What is Anarchism?

Usually when people find out that I’m an anarchist, most people either have no clue as to what it means, or assume that anarchism is somehow synonymous with chaos, with violence or gangs. So, whilst I have the time (ie. am procrastinating from doing more important things) I thought I would write a post about what anarchism means to me.

The word anarchy comes from the Greek prefix “an”, meaning ‘without’ or ‘in the absence of’ and “archos” meaning ‘ruler’ or ‘authority’. It is a common misconception that ‘anarchy’ purely means ‘without government’ – that could mean anything – but it more appropriately seen as ‘without hierarchy’ of any kind. Anarchism is not a lack of order but a lack of rule.

“Anarchism is a movement for human freedom. It is concrete, democratic, egalitarian… it is a direct challenge by the underprivileged to their oppression and exploitation” – Stuart Christie

What anarchists seek to do is abolish all forms of oppression, all forms of hierarchical control. As Susan Brown put it – “Anarchists oppose the idea that power and domination are necessary for society, and instead advocate a more co-operative, anti-hierarchical forms of social, political and economic organisation”. This manifests itself in not only a resistance to the state, capital and religious authority, but actively creating an alternative, whether that is in a housing co-operative, a social centre, a community gardening project, or something bigger.

Essentially, what we are after is a world where politicians, governments and state officials are superfluous… Where people organise with mutual respect and in non-coercive relations… Where people live in naturally defined communities and share the means of production and distribution equally. We are idealists, but not dreamers, we know that the perfect society cannot be won tomorrow, but that progress towards a more meaningful society is borne from the will to resist any and all injustice, and a desire to create something better.

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  1. Excellent analysis. I particularly liked the qualifier ‘without hierarchy’. The only people who benefit from having a ruling class is the ruling class.

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