Government and Politics 

Unit 3B: Anarchism 

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  • Created on: 11-06-12 15:07
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Defined by the central belief that political authority (esp. the state) is both evil and
The defining feature of anarchism is its opposition to the state and the accompanying
institutions of government and law.
Anarchists have a preference for stateless society in which free individuals manage their
affairs by voluntary agreement, without compulsion or coercion.
However, the ideological character of anarchism is blurred by two factors.
1. Anarchism is stronger on moral assertion than on analysis and explanation.
Anarchism is based upon the assumption that human beings are moral creatures,
instinctively drawn to freedom and autonomy.
Therefore, its energies have often been more directed towards awakening these moral
instincts than to analysing the system of state oppression and explaining how it can
or should be challenged.
2. Anarchism is in a sense, less a unified and coherent ideology in its own right, and
more a point of overlap between two rival ideologies ­ liberalism and socialism ­ the
point at which both ideologies reach anti-statist conclusions.
Anarchism thus has a dual-character: it can be interpreted as a form of `ultra-liberalism'
(which resembles extreme liberal individualism) or `ultra-socialism' (which resembles
extreme socialist collectivism)
Nevertheless, anarchism is justified in being treated as a separate ideology, since it is
united by a series of broader principles and positions.
The most significant of these are the following:

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2. Natural order
3. Anticlericalism
4. Economic freedom
Sébastien Faure defined anarchism as `the negation of
the principle of Authority'.
The anarchist case against authority is simple and clear:
authority is an offence against the principles of
freedom and equality.
Anarchism is unique in that it endorses the principles of
absolute freedom and unrestrained political equality.
Authority is based upon:
Political inequality
The alleged right of one person to influence the behaviour of others, enslaves,
oppresses and limits human life.…read more

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Interfere with private morality and thinking.
The authority of the state is also compulsory.
Anarchists reject the liberal notion that political authority arises from voluntary
They argue instead that individuals become subject to state authority either by being born in
a particular country or through conquest.
The state is a coercive body whose laws must be obeyed because they are backed up by
the threat of punishment.
For Emma Goldman, government was symbolized by `the club, the gun, the handcuff, or
the prison'.…read more

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Anarchists not only regard the state as evil, but also believe it to be unnecessary.
While liberals believed that a stateless society will cause chaos and that ORDER IS
Godwin, in contrast, suggested that human beings are essentially rational creatures:
with an educated mind and tolerant judgement to live in harmony with truth and universal
moral laws.
He thus believed that people have a natural propensity to organize their own lives in a
harmonious and peaceful fashion.…read more

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Anarchists have also criticised the CHURCH since it is one form of compulsory authority.
This is the reason why anarchism prospered in countries such as Italy, Spain and France
where there was strong religious traditions.
Anarchist objections to organized religion serve to highlight broader criticisms of authority in
For example Religion has often been seen as the source of authority itself.
The idea of God represents the notion of a `supreme being' who commands ultimate
and unquestionable authority.…read more

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In the nineteenth century, anarchists usually worked within the working-class
movement and subscribed to a broadly socialist social philosophy.
Capitalism was understood in class terms: a `ruling class' exploits and oppresses `the
However, this `ruling class' was seen to encompass all those who command wealth, power
or privilege in society. This included kings and princes, politicians etc.
Bakunin thus argued that in every developed society three social groups can be identified:
1. a vast majority who are exploited;
2.…read more


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