What is anarchism?

Meaning of Anarchism

Anarchism is a political philosophy that, in favor of individual freedom, rejects all forms of authority .

The word anarchy is derived from the Greek terms “ a ” (not) but “ arché ” (government) and literally means no government .


The term anarchism originates from the Greek word anarkhia , which means ” absence of government “. It represents the state of the ideal society in which the common good would result from the coherent combination of the interests of each one.

In common sense, the word anarchy is used as a synonym for disorder , chaos , or violence . However, anarchist thinkers do not deny development and social order , but believe that they can be achieved without a state, without a government, without a monopoly on power.

Anarchism is a political theory that rejects authoritarianism and fights for a better society based on freedom, cooperation and equality.

Anarchism accuses state power of legitimizing itself through oppression and domination , imposing private property, and concentrating privileges and wealth on a minority of the population.

Anarchists do not reject politics as such, but bourgeois institutional politics, which they consider a corrupt space where individual autonomy is lost.

Types of Anarchism

Although the central idea is the same, anarchism is divided into two different currents . This is because some anarchists have different opinions on the same subject.

The main anarchist currents are individualist anarchism and collectivist anarchism.

Individualist anarchism opposes collectivist anarchism because it believes that collectivity can end up resulting in authoritarianism.

Consider that once a group of individuals joins together, that group may end up exercising some authority over the others.

On the other hand, collectivist anarchism opposes individualist anarchism because it believes that individualism can result in the same logic as capitalism.

In this case, power would be centralized, for example, if an individual ended up standing out more than the others in a certain activity.

Anarchists believe that human beings, by nature, are capable of living in freedom and harmony . Therefore, they argue that voluntary social and economic organizations should replace existing authoritarian and coercive state institutions.

Anarchism rejects any form of authority insofar as it sees it as the source of human ills, be it earthly or divine authority.

As a consequence, anarchists tend to reject any religion as an ideology as well.

The State and its bureaucratic organization is the repressive organ par excellence, since it deprives the individual of all freedom, denies him the right to decide on his own life, imposing on him a series of obligations and behaviors from which the individual cannot escape.

Characteristics of Anarchism

  • Seek the end of the State;
  • He rejects the power of the state;
  • He rejects authoritarianism;
  • Critique of capitalism;
  • Critique of the differences between social and economic classes;
  • It does not deny social order or development, but without the influence of a government;
  • Valorization of economic and social institutions that are made up of voluntary members;
  • Against the monopolization of property (private and public);
  • Require a great ethical sense of people for it to work.

Likewise, the state is the main enemy of anarchists because it is considered the creator and maintainer of the capitalist economic order.

Despite being an important political philosophy critical of authoritarianism , anarchism was not constituted as a single doctrine, it being more correct to speak of several currents, which diverge from each other mainly with respect to the means to reach a stateless society .

For example, Pierre Joseph Proudhon and Max Stirner believed that anarchism should be achieved through peaceful change of coercive institutions, while Mikhail Bakunin advocated violent revolution to destroy the state machine.

Other important anarchist theorists are: William Godwin, Henry David Thoureau, Leon Tolstoy, Piotr Kropotkin, Errico Malatesta, Emma Goldman and Buenaventura Durruti.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, anarchists were of great importance in countries such as Russia (where they were persecuted by the Stalinists), France, Italy, and Spain.

Anarchism also had a great influence on the Latin American labor movement , brought by Italian and Spanish immigrants, including in Brazil, where anarcho-syndicalist organizations led the general strike of 1917, one of the most comprehensive labor mobilizations in the country’s history.

Since the 1960s, anarchism has been rescued by young members of counterculture movements, such as hippies, punks and student groups.

More recently, the direct action methods and anti-capitalist character of anarchism have been the inspiration for new social movements that are organizing against neoliberalism.

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