A2 Government and Politics: Anarchism Part One

Revision summary for EDEXCEL A2 Government and Politics - Anarchism Part One

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Define Anarchism and explain its Positive and Nega

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Anarchism - From Greek meaning 'without rule', with the origins being seen in Buddhism and English civil war. It was first used as a term of abuse for a violent destructive view and has been in common use since the French Revolution. The first political theorist was William Godwin (Enquiry concerning Political Justice) and the first positive use of term by Pierre Joseph Proudhon (What is property?) 1840.

Negative Meaning - Meaning breakdown of civilised order, chaos and destruction.

Positive Meaning - A systematic set of ideas which seeks to abolish laws and government in favour of a more spontaneous organisation. A stateless society. Pierre Joseph Proudhon 'A society seeks order in anarchy'.

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Give the four main features of an Anarchists view





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1. Individual Sovereignty - Individuals are naturally sovereign and no other individual, group or institution should be able to force or coerce them into doing something against their will. Example: Bakunin - 'To be personally free means every man living in a social mileu not to surrender his thought or will to any authority but his own reason and his own understanding of justice'.

2. Natural Order - Humans are capable of natural order as people have a natural propensity to organise their lives in a harmonious and peaceful fashion. The state therefore is artificial and unnecessary. Anarchists strongly reject Liberal Social Contract theory which justifies the state due to deficiencies in Human Nature. Social order arises spontaneously and does not require the machinery of government and law and order.

3. Positive view of Human Nature - Most anarchists have an extremely optimistic and utopian view of Human Nature. Humans are moral, co-operative, sympathetic, egalitarian, peaceful and naturally honest. They are autonomous, freedom loving and rational.

4. Human Nature is capable of being corrupted becoming selfish and aggressive - Human nature is malleable (plastic) , and is shaped by the social, economic and political circumstances in which an individual lives. Like Marxists they have a perfectible view of Human Nature, believe government breeds domination/subordination and creates insecurity and instability.

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Outline the Key Anarchist theorist view of Human N


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Michael Bakunin (State and Revolution 1870) - 'If there were established tomorrow a government or legislative council, a parliament made up exclusively of workers, those very workers who are now staunch democrats and socialists will become determined aristocrats, bold or timid worshippers of the principle of authority,and will also become oppressors and exploiters'.

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Explain an individualist anarchist view of Human N

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Based on Liberal idea of individual rationality - Individual sovereignty, individuals should be completely free to govern their own affairs. Theorist: William Godwin (Enquiry concerning Political Justice) - Human beings are essentially rational creatures inclined by education and enlightened judgement to live in accordance with truth and natural moral law.

Suspicious of Collective action - Prevents people from thinking for themselves and damages Humans ability to govern themselves. Max Stirners Egoism- Extreme individualism, an individual should exclude themselves completely from society. Theorist: William Godwin - 'Everything that is usually understood by the term cooperation is in some degree evil. He is the most perfect man to whom society is not a necessity but a luxury'.

Solution of Individualist Anarchists - Absolute Property Rights and the complete free market.

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Outline a Collectivist Anarchist view of Human Nat





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1. Based on socialist belief in collectivism - Humans are essentially social beings with the capacity to co-operate. Theorist: Peter Kropotkin (Mutual Aid - a factor od Evolution). Kropotkin studied animals in Siberia and came to the conclusion that most animals only develop in co-operative communities.

2. Rejection of Social Darwinism - Co-operation was the key to Human evolution. Humans were the most successful species because they had learnt to work together.

3. Suspicious of individual action - The Free Market and Private Property encourages people to be selfish and greedy and promotes conflict.

4. Solution - Mutualist or collective communities. Communal ownership of property. Theorist: Pierre Joseph Proudhon - 'All Property is theft'

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Outline the main individualist anarchist view of H


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William Godwin- William Godwin stressed individual liberty to a greater extent than collectivist anarchists. He had an optimistic view on Human Nature based on extreme liberal view of the potential rationality of Humans. He believed people were capable of moral perfection and the mistakes humanity makes are due to mistaken beliefs, and humans are essentially perfectible creatures.

Peter Kropotkin (Mutual Aid) - Argued that Human Kind like the higher elements of the Animal Kingdom would naturally form small scale co-operative communities. In his work he said mutual protection would lead to higher intellectual development, and the further growth of sociable habits secure progressive evolution. The unsociable species on the other hand are doomed to decay.

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Where do Liberal views of Freedom part company wit

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Both anarchists and Liberals are born with the basic belief that we are all born free and ought to remain so. However, Liberals conceed that freedom cannot be unconditional, Thomas Hobbes claimed that 'life like this would be nasty, brutish and short'.

Why do Anarchists reject the Liberal view?

Anarchists see any constraint on an individuals actions as offending the principle of individual sovereignty.

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In what two ways do Anarchists respond to Conserva

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1. Have an optimistic view of Human Nature - In a world where we are all returned to our natural state, as long as we are allowed to live in a moral and enlightened existence, we will take into account the interests of others. We have a natural empathy for our fellow Human beings.

2. Individuals are neither good or bad - An individual is not born with any integral moral code, individuals would control their own behaviour naturally.

Critic of Anarchisms response:

Rousseau ultimately rejected the anarchist utopia on the grounds that such a society could only be very small in scale. Godwin, Bakunin and others remained more optimistic. The Italian Anarchist Enrico Malatesta expressed the idea of a society of free, caring individuals in sentimental fashion 'Men must love each other and look on each other as members of one family, if things are to go well with them'.

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Explain three criticisms that Anarchists make of L

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1. Individuals cannot give up their own liberty in this way if they are to remain true to their nature - Liberty is a birth right which cannot be conceeded, Its abandonment would be a denial of Humanity.

2. Consent theory implies that there will be always a majority and a minority - Henry Thoreau argued that a government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice. Thus, only if all the people offer their consent could the setting up of a state be justified. This seems an unlikely event, in any case it is invalidated by anarchists third objection.

3. Even if consent is justly arrived at, it cannot be binding on any future generations - For the state to be legitimate it would have to be subject to continuous assent. This is clearly impractical, any decisions that have to be made should be reached through direct democracy.

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Explain three Anarchist arguments against the exis

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1. Anarchists reject authority - Individuals are free autonomous creatures, and the state limits freedom and equality. It limits freedom as no one has the right to influence another persons life and is based on political inequality, leading to a pattern of dominance with some ruling and some ruled. The power of one person over another enslaves, oppresses and limits human life- and corrupts both those in authority and those subject to it. Theorist: Sebastian Faure - 'Anarchism is the negation of the principle of authority'.

2. The authority of the state is not based on consent it is compulsory - Reject Liberal social contract as the state is not based on voluntary agreement. People become subject to state authority either through birth or conquest.

3. The State is coercive and destructive - Laws made by the state must be obeyed because they are backed up by the force of law and threat of punishment. The state claims the right to deprive people of their property, liberty and their life. Individuals are required to fight, kill and die in wars: Randolph Bourne 'war is the health of the state'. Emma Goldman: 'Government is symbolised by the club, the gun, the handcuff or the prison'.

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Give two other Anarchist arguments against the sta

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1. The state exploits people - The state robs individuals of their property through a system of taxation backed up by the force of law and the threat of punishment. The state acts in alliance with the rich and powerful to oppress the poor and the weak.  Theorist: Enrico Malatesta - the state 'instruments are the police agent, the tax collector, the soldier and the gaoler'. Theorist: Michael Bakunin - 'as long as political power exists there will always be rulers and ruled, masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited'.

2. The state is damaging and unnecessary - Human Nature is perfectible, potentially good. Humans are capable of ordering themselves without a state, the state is therefore unnatural and artificial. But Humans are corrupted by political authority and economic inequality. 'Any power corrupts absolutely'. The state is a concentrated evil that forces people to conform.

Solution: Voluntary communities - In which individuals freely choose support accepted norms of behaviour.

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Why do Marxists believe a transitionary 'Dictators

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Marxists believe that a successful transition to stateless communism will require a 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat', this would provide the means of purging human nature of the remains of old class society in preparation for the final stage of history - the withering away of the state and the emergence of a classless stateless society.

How do anarchists criticise this view?

Anarchists feel that the recreation of any sort of state will place power in the hand of a tiny minority who would cease to be workers and become oppressors. They have a more positive and less historical view of Human Nature and do not believe that we need a transitionary stage.

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Give three fundamental features of Collectivism An




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1. Socialist belief in collectivism - Anarchist conclusions reached by pushing socialism to its logical extreme.

2. Human Nature is malleable (different in each society) - Humans have an innate capacity for collective action. Theorist: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon - 'All property is theft'.

3. Social Equality and Collective Action is possible without a state

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Give three fundamental features of Individualist A

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1. Liberal idea of the sovereign individual - Anarchist conclusions reached by pushing classical Liberalism to its logical extreme. Theorist: Max Stirner 'Let each of you be an all powerful I'.

2. Humans have an innate rational and self reliant Human Nature

3. A belief in absolute negative freedom - absence of any constraints upon the individual. The individual and state are always in conflict, consequently the individual is capable of governing themselves without law and order and a state.

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Provide a broad definition of Collectivist Anarchi

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Collectivist anarchists argue that humans are essentially cooperative and social beings. They hold that once free from the influence of oppressive ideas and institutions, people will spontaneously combine to live and work together in a non-competitive environment. This is seen in the different models of collectivist anarchism: Mutualism, Anarcho-Syndicalism and Anarcho-Communism.

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Outline the theory of Mutualism's view of property

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1. View of Property - Proudhon condemned capitalist exploitation and famously claimed that 'All property is theft'. However, he distinguished between private property (anything that could be used to exploit someone else) and possessions which he allowed (the right of a man to control his dwelling and the land and tools he needed to work and live).

2. Equal Property Ownership - To give security to all the parties in a mutualist society. Proudhon insists that initially all property should be distributed roughly evenly. All members should have equal power and are self sufficient enough to co-operate but not be too dependant on each other. In this environment parties have an incentive to negotiate rather than fight for things they seek.

3. Labour notes - Mutualism is based on a labour theory of value which holds that the actual price or worth of a product or service is the amount of labour that was undertaken to produce it. Receiving anything more or less than this is called exploitation. For Proudhon economic wealth wouldn't be based on money, but on contractual exchange operating through vouchers.

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Outline a mutualist's view of Bargaining and contr

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1. Bargaining and Contracts - This would be a method of co-operation in his mutualist society. Individuals and groups would negotiate directly with one another for whatever they wanted, they should pay for these goods or services with an equivalent amount of labour. Therefore capitalist profit is not possible, everyone receives full value of his/her labour.

2. Peoples bank - Proudhon believed that a peoples bank should be set up for the purpose of co-ordinating and administering the exchange of products amongst workers and providing credit with normal interest rate. This would be 'formed by the whole community for the benefit of all, with no interests enacted on loans, except enough to cover risk and expenses'.

3. Moral Principles - In contrast to individualist anarchists mutualism requires a moral principle to exist called 'the duty of equivalent exchange', they are constrained by collective duty as well as their own interest to act justly as they exercise their independant judgement. Once workers had organised credit and labour, and replaced property by possession, forms of exploitation would disappear with state.

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Outline a mutualist view of Federalism and Free As

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1. Federalism -  In his vision self employed artisans, peasants and co-operatives would trade their products on the market. For Proudhon factories and other large workplaces would be run by labour associations operating on the principle of direct democracy. Society would be organised by a federation of free communes. In 1863 Proudhon said 'All my economic ideas as developed over twenty five years can be summed up in the words agricultural industrial federation'.

2. Free Association - Based on the principle of voluntary association. Any member may withdraw from the mutualist society, taking with him what belongs to him. A true mutual society is the product of its members; it has no power over them except what has been accepted by mutual agreement.

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Define Anarcho-Syndicalism and explain its two pri

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Anarcho-syndicalists look to the trade union movement both as a means of organising the proletariat for revolution and also the belief that unions can organise workers to destroy capitalism and the state, by organising the revolutionary seizure and democratic control of the factories, this lays the foundations of a new society 'within the shell of the old'.

1. As the fighting organisation of the workers against the employers to enforce the demands of the workers to improve pay and conditions in our present society and ultimately as the tool for removing our current corrupt capitalist system.

2. To provide a form of organisation around which a new anarchist society could be built. Anarchist trade unions provide a school for the intellectual training of workers to make them aquainted with the technical management of production and economic life in general so that when a revolutionary situation arises they'll be ready.

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Explain an Anarcho-Syndicalists view of Workers so

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1. Workers solidarity - Anarcho-syndicalists believe that all workers no matter what their gender or ethnic group are in a similar situation in regard to their bosses. In a capitalist system any gains or losses made by some workers from or to bosses will eventually affect all workers. Therefore to liberate themselves all workers must support one another in their class conflict. Moreover, anarcho-syndicalists believe that workers organisations should be self managing, they should not have bosses or business agents, rather the workers should be able to make all the decisions that affect them themselves.

2. Federal Organisation - A socialist / anarchist society cannot be imposed from above by a state or by a revolutionary party along the lines of Marxism/Leninism. The organisation of anarcho-syndicalists is running from the bottom up putting the right to freedom of each individual above everything else. It would be constructed on the local level: workers in each locality would join the union, no central control. Regional Level: trade unions would combine in a rural cartel - they would arrange collective action of all trades. National Level - Grouped according to districts and regions. E.g. National Federation of Labour Cartels. World Wide Level: Build a world wide union of all workers.

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Outline an Anarcho-Syndicalists view of Direct Act

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Direct Action - Unlike mainstream trade unions Anarcho-syndicalists believe that only direct action, that is, action concentrated on directly attaining a goal, as opposed to indirect action will allow workers to liberate themselves. They would therefore not be inclined to negotiate with political parties and would be more in favour of industrial action and ultimately a general strike.

Economic Management - Syndicalism is an alternative economic system. Anarcho-syndicalists view it as a potential force for revolutionary social change, replacing capitalism and the state with a new society democratically elected by the workers. Would seek to abolish the wage system, the labour cartels would take over the distribution of goods in each community, workers would have to manage all factories.

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Explain an Anarcho-Communists view of Human Nature

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1. Sociable Human Nature - Human beings are naturally sociable and therefore should lead a shared and communal existence.  It is only our current system under which we are governed over by a state and economic capitalism that encourages competititon, greed, conflict and inequality. Anarcho-communism rests on an even more optimistic view of Human Nature than most anarchism, people will work without material incentives, offenders can be dealt with informally, natural Human solidarity would lead to obliteration of all property distinctions.

2. Anti-hierachical structures - Challenges the assumption that communism could only be introduced in an authoritarian state, productive work would be organised by voluntary associations of workers. Co-ordinated  by local communes whose task it would be to identify the needs of the people living in the area. Communes would form together in federations.

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Outline an Anarcho-Communists view of Economic Org

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1. Economic Organisation - Anarcho-communism stresses egalitarianism and the abolition of social hierachy and class distinctions that arise from unequal wealth distribution. Peter Kropotkin envisaged a society made up of largely self sufficient communes and denied that people should be rewarded for their individual contributions to work. Natural human solidarity meant that people would willingly work for the common good, and to the extent that it was possible, all goods and services should be provided free of charge.

2. Limited labour time - Kropotkin argued that based upon the technology of his day people would need to put in no more than five hours of labour a day. Moreover each day each worker in the society would have five hours to devote to science, art and individual needs which do not come under the category of necessities, but will do so later on.

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Outline an Anarcho-Communists view of Individual c

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1. Individual Creativity - Individuality and individual creativity was for Kropotkin of the greatest importance. 'To give leisure and the possibility of developing everyones intellectual capacities were to be obtained for all, then the social revolution must guarantee daily bread for all. We would be free to develop our creative instincts 'as soon as his material wants are satisfied, other needs of an artistic character will thrust themselves forward the more ardently'.

2. The problem of the free-loader - In 'The Conquest of the Bread' Kropotkin devoted a lengthy chapter to rebutting common objections that no-one would work without compulsion, free association was the solution. Kropotkin went on to argue that economists arguments in favour of property actually only prove that man really produces most when he works in freedom.

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Define Individualist Anarchism and its view of Hum

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Individualist Anarchists - Individualist Anarchists argue that humans do not require the security of any collective or social institution. Rationality implies an awareness or your own situation in the world, and your capacity to perform the actions necessary to deal with this. For anarchists, humans have an unlimited capacity to regulate their own lives. There is no knowledge that is unattainable and no problems that cannot be overcome.

Self Interested Human Nature (Egoism) - Egoism is the belief that it is morally right to do what is in your own self interest. Stirner differed from the collectivist Anarchists in that he had a less positive view of the potential of Human Nature. Individuals are driven principally by the drive to achieve self interest, when someone is doing things without any personal benefit they are really following their own selfish interest. 'My flesh is not their flesh, my mind is not their mind' and they should reject any attempts to restrict or deny their uniqueness.

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Pete Langley - Get Revising founder


Good question and answer on anarchism



It's really good but why are there only half the questions, for example of the first slide "define anarchism and explain its positive and nega". It makes it a bit difficult to orgnise my notes.

Regardless of that, it's amazing. It must have taken you such a long time. Thank you.



These cards are a great way to revise but it's kinda hard to fully understand the answers as the questions are not completed.

Thanks for the resources, they are helping quite a bit 

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