Why do anarchists view the state as evil?

  • Anarchism is distinguished by its rejection of the state in all forms.
  • Emphasise state is: absolute; compulsory; coercive; oppressive and destructive. Nothing less than legalised oppression operating in the interests of the powerful, propertied and privileged.
  • Basis - idea that political authority in any form is absolutely corrupting.
  • Although they are optimistic of human nature, existence of power creates tyrants
  • More extreme version of liberal fear of power and state power is untameable.
1 of 7

How do the anarchist and Marxist views of the stat

  • Anarchists view the state as a form of concentrated evil. Rooted in theory of human nature and belief of any form of power causing corruption.
  • Oppressive character of state heightened by authority it exercises. Compulsory (no choice); coercive (punishes those who challenge authority); absolute (knows no limits); exploitative (taxation); destructive (war for and aggrandisement- kill or be killed). 
  • Marxist theory - state's oppressive nature derives from class system and not human nature. State is an instrument of class oppression, wielded by Bourgeoisie to suppress proletariat.
  • Haven't rejected all state as evil and oppressive. Called for 'dicatatorship of proletariat'. Transition stage to communism - suppressing dispossessed bourgeoisie. counter-revolution stopped.
  • Proletarian state will 'wither away' once classes are abolished and full communism constructed. State therefore does not need to be overthrown and cannot be destroyed whilst class system survives.
2 of 7

Explain the link between anarchism and individuali

  • Individualism is the belief in the primacy of the individual over any social group or collective body. It can take the form of either
    • methodological individualism, implying that the individual is central to any political theory or social explanation;
    • or ethical individualism which implies that society should be constructed so as to benefit the individual, giving moral priority to individual rights
  • Anarchism is linked to individualism through the idea of the sovereign individual. When individualism is taken to its logical conclusion, it implies that absolute and unlimited autonomy resieds within each human being. From this perspective, any constraint on the individual is evil, especially when imposed by the state - a sovereign, compulsory and coercive body. Extreme individualism therefore logically implies anarchism.
  • Reflected in the individualist anarchist tradition and its main sub-strands, anarcho-capitalism and egoism.
3 of 7

To what extent is anarchism a utopian creed?

  • Utopianism can either refer to a style of political theorising that develops a critique of the existing order by constructing a positive model of a perfect alternative, or to deluded or fanciful thinking. Anarchism is linked to a positive model of utopianism in that anarchists have a highly optimistic view of human nature and so believe that the future anatrchist society will be perfect in a number of basic respects: it will be characterised by unrestricted freedom, absolute equality, peace and social harmony. A stateless society is therefore an ideal society.
  • Critics such as conservatives and liberals, however, argue that anarchism is linked to utopianism in the negative sense because of its unrealistic view of human nature and a harmonious stateless society is unachievable.
  • Anarchists argue their vision is achievable on the theories of human nature and institutions.
  • At heart lies belief in unlimited possibilities of human and social development. Human beings are perfectible and spontaneous harmony and natural order are realisable- people's propensity for sociability and cooperation or principled and rational conduct.
  • Collective anarchists- propensities fostered by statelessness and common ownership. 
  • Individualist anarchists achieved through unregulated capitalism.
4 of 7

Is anarchism closer to socialism or liberalism?

  • Anarchism is close to both socialism and liberalism. It can be viewed as either ultra-liberalism, an extreme form of liberal individualism; or as ultra-socialism, am extreme form of socialist collectivism.
  • Individualist anarchism strongly overlaps with classical liberalism. Common commitment to egotistical individualism, with negative freedom and the market. However, whereas anarchists endorse unlimited freedom and reject all forms of political authority, liberals endorse freedom under the law and view the state as at least a necessary evil.
  • Collectivist anarchism overlaps in particular with Marxism, the two doctrines sharing a preference for cooperation and collective action, common ownership and an ultimate belief in a stateless society. However, Marxist socialists believe in a temporary socialist state that will 'wither away' and reject the anarchist call for the state to be abolished and not replaced. Social democrats differ from anarchists in that they view the state in positive terms, as a means of constraining social injustice, taming capitalism and promoting redistribution of welfare.
5 of 7

'Anarchism is strong on moral principles but weak

  • Anarchism is strong on moral principles in the sense that it is quick to make moral judgements: freedom is good, power is bad; human nature is good, states are bad.
  • It is weak on political practice in the sense that it cannot logically participate in mainstream ballot-box and party politics due to its rejection of the state, which substantially weakens its political impact.
  • On the other hand, anarchism may be weak on moral principels in that its optimistic view of human nature is perceived by critics as utopian in the negative sense, and its rejection of the state is perceived as naive or deluded.
  • Anarchism may be perceived as strong on political practice in its advocacy of direct action and participatory democracy, which are widely perceived as more effective and less corrupt strategies than party politics.
6 of 7



  •  The great are only great because we are on our knees. Let us rise!
  • All parties without exception, when they seek for power, are varieties of absolutism.
  • When deeds speak, words are nothing.

William Godwin:

  • God himself has no right to be a tyrant.
  • There must be room for the imagination to exercise its powers; we must conceive and apprehend a thousand things which we do not actually witness.
  • The freedom of all is essential to my freedom. -Bakunin
  • Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains. -Rosseau
7 of 7


No comments have yet been made

Similar Government & Politics resources:

See all Government & Politics resources »See all Anarchism resources »