Anarchism seems to be defined many ways by many different sources.
Mostdictionary definitions define anarchism as the absence of government. A leadingmodern dictionary, Webster’s Third International Dictionary, defines anarchismbriefly but accurately as, “a political theory opposed to all forms ofgovernment and governmental restraint and advocating voluntary cooperation andfree association of individuals and groups in order to satisfy theirneeds. ” Other dictionaries describe anarchism with similar definitions.
TheBritannica-Webster dictionary defines the word anarchism as, “a politicaltheory that holds all government authority to be unnecessary and undesirable andadvocates a society based on voluntary cooperation of individuals andgroups. ” William Godwin was the first proclaimed anarchist in history andthe first to write about anarchism. Godwin published a book called PoliticalJustice in 1793 which first introduced his ideas about anarchism, Godwin wasforgotten about, however, and after his death Pierre Joseph Proudhon became aleading anarchist figure in the world.
His book What is Property? incorporatedgreater meaning to the word anarchism; anarchism became not only a rejection ofestablished authority but a theory opposing ownership of land and property aswell. Anarchism fully blossomed as a defined theory when Russian anarchistsMikhail Bakunin (1814-1876) and Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) started to write andspeak. Bakunin had a major influence in the world and introduced anarchism tomany people.
Kropotkin was one of the many people inspired by Bakunin. Kropotkinwrote many books on anarchism, including Muitual Aid, Fields Factories andWorkshops, and The Conquest of Bread, and greatly aided in the evolution of thetheory of anarchism. As the 20th century emerged anarchism began to peak and thedefinition of anarchism became concrete with the growth of new anarchist writersand movements.
The execution and imprisonment of eight anarchists in Chicago in1886 sparked anarchism’s growth in the United States. The “HaymarketEight” flourished anarchists such as Voltairine de Cleyre and Lucy Parsons. Parsons was born into slavery and later became an anarchist and an ardentspeaker and working class rebel; the Chicago police labeled Parsons,”. . .
more dangerous than a thousand rioters. ” Although the wordanarchism is understood by many in its classic sense (that defined bydictionaries and by anarchists of history), the word often seems to be misusedor misunderstood. Anarchism, because of the threat it imposes upon establishedauthority, has been historically, and is still, misused by power holders asviolence and chaos. The claim that anarchism is chaos was refuted long ago byAlexander Berkman when he wrote: I must tell you, first of all, whatanarchism is not. It is not bombs, disorder, or chaos. It is not robbery ormurder.
It is not a war of each against all. It is not a return to barbarianismor to the wild state of man. Anarchism is the very opposite of all that. So,what is anarchism? All of the pro-anarchy sources I found say that, basically,anarchism is a political philosophy that embraces democracy and freedom, andseeks to destroy all forms of coercion and oppression.
The root of humanoppression is seen as authority and inequality. This is why they think it is theperfect ideological guide for destroying poverty, racism, and sexism. All theseoppressions are systems of power based on hierarchy. Hierarchy means top-down,like a pyramid. Hierarchical constructions of power create positions of relativeprivilege and relative oppression.
Capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy(male supremacy) are also top-down constructions of power. Anarchismconceptualizes power differently. Instead of power over, anarchism proposespower with, cooperation. This means that social systems and institutions shouldbe based on cooperation and compromising. Power would rest in individuals andthe collectives they freely associate into. Anarchism revolves around five basicprinciples: 1) equality; 2) democracy; 3) free association; 4) mutual aid; 5)diversity.
Equality can have many different meanings. In regards to theanarchist political philosophy, they speak of equality in reference to power. This doesn’t mean they want a new society based on a totalitarian vision ofeveryone looking and acting the same, in fact they see strength in diversity. Instead they mean that everyone should have equal access to power, to determinehow he or she wants to live his or her lives.
It appears the best way for equalpower to be institutionalized is through different forms of democracy. Democracyis a vague notion, but in general it seeks to empower everyone to have an equalsay in decisions that affect their lives. This is only useful if it extends toall areas of social life. Capitalism is undemocratic, in my opinion, especiallywhen combined with racism and sexism. Free Association is the idea thatindividuals should not be forced into social arrangements against their will.
Inthe world today if you are born into poverty, most likely you will die inpoverty. In America, children cannot expect to live at a higher standard thantheir parents. In an anarchist society collectives-or organizations, would becreated for every purpose humanly desired, of people freely associated withequal power to determine its future. This vision extends to all forms of socialarrangements – from your neighborhood, to your city, to a neighborhoodrestaurant, etc.
When people work together they can accomplish much more thanwhen they work against each other. I do believe that social organizations shouldembrace and encourage this. It may seem like common sense, but when you lookaround, all you see is how we are constantly pitted against each other. Soanarchists do not seek to stifle creativity and individual excellence, but hopeto spread it out, and allow everyone to chase their dreams. Diversity in thissense, is the key to survival in the future.
The modern drive to standardizeeverything and apply the assembly line to all aspects of social life has leftmany alienated and hopeless. Instead of trying to make reality conform to statebureaucrats conceptions of order through imposition of their authority;anarchists believe that social organizations function more effectively for thepeople involved in them if those same people have the power to shape them inways they desire. So anarchists support diverse forms of democracy, familyorganization, production, dancing, loving, eating, whatever. Oh yeah, and beingfree. Here are my thoughts (they may, at first, seem to be off subject, but inthe end youll nderstand why I begin the way I do): At the moment we live in asociety in which there are two major classes – the bosses and the workers.
Thebosses own the factories, banks, shops, etc. Workers don’t. All they have istheir labor, which they use to make a living. Workers are compelled to selltheir labor to the boss for a wage.
The boss is interested in squeezing as muchwork out of the worker for as little wages as possible so that he/she canmaintain high profits. Thus the more wages workers get the less profits thebosses make. Their interests are in total opposition to each other. Productionis not based on the needs of ordinary people. Production is for profit. Therefore although there is enough food in the world to feed everyone, peoplestarve because profits come first.
This is capitalism. There are other classesin society such as the self- employed and small farmers but fundamentally thereare workers and bosses whose interests are in opposition to each other. Forworkers needs to be fully met we must get rid of the bosses. But this is no easytask. The bosses are organized.
They have the media on their side. They alsohave the State and the force of the army and police that go with it. The state(i. e. governments, armies, courts, police, etc. ) is a direct result of the factthat we live in a class society.
A society where about 7% of the people own, atleast, 85% of the wealth. The state is there to protect the interests of thisminority, if not by persuasion then by force. Laws are made not to protect us,but to protect those who own the property. If you havent already guessed it,I dont care much for capitalism. I think it is very deceiving how we are ledto believe that the state is run in our interests.
Dont we have electionsto ensure that any government not behaving itself can be brought to task? youask. Democracy is about putting numbers on a piece of paper every four years. Weare given a choice all right, but between parties who all agree with the systemof a tiny minority ruling the country. So, is it possible for anarchy to exist?At the moment capitalism would collapse without the support of the workingclass. We make everything, we produce all the wealth. The sad thing is, most ofthe working class does believe America is being run in our interests.
So, myanswer is no; I dont think anarchy will ever come to be in America. The aboveparagraphs may make you think that I am now a anarchist. If so, I have misledyou. I am against the way our nation is run today, but I do not think anarchy isan applicable alternative.
Anarchy sounds as if we could actually live as anutopian society. It is a nice dream, but will never be reality (at least not inmy lifetime). When people are free, they are uncontrollable. I like the idea ofhaving groups of different people, with equal power determining how the nationbe run, but there needs to be control. I think the only way to come close tohaving an utopian society, is if someone comes up with a way where we canbalance both freedom and control fairly, distribute it equally, and get theworking class to believe it will work.
Who knows? Maybe someone actually willsomeday.