‘Anarchy’ does not mean ‘chaos’. Well, to be fair, it does, but anarchists have spent the last 150-or-so years trying to redefine it. Success in winning the wider population to our usage has been…mixed.

Anyway, as defined by anarchists, ‘anarchy’ means organised society not based on coercion. By ‘not based on coercion’ I mean that things like allocation of resources, organisation of labour, maintenance of infrastructure, and so forth rely on free consent, not (as in our own society) on the threat and use of arrest and imprisonment: individuals are free to order their lives as they see fit, as long as they do not violently endanger others.

This means that people collectively will have no more (but no fewer) rights than people individually – the right to defend themselves and organise and administrate themselves, to meet force with force and to withdraw services, but not to coerce anyone, not to use force for economic or social purposes.

Anarchists are neither lovers of violence nor pacifists. They simply believe that if something would be wrong when done by an ordinary human being, it is wrong when done by the state and its representatives.

Anarchism is also more broadly concerned with contesting hierarchies and power imbalances in general – those arising from wealth, from sex, from race, from any source.

Power imbalances cannot be entirely eliminated – if I know something you don’t, I have more power than you. But society can be designed so that, like the movements of molecules in still air, they remain so tiny and evenly distributed as to cancel out.

A hierarchical society is one arranged so that, like the movements of air molecules in a gust of wind, power imbalance combine with and reinforce each other, producing ever greater differences between people. The result is the creation of tyrants on the one hand and slaves on the other, and pressure on those in between to be simply a mix of the two.

Some posts of mine that discuss anarchism and anarchy:

Different approaches to defining ‘state-less’

Anarchism and other styles of socialism

But how can people give up domination? People love dominating each other!

What if there’s no police? How will we cope?

Authoritarianism isn’t necessary for self-control

When is an anarchist not an anarchist? When they’re al-Qaeda

The (or teh) Revolution is coming, trust me

Republican virtue and democratic authoritarianism in Machiavelli

Why is anarchism marginalised?

11 Responses to ““Anarchism”?”

  1. db0 Says:

    Well written, this page (and the others you have like it) just prompted me to write a few of them on my own ideological combo.

  2. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    Anarcho-pragmatiste, I’m intrigued by your label and symbol – but your site seems to be mainly in French, and as often as I cast the bones, I can’t quite decipher it.

    What is the black-and-blue flag meant to represent?

  3. Anarcho-pragmatiste Says:

    It represents nothing else than the fact that I try to join together all anarchist tendencies.

  4. Anarcho-pragmatiste Says:

    Even though I become more and more mutualist.

  5. Margaret Says:

    I just found your site. I want to write a thesis on anarchy, and I think these posts may come in handy. Would you mind if I printed some of them out and kept them for future reference?

  6. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    Hi Margaret, that’s no problem as long as you say where they’re from. Don’t put too much importance on what I say though, I’m just a guy with a computer.

  7. Margaret Says:

    Thank you.

  8. My Bookmarx 02/11/2010 « بهدوء Says:

    […] “Anarchism”? « Directionless Bones […]

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