Monday, January 26, 2009

What is anarchy?

When I hear people say "Oh it would be complete anarchy" I immediately ask what do you mean by anarchy? People shooting each other, committing suicide, and stealing? The answer is always yes. I ask, then you mean what we have now?



The connotation anarchy has today in society is associated with the words "chaos" or "without order," and so, by implication, anarchists desire social chaos and a return to the "laws of the jungle."

This couldn't be further from the truth. Anarchism is a political theory which aims to create anarchy, "the absence of a master, of a sovereign." [P-J Proudhon, What is Property , p. 264] In other words, anarchism is a political theory which aims to create a society within which individuals freely co-operate together as equals.

In the words of L. Susan Brown: "While the popular understanding of anarchism is of a violent, anti-State movement, anarchism is a much more subtle and nuanced tradition then a simple opposition to government power. Anarchists oppose the idea that power and domination are necessary for society, and instead advocate more co-operative, anti-hierarchical forms of social, political and economic organization." [The Politics of Individualism, p. 106]


This process of misrepresentation is not without historical parallel. For example, in countries which have considered government by one person (monarchy) necessary, the words "republic" or "democracy" have been used precisely like "anarchy," to imply disorder and confusion. Those with a vested interest in preserving the status quo will obviously wish to imply that opposition to the current system cannot work in practice, and that a new form of society will only lead to chaos.

Errico Malatesta expresses it:

"since it was thought that government was necessary and that without government there could only be disorder and confusion, it was natural and logical that anarchy, which means absence of government, should sound like absence of order." [Anarchy, p. 16]

Anarchists want to change this "common-sense" idea of "anarchy," so people will see that government and other hierarchical social relationships are both harmful and unnecessary:

"Change opinion, convince the public that government is not only unnecessary, but extremely harmful, and then the word anarchy, just because it means absence of government, will come to mean for everybody: natural order, unity of human needs and the interests of all, complete freedom within complete solidarity." [Op. Cit., pp. 16]

2 comments:

Barga said...

so what is anarchy?
You are saying taht I am wrong in my def., but never really say what the right def. is

Ander said...

better?

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