are listed, with short bios, links & dedicated pages at the Daily Bleed's Anarchist Encyclopedia
  • Infoshop Online Anarchist Datebase
  • Industrial Workers of the World