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Anarchism is a political philosophy which considers the state undesirable, unnecessary and harmful, and instead promotes a stateless society, or anarchy.[1][2] It seeks to diminish or even abolish coercive authority in the conduct of human relations.[3] Anarchists may widely disagree on what additional criteria are required in anarchism. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy says, "there is no single defining position that all anarchists hold, and those considered anarchists at best share a certain family resemblance."[4]

There are many types and traditions of anarchism, not all of which are mutually exclusive.[5] Strains of anarchism have been divided into the categories of social and individualist anarchism or similar dual classifications.[6][7] Anarchism is often considered to be a radical left-wing ideology,[8][9] and much of anarchist economics and anarchist legal philosophy reflect anti-statist interpretations of communism, collectivism, syndicalism or participatory economics. However, anarchism has always included an individualist strain (identified by libertarian writer and economist Murray Rothbard as "anarcho-capitalism") which includes support of free markets[10] the market economy and private property, or, in some versions, unfettered egoism.[8][11] Some individualist anarchists are also socialists[12][13]. Differing fundamentally, some anarchist schools of thought support anything from extreme individualism to complete collectivism.[2] In the end, for anarchist historian Daniel Guerin "Some anarchists are more individualistic than social, some more social than individualistic. However, one cannot conceive of a libertarian who is not an individualist."[14]

Others, such as panarchists and anarchists without adjectives, neither advocate nor object to any particular form of organization as long as it is not compulsory. The central tendency of anarchism as a mass social movement has been represented by anarcho-communism and anarcho-syndicalism, with individualist anarchism being primarily a philosophical or literary phenomenon.[15] Some anarchists fundamentally oppose all forms of aggression, supporting self-defense or non-violence (anarcho-pacifism)[16][17], while others have supported the use of some coercive measures, including violent revolution and terrorism, on the path to an anarchist society.[18]

Etymology and terminology

The term anarchism derives from the Greek ἄναρχος, anarchos, meaning "without rulers",[19][20] from the prefix ἀν- (an-, "without") + ἀρχή (archê, "sovereignty, realm, magistracy")[21] + -ισμός (-ismos, from the suffix -ιζειν, -izein "-izing"). There is some ambiguity with the use of the terms "libertarianism" and "libertarian" in writings about anarchism. Since the 1890s from France,[22] the term "libertarianism" has often been used as a synonym for anarchism and was used almost exclusively in this sense until the 1950s in the United States;[23] its use as a synonym is still common outside the United States.[24] Accordingly, "libertarian socialism" is sometimes used as a synonym for socialist anarchism,[25][26] to distinguish it from "individualist libertarianism" (individualist anarchism). On the other hand, some use "libertarianism" to refer to individualistic free-market philosophy only, referring to free-market anarchism as "libertarian anarchism".[27][28]


Main article: History of anarchism

Some claim anarchist themes can be found in the works of Taoist sages Laozi[29] and Zhuangzi. The latter has been translated, "There has been such a thing as letting mankind alone; there has never been such a thing as governing mankind [with success]," and "A petty thief is put in jail. A great brigand becomes a ruler of a Nation."[30] Diogenes of Sinope and the Cynics, and their contemporary Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism, also introduced similar topics.[29]

Modern anarchism, however, sprang from the secular or religious thought of the Enlightenment, particularly Jean-Jacques Rousseau's arguments for the moral centrality of freedom.[31] Although by the turn of the 19th century the term "anarchist" had lost its initial negative connotation,[32] it first entered the English language in 1642 during the English Civil War as a term of abuse used by Royalists to damn those who were fomenting disorder.[32] By the time of the French Revolution some, such as the Enragés, began to use the term positively,[33] in opposition to Jacobin centralisation of power, seeing "revolutionary government" as oxymoronic.[32]

From this climate William Godwin developed what many consider the first expression of modern anarchist thought.[34] Godwin was, according to Peter Kropotkin, "the first to formulate the political and economical conceptions of anarchism, even though he did not give that name to the ideas developed in his work",[29] while Godwin attached his anarchist ideas to an early Edmund Burke.[35] Benjamin Tucker instead credits Josiah Warren, an American who promoted stateless and voluntary communities where all goods and services were private, with being "the first man to expound and formulate the doctrine now known as Anarchism."[36] The first to describe himself as an anarchist was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon,[32] a French philosopher and politician, which led some to call him the founder of modern anarchist theory.[37]

Social movement

Anarchism as a social movement has regularly endured fluctuations in popularity. Its classical period, which scholars demarcate as from 1860 to 1939, is associated with the working-class movements of the nineteenth century and the Spanish Civil War-era struggles against fascism.[38]

The First International

In Europe, harsh reaction followed the revolutions of 1848, during which ten countries had experienced brief or long-term social upheaval as groups carried out nationalist uprisings. After most of these attempts at systematic change ended in failure, conservative elements took advantage of the divided groups of socialists, anarchists, liberals, and nationalists, to prevent further revolt.[39] In 1864 the International Workingmen's Association (sometimes called the "First International") united diverse revolutionary currents including French followers of Proudhon,[40] Blanquists, Philadelphes, English trade unionists, socialists and social democrats.

Due to its links to active workers' movements, the International became a significant organization. Karl Marx became a leading figure in the International and a member of its General Council. Proudhon's followers, the mutualists, opposed Marx's state socialism, advocating political abstentionism and small property holdings.[41][42]

In 1868, following their unsuccessful participation in the League of Peace and Freedom (LPF), Russian revolutionary Mikhail Bakunin and his collectivist anarchist associates joined the First International (which had decided not to get involved with the LPF).[43] They allied themselves with the federalist socialist sections of the International,[44] who advocated the revolutionary overthrow of the state and the collectivization of property.

At first, the collectivists worked with the Marxists to push the First International in a more revolutionary socialist direction. Subsequently, the International became polarised into two camps, with Marx and Bakunin as their respective figureheads.[45] Bakunin characterised Marx's ideas as centralist and predicted that, if a Marxist party came to power, its leaders would simply take the place of the ruling class they had fought against.[46][47]

In 1872, the conflict climaxed with a final split between the two groups at the Hague Congress, where Bakunin and James Guillaume were expelled from the International and its headquarters were transferred to New York. In response, the federalist sections formed their own International at the St. Imier Congress, adopting a revolutionary anarchist program.[48]

Organised labour

The anti-authoritarian sections of the First International were the precursors of the anarcho-syndicalists, seeking to "replace the privilege and authority of the State" with the "free and spontaneous organization of labor."[49] In 1886, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (FOTLU) of the United States and Canada unanimously set 1 May 1886, as the date by which the eight-hour work day would become standard.[50]

In response, unions across America prepared a general strike in support of the event.[50] On 3 May, in Chicago, a fight broke out when strikebreakers attempted to cross the picket line, and two workers died when police opened fire upon the crowd.[51] The next day, 4 May, anarchists staged a rally at Chicago's Haymarket Square.[52] A bomb was thrown by an unknown party near the conclusion of the rally, killing an officer.[53] In the ensuing panic, police opened fire on the crowd and each other.[54] Seven police officers and at least four workers were killed.[55] Eight anarchists directly and indirectly related to the organisers of the rally were arrested and charged with the murder of the deceased officer. The men became international political celebrities among the labour movement. Four of the men were executed and a fifth committed suicide prior to his own execution. The incident became known as the Haymarket affair, and was a setback for the labour movement and the struggle for the eight hour day. In 1890 a second attempt, this time international in scope, to organise for the eight hour day was made.
Spanish propaganda poster from 1932 of the anarcho-syndicalist International Workers' Association celebrating "50 years of direct action against the state and capitalism"
The event also had the secondary purpose of memorializing workers killed as a result of the Haymarket affair.[56] Although it had initially been conceived as a once-off event, by the following year the celebration of International Workers' Day on May Day had become firmly established as an international worker's holiday.[50]

In 1907, the International Anarchist Congress of Amsterdam gathered delegates from 14 different countries, among which important figures of the anarchist movement, including Errico Malatesta, Pierre Monatte, Luigi Fabbri, Benoît Broutchoux, Emma Goldman, Rudolf Rocker, and Christiaan Cornelissen. Various themes were treated during the Congress, in particular concerning the organisation of the anarchist movement, popular education issues, the general strike or antimilitarism. A central debate concerned the relation between anarchism and syndicalism (or trade unionism). Malatesta and Monatte were in particular disagreement themselves on this issue, as the latter thought that syndicalism was revolutionary and would create the conditions of a social revolution, while Malatesta did not consider syndicalism by itself sufficient.[57] He thought that the trade-union movement was reformist and even conservative, citing as essentially bourgeois and anti-worker the phenomenon of professional union officials. Malatesta warned that the syndicalists aims were in perpetuating syndicalism itself, whereas anarchists must always have anarchy as their end and consequently refrain from committing to any particular method of achieving it.[58]

The Spanish Workers Federation in 1881 was the first major anarcho-syndicalist movement; anarchist trade union federations were of special importance in Spain. The most successful was the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (National Confederation of Labour: CNT), founded in 1910. Before the 1940s, the CNT was the major force in Spanish working class politics, attracting 1.58 million members at one point and playing a major role in the Spanish Civil War.[59] The CNT was affiliated with the International Workers Association, a federation of anarcho-syndicalist trade unions founded in 1922, with delegates representing two million workers from 15 countries in Europe and Latin America. The largest organised anarchist movement today is in Spain, in the form of the Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) and the CNT. CGT membership was estimated to be around 100,000 for the year 2003.[60] Other active syndicalist movements include the US Workers Solidarity Alliance and the UK Solidarity Federation. The revolutionary industrial unionist Industrial Workers of the World, claiming 2,000 paying members, and the International Workers Association, an anarcho-syndicalist successor to the First International, also remain active.

Propaganda of the deed

Propaganda poster depicting an angel protecting against a bomb-throwing, knife-wielding Bolshevik activist: propaganda of the deed was widely viewed negatively

Some anarchists, such as Johann Most, advocated publicizing violent acts of retaliation against counter-revolutionaries because "we preach not only action in and for itself, but also action as propaganda."[61] By the 1880s, the slogan "propaganda of the deed" had begun to be used both within and outside of the anarchist movement to refer to individual bombings, regicides and tyrannicides. However, as soon as 1887, important figures in the anarchist movement distanced themselves from such individual acts. Peter Kropotkin thus wrote that year in Le Révolté that "a structure based on centuries of history cannot be destroyed with a few kilos of dynamite".[62] A variety of anarchists advocated the abandonment of these sorts of tactics in favor of collective revolutionary action, for example through the trade union movement. The anarcho-syndicalist, Fernand Pelloutier, argued in 1895 for renewed anarchist involvement in the labor movement on the basis that anarchism could do very well without "the individual dynamiter."[63]

State repression (including the infamous 1894 French lois scélérates) of the anarchist and labor movements following the few successful bombings and assassinations may have contributed to the abandonment of these kinds of tactics, although reciprocally state repression, in the first place, may have played a role in these isolated acts. The dismemberment of the French socialist movement, into many groups and, following the suppression of the 1871 Paris Commune, the execution and exile of many communards to penal colonies, favored individualist political expression and acts.[64]

Numerous heads of state were assassinated between 1881 and 1914 by members of the anarchist movement. For example, U.S. President McKinley's assassin Leon Czolgosz claimed to have been influenced by anarchist and feminist Emma Goldman. This was in spite of Goldman's disavowal of any association with him, his registered membership in the Republican Party, and never having belonged to an anarchist organization. Bombings were associated in the media with anarchists because international terrorism arose during this time period with the widespread distribution of dynamite. This image remains to this day.

Propaganda of the deed was abandoned by the vast majority of the anarchist movement after World War I (1914–18) and the 1917 October Revolution. Important factors towards this include state repression, the level of organization of the labour movement, and the influence of the October RevolutionScript errorScript error[citation needed].

Russian Revolution

Anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman opposed Bolshevik consolidation of power following the Russian Revolution (1917).

Anarchists participated alongside the Bolsheviks in both February and October revolutions, and were initially enthusiastic about the Bolshevik coup.[65] However, the Bolsheviks soon turned against the anarchists and other left-wing opposition, a conflict that culminated in the 1921 Kronstadt rebellion which the new government repressed. Anarchists in central Russia were either imprisoned, driven underground or joined the victorious Bolsheviks; the anarchists from Petrograd and Moscow fled to the Ukraine.[66] There, in the Free Territory, they fought in the civil war against the Whites (a Western-backed grouping of monarchists and other opponents of the October Revolution) and then the Bolsheviks as part of the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine led by Nestor Makhno, who established an anarchist society in the region for a number of months.

Expelled American anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were amongst those agitating in response to Bolshevik policy and the suppression of the Kronstadt uprising, before they left Russia. Both wrote accounts of their experiences in Russia, criticizing the amount of control the Bolsheviks exercised. For them, Bakunin's predictions about the consequences of Marxist rule that the rulers of the new "socialist” Marxist state would become a new elite had proved all too true.[46][67]

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 United States, for example, members of the major syndicalist movements of the CGT and IWW left the organizations and joined the Communist International.[68]

In Paris, the Dielo Truda group of Russian anarchist exiles, which included Nestor Makhno, concluded that anarchists needed to develop new forms of organisation in response to the structures of Bolshevism. Their 1926 manifesto, called the Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft),[69] was supported. Platformist groups active today include the Workers Solidarity Movement in Ireland and the North Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists of North America.

Anti-fascist Maquis, who resisted Nazi and Francoist rule in Europe.

Fight against fascism

In the 1920s and 1930s, the rise of fascism in Europe transformed anarchism's conflict with the state. Italy saw the first struggles between anarchists and fascists. Italian anarchists played a key role in the anti-fascist organisation Arditi del Popolo, which was strongest in areas with anarchist traditions, and achieved some success in their activism, such as repelling Blackshirts in the anarchist stronghold of Parma in August 1922.[70] In France, where the far right leagues came close to insurrection in the February 1934 riots, anarchists divided over a united front policy.[71]

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 former ruling class responded with an attempted coup causing the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939).[72] 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 land.[73] But even before the fascist victory in 1939, the anarchists were losing ground in a bitter struggle with the Stalinists, who controlled the distribution of military aid to the Republican cause from the Soviet Union. Stalinist-led troops suppressed the collectives and persecuted both dissident Marxists and anarchists.[74]

Contemporary anarchism

The famous okupas squat near Parc Güell, overlooking Barcelona. Squatting was a prominent part of the emergence of renewed anarchist movement from the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s.

A surge of popular interest in anarchism occurred during the 1960s and 1970s.[75] In the United Kingdom this was associated with the punk rock movement, as exemplified by bands such as Crass and the Sex Pistols.[76] The housing and employment crisis in most of Western Europe led to the formation of communes and squatter movements like that of Barcelona, Spain. In Denmark, squatters occupied a disused military base and declared the Freetown Christiania, an autonomous haven in central Copenhagen.

Since the revival of anarchism in the mid 20th century,[77] a number of new movements and schools of thought emerged. Although feminist tendencies have always been a part of the anarchist movement in the form of anarcha-feminism, they returned with vigour during the second wave of feminism in the 1960s. The American Civil Rights Movement and the movement against the war in Vietnam also contributed to the revival of North American anarchism. European anarchism of the late 20th century drew much of its strength from the labour movement, and both have incorporated animal rights activism. Anarchist anthropologist David Graeber has posited a rupture between generations of anarchism, with those "who often still have not shaken the sectarian habits" of the nineteenth century contrasted with the younger activists who are "much more informed, among other elements, by indigenous, feminist, ecological and cultural-critical ideas", and who by the turn of the 21st century formed "by far the majority" of anarchists.[78]

Around the turn of the 21st century, anarchism grew in popularity and influence as part of the anti-war, anti-capitalist, and anti-globalisation movements.[79] Anarchists became known for their involvement in protests against the meetings of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Group of Eight, and the World Economic Forum. Some anarchist factions at these protests engaged in rioting, property destruction, and violent confrontations with police, and the confrontations were selectively portrayed in mainstream media coverage as violent riots. These actions were precipitated by ad hoc, leaderless, anonymous cadres known as black blocs; other organisational tactics pioneered in this time include security culture, affinity groups and the use of decentralised technologies such as the internet.[79] A landmark struggle of this period was the confrontations at WTO conference in Seattle in 1999.[79]

International anarchist federations in existence include the International of Anarchist Federations, the International Workers' Association, and International Libertarian Solidarity.

Anarchist schools of thought

Portrait of philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865) by Gustave Courbet. Proudhon was the primary proponent of anarchist mutualism, and influenced many later individualist anarchist thinkers.

Anarchist ideas have only occasionally inspired political movements of any size, and "the tradition is mainly one of individual thinkers, but they have produced an important body of theory."[80] Anarchist schools of thought had been generally grouped in two main historical traditions, individualist anarchism and social anarchism, which have some different origins, values and evolution.[2][6][81] The individualist wing of anarchism emphasises negative liberty, i.e. opposition to state or social control over the individual, while those in the social wing emphasise positive liberty to achieve one's potential and argue that humans have needs that society ought to fulfill, "recognizing equality of entitlement".[82] In chronological and theoretical sense there are classical — those created throughout the 19th century — and post-classical anarchist schools — those created since the mid-20th century and after.

Beyond the specific factions of anarchist thought is philosophical anarchism, which embodies the theoretical stance that the State lacks moral legitimacy without accepting the imperative of revolution to eliminate it. A component especially of individualist anarchism[83][84] philosophical anarchism may accept the existence of a minimal state as unfortunate, and usually temporary, "necessary evil" but argue that citizens do not have a moral obligation to obey the state when its laws conflict with individual autonomy.[85] One reaction against sectarianism within the anarchist milieu was "anarchism without adjectives", a call for toleration first adopted by Fernando Tarrida del Mármol in 1889 in response to the "bitter debates" of anarchist theory at the time.[86] In abandoning the hyphenated anarchisms (i.e. collectivist-, communist-, mutualist- and individualist-anarchism), it sought to emphasise the anti-authoritarian beliefs common to all anarchist schools of thought.[87]


Mutualism began in 18th century English and French labour movements before taking an anarchist form associated with Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in France and others in the United States.[88] Proudhon proposed spontaneous order, whereby organization emerges without central authority, a "positive anarchy" where order arises when everybody does “what he wishes and only what he wishes"[89] and where "business transactions alone produce the social order."[90]

Mutualist anarchism is concerned with reciprocity, free association, voluntary contract, federation, and credit and currency reform. According to William Batchelder Greene, each worker in the mutualist system would receive "just and exact pay for his work; services equivalent in cost being exchangeable for services equivalent in cost, without profit or discount."[91] Mutualism has been retrospectively characterised as ideologically situated between individualist and collectivist forms of anarchism.[92] Proudhon first characterised his goal as a "third form of society, the synthesis of communism and property."[93]

Individualist anarchism

Individualist anarchism refers to several traditions of thought within the anarchist movement that emphasise the individual and their will over any kinds of external determinants such as groups, society, traditions, and ideological systems.[94][95] Individualist anarchism is not a single philosophy but refers to a group of individualistic philosophies that sometimes are in conflict.

19th century philosopher Max Stirner, usually considered a prominent early individualist anarchist (sketch by Friedrich Engels).

In 1793, William Godwin, who has often[96] been cited as the first anarchist, wrote Political Justice, which some consider to be the first expression of anarchism.[34][97] Godwin, a philosophical anarchist, from a rationalist and utilitarian basis opposed revolutionary action and saw a minimal state as a present "necessary evil" that would become increasingly irrelevant and powerless by the gradual spread of knowledge.[34][98] Godwin advocated extreme individualism, proposing that all cooperation in labour be eliminated on the premise that this would be most conducive with the general good.[99][100]

Godwin was a utilitarian who believed that all individuals are not of equal value, with some of us "of more worth and importance" than others depending on our utility in bringing about social good. Therefore he does not believe in equal rights, but the person's life that should be favoured that is most conducive to the general good.[100] Godwin opposed government because he saw it as infringing on the individual's right to "private judgement" to determine which actions most maximise utility, but also makes a critique of all authority over the individual's judgement. This aspect of Godwin's philosophy, stripped of utilitarian motivations, was developed into a more extreme form later by Stirner.[101]

The most extreme form of individualist anarchism, called "egoism,"[102] or egoist anarchism, was expounded by one of the earliest and best-known proponents of individualist anarchism, Max Stirner. Stirner's The Ego and Its Own, published in 1844, is a founding text of the philosophy.[103] According to Stirner, the only limitation on the rights of the individual is their power to obtain what they desire,[104] without regard for God, state, or morality.[105] To Stirner, rights were spooks in the mind, and he held that society does not exist but "the individuals are its reality".[106]

Stirner advocated self-assertion and foresaw Unions of Egoists, non-systematic associations continually renewed by all parties' support through an act of will,[107] which Stirner proposed as a form of organization in place of the state.[108] Egoist anarchists claim that egoism will foster genuine and spontaneous union between individuals.[109] "Egoism" has inspired many interpretations of Stirner's philosophy. It was re-discovered and promoted by German philosophical anarchist and LGBT activist John Henry Mackay. Individualist anarchism inspired by Stirner attracted a small following of European bohemian artists and intellectuals (see European individualist anarchism). Stirner's philosophy has been seen as a precedent of existentialism with other thinkers like Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard.Template:Cite


Main article: Anarcho-capitalism

Related to individualist anarchism but distinct from it, is anarcho-capitalism.

Anarcho-capitalism is an individualist anarchist[110] political philosophy that advocates the elimination of the state and the elevation of the sovereign individual in a free market. In an anarcho-capitalist society, law enforcement, courts, and all other security services would be provided by voluntarily-funded competitors such as private defense agencies rather than through taxation, and money would be privately and competitively provided in an open market. According to anarcho-capitalists, personal and economic activities would be regulated by the natural laws of the market and through private law rather than through politics. Furthermore, victimless crimes and crimes against the state would not exist.

Anarcho-capitalists argue for a society based on the voluntary trade of private property and services (including money, consumer goods, land, and capital goods) in order to maximize individual liberty and prosperity. However, they also recognize charity and communal arrangements as part of the same voluntary ethic.[111] Though anarcho-capitalists are known for asserting a right to private (individualized or joint non-public) property, some propose that non-state public/community property can also exist in an anarcho-capitalist society.[112] For them, what is important is that it is acquired and transferred without help or hindrance from the compulsory state. Anarcho-capitalist libertarians believe that the only just, and/or most economically-beneficial, way to acquire property is through voluntary trade, gift, or labor-based original appropriation, rather than through aggression or fraud.[113]

Anarcho-capitalists see free-market capitalism as the basis for a free and prosperous society. Murray Rothbard said that the difference between free-market capitalism and "state capitalism" is the difference between "peaceful, voluntary exchange" and a collusive partnership between business and government that uses coercion to subvert the free market.[114] "Capitalism," as anarcho-capitalists employ the term, is not to be confused with state monopoly capitalism, crony capitalism, corporatism, or contemporary mixed economies, wherein natural market incentives and disincentives are skewed by state intervention.[115] So they reject the state, based on the belief that states are aggressive entities which steal property (through taxation and expropriation), initiate aggression, are a compulsory monopoly on the use of force, use their coercive powers to benefit some businesses and individuals at the expense of others, create monopolies, restrict trade, and restrict personal freedoms via drug laws, compulsory education, conscription, laws on food and morality, and the like. The embrace of unfettered capitalism leads to considerable tension between anarcho-capitalists and many social anarchists that view capitalism and its market as just another authority. Anti-capitalist anarchists generally consider anarcho-capitalism a contradictio in terminis.[116]

Social anarchism

Main article: Social anarchism

Social anarchism calls for a system with public ownership of means of production and democratic control of all organizations, without any government authority or coercion. It is the largest school of thought in anarchism.[117] Social anarchism rejects private property, seeing it as a source of social inequality, and emphasises cooperation and mutual aid.[118]

Russian theorist Peter Kropotkin (1842–1921), who was influential in the development of anarchist communism.

Collectivist anarchism, also referred to as "revolutionary socialism" or a form of such,[119][120] is a revolutionary form of anarchism, commonly associated with Mikhail Bakunin and Johann Most.[121][122] Collectivist anarchists oppose all private ownership of the means of production, instead advocating that ownership be collectivised. This was to be achieved through violent revolution, first starting with a small cohesive group through acts of violence, or "propaganda by the deed", which would inspire the workers as a whole to revolt and forcibly collectivise the means of production.[121]

However, collectivization was not to be extended to the distribution of income, as workers would be paid according to time worked, rather than receiving goods being distributed "according to need" as in anarcho-communism. This position was criticised by anarchist communists as effectively "uphold[ing] the wages system".[123] Collectivist anarchism arose contemporaneously with Marxism but opposed the Marxist dictatorship of the proletariat, despite the stated Marxist goal of a collectivist stateless society.[124] Anarchist communist and collectivist ideas are not mutually exclusive; although the collectivist anarchists advocated compensation for labour, some held out the possibility of a post-revolutionary transition to a communist system of distribution according to need.[125]

Anarchist communism proposes that the freest form of social organisation would be a society composed of self-managing communes with collective use of the means of production, organised democratically, and related to other communes through federation.[126] While some anarchist communists favour direct democracy, others feel that its majoritarianism can impede individual liberty and favour consensus democracy instead. In anarchist communism, as money would be abolished, individuals would not receive direct compensation for labour (through sharing of profits or payment) but would have free access to the resources and surplus of the commune.[127][128] Anarchist communism does not always have a communitarian philosophy. Some forms of anarchist communism are egoist and strongly influenced by radical individualism,[129] believing that anarchist communism does not require a communitarian nature at all.

In the early 20th century, anarcho-syndicalism arose as a distinct school of thought within anarchism.[130] With greater focus on the labour movement than previous forms of anarchism, syndicalism posits radical trade unions as a potential force for revolutionary social change, replacing capitalism and the state with a new society, democratically self-managed by the workers. It is often combined with other branches of anarchism, and anarcho-syndicalists often subscribe to anarchist communist or collectivist anarchist economic systems.[131] An early leading anarcho-syndicalist thinker was Rudolf Rocker, whose 1938 pamphlet Anarchosyndicalism outlined a view of the movement's origin, aims and importance to the future of labour.[131][132]

Post-classical currents

Lawrence Jarach (left) and John Zerzan (right), two prominent contemporary anarchist authors. Zerzan is known as a main theorist of anarcho-primitivism, while Jarach is a noted advocate of post-left anarchy.

Anarchism continues to generate many philosophies and movements, at times eclectic, drawing upon various sources, and syncretic, combining disparate and contrary concepts to create new philosophical approaches. Since the revival of anarchism in the United States in the 1960s,[77] a number of new movements and schools have emerged.[133] Although according to Murray Rothbard it has traditions dating back centuries,[134] the contemporary form of anarcho-capitalism developed from radical anti-state libertarianism and individualist anarchism, drawing from Austrian School economics, study of law and economics and public choice theory,[135] while the burgeoning feminist and environmentalist movements also produced anarchist offshoots.

Anarcha-feminism developed as a synthesis of radical feminism and anarchism that views patriarchy (male domination over women) as a fundamental manifestation of compulsory government. It was inspired by the late 19th century writings of early feminist anarchists such as Lucy Parsons, Emma Goldman, Voltairine de Cleyre, and Dora Marsden. Anarcha-feminists, like other radical feminists, criticise and advocate the abolition of traditional conceptions of family, education and gender roles. Green anarchism (or eco-anarchism)[136] is a school of thought within anarchism which puts an emphasis on environmental issues,[137] and whose main contemporary currents are anarcho-primitivism and social ecology. Anarcho-pacifism is a tendency which rejects the use of violence in the struggle for social change[138][16]. It developed "mostly in Holland, Britain, and the United States, before and during the Second World War"[139].

Post-left anarchy is a tendency which seeks to distance itself from traditional left-wing politics and to escape the confines of ideology in general. Post-anarchism is a theoretical move towards a synthesis of classical anarchist theory and poststructuralist thought drawing from diverse ideas including post-modernism, autonomist marxism, post-left anarchy, situationism and postcolonialism.

Another recent form of anarchism critical of formal anarchist movements is insurrectionary anarchism[140], which advocates informal organization and active resistance to the state; its proponents include Wolfi Landstreicher and Alfredo M. Bonanno.

Topics of interest in anarchist theory

Intersecting and overlapping between various schools of thought, certain topics of interest and internal disputes have proven perennial within anarchist theory.

Free love

French individualist anarchist Emile Armand (1872–1962), who propounded the virtues of free love in the Parisian anarchist milieu of the early 20th century

An important current within anarchism is Free love.[141] Free love advocates sometimes traced their roots back to Josiah Warren and to experimental communities, viewed sexual freedom as a clear, direct expression of an individual's self-ownership. Free love particularly stressed women's rights since most sexual laws discriminated against women: for example, marriage laws and anti-birth control measures.[141] The most important American free love journal was Lucifer the Lightbearer (1883–1907) edited by Moses Harman and Lois Waisbrooker,[142] but also there existed Ezra Heywood and Angela Heywood's The Word (1872–1890, 1892–1893).[141] Also M. E. Lazarus was an important American individualist anarchist who promoted free love.[141]

In New York's Greenwich Village, bohemian feminists and socialists advocated self-realisation and pleasure for women (and also men) in the here and now. They encouraged playing with sexual roles and sexuality,[143] and the openly bisexual radical Edna St. Vincent Millay and the lesbian anarchist Margaret Anderson were prominent among them. Discussion groups organised by the Villagers were frequented by Emma Goldman, among others. Magnus Hirschfeld noted in 1923 that Goldman "has campaigned boldly and steadfastly for individual rights, and especially for those deprived of their rights. Thus it came about that she was the first and only woman, indeed the first and only American, to take up the defense of homosexual love before the general public."[144] In fact, before Goldman, heterosexual anarchist Robert Reitzel (1849–98) spoke positively of homosexuality from the beginning of the 1890s in his Detroit-based German language journal Der arme Teufel.

In Europe the main propagandist of free love within individualist anarchism was Emile Armand.[145] He proposed the concept of la camaraderie amoureuse to speak of free love as the possibility of voluntary sexual encounter between consenting adults. He was also a consistent proponent of polyamory.[145] In Germany the stirnerists Adolf Brand and John Henry Mackay were pioneering campaigners for the acceptance of male bisexuality and homosexuality.

More recently, the British anarcho-pacifist Alex Comfort gained notoriety during the sexual revolution for writing the bestseller sex manual The Joy of Sex. The issue of free love has a dedicated treatment in the work of french anarcho-hedonist philosopher Michel Onfray in such works as Théorie du corps amoureux : pour une érotique solaire (2000) and L'invention du plaisir : fragments cyréaniques (2002).

Libertarian education

Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia, Catalan anarchist pedagogue
Max Stirner wrote in 1842 a long essay on education called The False Principle of our Education. In it Stirner names his educational principle "personalist," explaining that self-understanding consists in hourly self-creation. Education for him is to create "free men, sovereign characters," by which he means "eternal characters...who are therefore eternal because they form themselves each moment.".[146]

In 1901, Catalan anarchist and free-thinker Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia established "modern" or progressive schools in Barcelona in defiance of an educational system controlled by the Catholic Church.[147] The schools' stated goal was to "educate the working class in a rational, secular and non-coercive setting". Fiercely anti-clerical, Ferrer believed in "freedom in education", education free from the authority of church and state.[148] Murray Bookchin wrote: "This period [1890s] was the heyday of libertarian schools and pedagogical projects in all areas of the country where Anarchists exercised some degree of influence. Perhaps the best-known effort in this field was Francisco Ferrer's Modern School (Escuela Moderna), a project which exercised a considerable influence on Catalan education and on experimental techniques of teaching generally." [149] La Escuela Moderna, and Ferrer's ideas generally, formed the inspiration for a series of Modern Schools in the United States,[147] Cuba, South America and London. The first of these was started in New York City in 1911. It also inspired the Italian newspaper Università popolare, founded in 1901.

Another libertarian tradition is that of unschooling and the free school in which child-led activity replaces pedagogic approaches. Experiments in Germany led to A. S. Neill founding what became Summerhill School in 1921.[150] Summerhill is often cited as an example of anarchism in practice.[151] However, although Summerhill and other free schools are radically libertarian, they differ in principle from those of Ferrer by not advocating an overtly political class struggle-approach.[152] In addition to organizing schools according to libertarian principles, anarchists have also questioned the concept of schooling per se. The term deschooling was popularized by Ivan Illich, who argued that the school as an institution is dysfunctional for self-determined learning and serves the creation of a consumer society instead.[153]

Internal issues and debates

The usage of violence is a subject of much dispute in anarchism.

Anarchism is a philosophy which embodies many diverse attitudes, tendencies and schools of thought; as such, disagreement over questions of values, ideology and tactics is common. The compatibility of capitalism,[4] nationalism and religion with anarchism is widely disputed. Similarly, anarchism enjoys complex relationships with ideologies such as Marxism, communism and capitalism. Anarchists may be motivated by humanism, divine authority, enlightened self-interest or any number of alternative ethical doctrines.

Phenomena such as civilization, technology (e.g. within anarcho-primitivism and insurrectionary anarchism), and the democratic process may be sharply criticised within some anarchist tendencies and simultaneously lauded in others. Anarchist attitudes towards race, gender and the environment have changed significantly since the modern origin of the philosophy in the 18th century.Template:Cite

On a tactical level, while propaganda of the deed was a tactic used by anarchists in the 19th century (e.g. the Nihilist movement), contemporary anarchists espouse alternative direct action methods such as nonviolence, counter-economics and anti-state cryptography to bring about an anarchist society. About the scope of an anarchist society, some anarchists advocate a global one, while others do so by local ones.[154] The diversity in anarchism has led to widely different use of identical terms among different anarchist traditions, which has led to many definitional concerns in anarchist theory.

Related pages


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    "In March 1871 the Commune took power in the abandoned city and held it for two months. Then Versailles seized the moment to attack and, in one horrifying week, executed roughly 20,000 Communards or suspected sympathizers, a number higher than those killed in the recent war or during Robespierre’s ‘Terror’ of 1793–94. More than 7,500 were jailed or deported to places like New Caledonia. Thousands of others fled to Belgium, England, Italy, Spain and the United States. In 1872, stringent laws were passed that ruled out all possibilities of organizing on the left. Not till 1880 was there a general amnesty for exiled and imprisoned Communards. Meanwhile, the Third Republic found itself strong enough to renew and reinforce Louis Napoleon’s imperialist expansion– in Indochina, Africa, and Oceania. Many of France’s leading intellectuals and artists had participated in the Commune (Courbet was its quasi-minister of culture, Rimbaud and Pissarro were active propagandists) or were sympathetic to it. The ferocious repression of 1871 and thereafter, was probably the key factor in alienating these milieux from the Third Republic and stirring their sympathy for its victims at home and abroad." (in Benedict Anderson (July -August 2004). "In the World-Shadow of Bismarck and Nobel". New Left Review. )
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  145. "The False Principle of our Education" by Max Stirner
  146. 147.0 147.1 Geoffrey C. Fidler (Spring/Summer 1985). "The Escuela Moderna Movement of Francisco Ferrer: "Por la Verdad y la Justicia"". History of Education Quarterly (History of Education Society) 25 (1/2): 103–132. doi:10.2307/368893. 
  147. Francisco Ferrer's Modern School
  148. Chapter 7, Anarchosyndicalism, The New Ferment. In Murray Bookchin, The Spanish anarchists: the heroic years, 1868-1936. AK Press, 1998, p.115. ISBN 187317604X
  149. Purkis, Jon (2004). Changing Anarchism. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 0719066948. 
  150. Andrew Vincent (2010) Modern Political Ideologies, 3rd edition, Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell p.129
  151. Suissa, Judith (September/October 2005). "Anarchy in the classroom". The New Humanist 120 (5). 
  152. Illich, Ivan (1971). Deschooling Society. New York: Harper and Row. ISBN 0-06-012139-4. 
  153. Ted Honderich, Carmen García Trevijano, Oxford Enciclopedy of Philosophy.

Further reading

  • Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas. Robert Graham, editor.
    • Volume One: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE to 1939) Black Rose Books, Montréal and London 2005. ISBN 1551642506.
    • Volume Two: The Anarchist Current (1939–2006) Black Rose Books, Montréal 2007. ISBN 9781551643113.
  • Anarchism, George Woodcock (Penguin Books, 1962).
  • Anarchy: A Graphic Guide, Clifford Harper (Camden Press, 1987): An overview, updating Woodcock's classic, and illustrated throughout by Harper's woodcut-style artwork.
  • The Anarchist Reader, George Woodcock (ed.) (Fontana/Collins 1977; ISBN 0006340113): An anthology of writings from anarchist thinkers and activists including Proudhon, Kropotkin, Bakunin, Malatesta, Bookchin, Goldman, and many others.
  • Anarchism: From Theory to Practice by Daniel Guerin. Monthly Review Press. 1970. ISBN-10: 0853451753
  • Anarchy through the times by Max Nettlau. Gordon Press. 1979. ISBN-10: 0849013976