Contrary to popular belief, anarchy does not equate to chaos. We're here to set the record straight.
The definition of anarchism to most people means "belief that government is bad and shouldn't exist." However, while all anarchists do hold something like this, it is not the only or in most cases even essential part of their ideology.
Anarchism is the belief that rulership should not exist (as indicated in its Greek roots, an- [no] -arkhos [ruler]). While the words "anarchy" and "anarchism" arose in the mid-1600s during the English Civil War as an insult hurled at fringe radical groups (some of whom were essentially anarchists or near enough) it did not become a coherent trend of thought until the turn of the 19th century. Some view the English radical William Godwin as the first philosophical anarchist, from his work Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and its Influence on Modern Morals and Manners (1793) in which he espoused proto-anarchist views about the state and the then-emerging economic system in England. French writer and politician Pierre Joseph Proudhon was the first thinker to call himself an anarchist however, with the book What is Property? (1840) from which came the famous slogan: "property is theft" (note that Proudhon did not mean all forms of what we could call property by it).
The issue of capitalism is a divisive one for anarchists, although this is partly due to terminology. Most anarchist literature, and most anarchists, define "capitalism" in the Marxist sense of the term (the system of wage labor, which according to Marxism is exploitative). However, the term "capitalism" is also commonly defined by non-anarchists (and by most self-proclaimed capitalists as well as most classical liberals) as "free-market economics" (i.e. when all economic activity must take place within the realm of consent and contract and thus outside the realm of the state). Most anarchists consider the two meanings to be separate concepts, with "capitalism" being used in the Marxist sense and "free market" being used to refer to the second definition. For the remainder of this article, "capitalism" and "free market" will be used with these definitions. Therefore, a person can be both anti-capitalist and pro-market (i.e. arguing for a society of self-employed people interacting and exchanging on a purely voluntary basis; the mutualists and individualist anarchists share this position). This was in common with classical liberalism. Indeed, Lysander Spooner held to natural rights theory, and Benjamin Tucker considered himself a Jeffersonian and his individualist anarchism to be "consistent Manchesterism" (a term for free trade advocacy at the time), although later he embraced egoism, as inspired by the work of Max Stirner. On the other hand, someone can be pro-capitalist and anti-market by such definitions (arguably, Mussolini-style corporatism fits this). Hence, the original anarchists from Proudhon on were opposed completely to what they called "capitalism" (i.e. the existence of wage labor) but modern anarcho-capitalists are not. They find commonality, however, in opposing government intervention and expansion, though often for different reasons.
Proudhon argued that property, except when based in possession (i.e. actual occupancy and use) was theft. His reasoning was laid out exhaustively in What is Property?, with most if not all anarchists accepting it, though the modern anarcho-capitalist and agorist trends do not. However, in the 19th century through to the mid-20th opposition to "private property" (anything besides actual possession) was universal to anarchism. Along with this they opposed sexism, racism, classism and social hierarchy generally. Proudhon did not in fact oppose the free market, supporting workers associations (cooperatives) and mutual banks (similar to modern credit unions) to compete away industrial capitalism. His school of thought is termed mutualism.
Mikhail Bakunin, a Russian prince turned radical writer who was imprisoned for his politics, escaping into exile, followed Proudhon and broke with him on many issues, supporting collective work without markets and workers' self-management. Bakunin also linked opposition to religion, especially organized, hierarchical forms, to his view of anarchism. He was a strong rival of Marx in the First International, and the two fought a long war of words over control of the organization until Bakunin's followers were expelled from it by Marx's. Bakunin's school of thought is called anarcho-collectivism.
Pyotr Kropotkin, another Russian prince who like Bakunin gave it all up for radicalism, advocated full communism on the principle "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs", favoring abolition of money in favor of free access to communally-owned goods although with voluntary, direct democratic participation: anarcho-communism.
Meanwhile, in the United States a very different brand of anarchism emerged. American writers such as Benjamin Tucker, Lysander Spooner, William Green and others set out an ideal very close to Proudhon's, with even more emphasis upon an "anti-capitalist free market" in which self-employed craftsmen, artisans or farmers were paid their "full wage" and land title was possession-based only. In short, individualist anarchism argued for a society where every individual was a capitalist (in the Marxist sense, i.e. an owner of capital). Essentially, they held to the Labor Theory of Value along with support of free markets - "cost is the limit of price" was among their key slogans. This school of thought began slowly dying out in the late 19th century as social anarchism (collectivist or communist) took over, immigrants from Europe bringing this to the forefront of the anarchist movement.
In the late 19th century Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy (who, like Bakunin and Kropotkin, was a Russian noble who renounced his title) embraced a form of Christian, pacifist anarchism. Unique among anarchist trends for its total rejection of violence, even in self-defense or defense of others, Tolstoy advocated essentially the same ideas as Bakunin or Kropotkin, his countrymen and more famous anarchists, but with complete pacifism. His work deeply influenced Mohandas K. "Mahatma" Gandhi (who knew Indian anarchists of London early in his activism, while disagreeing with them over the issue of using violence) in addition to Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau.
The turn of the 20th century saw another trend, which advocated for revolutionary unions to overthrow capitalism and the state using militant industrial organizing, sabotage, working-class solidarity or general strikes. It was less a separate school of thought than tactical view, since followers were invariable social anarchists in the collectivist or communist mold. This is called anarcho-syndicalism from the French word for labor union - "chambre syndical." The Spanish Revolution, often pointed to as their greatest (albeit doomed) triumph by social anarchists, utilized this in the CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo- National Confederation of Labor), which organized a worker's revolt in 1936 following the military coup led by Francisco Franco against the elected Spanish Popular Front government. The CNT and FAI (Federación Anarquisto Ibérica - Iberian Anarchist Federation) ran much of Spain, centered in Catalonia, along anarchist lines with no small success for the next three years until the revolution was crushed by Franco. It is important to note, however, that while syndicalism is typically associated with anarchism, this does not mean that all syndicalists are anarchists; some of them are actually very authoritarian. Mussolini in fact called his economic model National Syndicalism, although other syndicalists would argue it was anything but.
The school of anarcho-capitalism emerged in the 1950s-60s with the writer, economics professor and Libertarian Party co-founder Murray Rothbard, expanded upon by later thinkers like David Friedman (son of Milton, although going much farther in his advocacy of free-market economics) and Rothbard's student Walter Block. Rothbard agreed with the classical anarchists that government is oppressive and illegitimate, but disagreed with them by concluding that private property and free markets were always good. Though admiring the individualist anarchists, he followed the Austrian School of Economics, which rejects the Labor Theory of Economic Value (in favor of the Subjective Theory of Economic Value) most strenuously and, as a consequence, rejects Marxist exploitation theory (which the mutualist and individualist anarchists accepted). Along with this, Rothbard was far more devoted to classical liberalism and natural-rights theory than the individualist anarchists, who followed aspects of it (while Benjamin Tucker eventually gave it up for Egoism as well). Rothbard accepted voluntary collectivism and communism, even advocating that businesses funded by the state be expropriated or "homesteaded" as they used stolen capital, i.e. taxed income. However, he certainly accepted property more than for "occupancy and use" provided this had been homesteaded peacefully to begin with. He felt that government services, such as police, militaries, courts, roads, etc. could be provided much better under the auspices of common law by private institutions. Agorism is to anarcho-capitalism essentially what anarcho-syndicalism is to anarcho-communism or collectivism, namely a tactic, advocating using the black and grey markets to live "off the grid" and bring down the system from within through "counter-economics" in competition with the system. Mutualism called for similar methods, and is now being revived by Kevin A. Carson. He attempts a reconciliation with the Subjective and Labor Theory of Economic Value in his work, Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, available free online.
Since the late 1960s there have been dominant ecological or green anarchist trends, started partly with Murray Bookchin and Social Ecology, but going far beyond it and indeed to lengths he opposed, such as in deep Ecology or anarcho-primitivism. "Lifestyle" and "post-left" anarchism is widespread in modern times, something Bookchin also disapproved of. These are marked by a tendency to reject classical social anarchism's left-wing, working-class organizing and goals or at least complement them with ecological or animal rights issues. Veganism and dumpster diving have become common in such "lifestyle" anarchism, in addition to using the system (especially where it has an ecological impact) to the lowest degree possible.
Major anarchist schools of thought
The largest movement probably, which calls for abolition of private property, hierarchy, and the state. Think "Imagine" by John Lennon, without sparing on the details. People produce whatever they want to for a common pool of resources, and everyone takes what they need from it following consensus or majority vote made in a direct democratic form. It's assumed that what you get will be correlative to your cooperation, unless you are too young/old to work, or you need special care. This system was in place in some parts of Spain during the Spanish Civil War and, believe it or not, it worked, until Franco's fascist regime took over. This is also known as libertarian communism. (Social anarchism generally refers to the same thing as libertarian socialism).
- Collectivist anarchism: Like anarcho-communism, but products would be distributed according to work performed rather than need, with direct democracy. There are also some schools which argue for products to be distributed according to some combination of work performed and need together.
Original anarchist movement started by Pierre Joseph Proudhon, author of What is Property? which contains the famous "property is theft" conclusion. Proudhon was also the first to call himself anarchist; before that it was an insult. (Hey, come to think of it...) This was the first free-market anarchist movement, but unlike most free-market anarchists of today, it argues for the Labor Theory of Economic Value. Mutualist anarchists believe that when labor or its product is sold, in exchange, it ought to receive goods or services embodying the amount of labor necessary to produce an article of exactly similar and equal utility. They accept money and private property as long as it's actually being used by the owner. Mutualism, owing to its embrace of the Labor Theory of Economic Value, supports democratic cooperatives of workers who own the means of production, instead of traditional capitalist bosses.
A movement (very similar to Mutualism) of US origin focusing more on a society of independent craftsmen owning their own tools and thus free of employer domination. Like mutualism it held to the Labor Theory of Economic Value. Individualist anarchists supported worker cooperatives if they wished, but with the provision each part of it be held separately, thus a worker could leave and support themselves if necessary. The rise of capitalism and the anarcho-communist reaction eclipsed the individualist anarchists, though some exist still. This was what most people knew of as free-market anarchism, along with the mutualists, until anarcho-capitalism came along (see below).
- The individualist anarchists were not actually unified on concepts like the Labour Theory of Value and possession, which is what notably distinguished them from mutualists, as although a mutualist could be a individualist anarchist not all individualist anarchists were mutualists. This is quite notable by looking at the English individualist anarchists, of whom many were not proponents of the LTV, possession, or opposition to interest on loans. Some American individualist anarchists even supported a Lockean view of property (which would allow rent), notably Lysander Spooner. However, despite these differences they still acknowledged each other as anarchists, with Benjamin Tucker even calling Gustav De Molinari the precursor to anarcho-capitalism and writer of "The Production of Security" an anarchist as well as Lysander Spooner (who would allow rent). It should also be noted that individualist anarchists did not in principle oppose the boss-worker relationship (though many found it undesirable) as Voltarine De Cleyre said the anarchist individualists "are firm in the idea that the system of employer and employed, buying and selling, banking, and all the other essential institutions of commercialism, centered upon private property, are in themselves good, and are rendered vicious merely by the interference of the State". What defined a individualist anarchist was a belief in the sovereignty of the individual.
Anarcho-capitalists (the modern free-market anarchists) are essentially individualist anarchists but instead of advocating the Labor Theory of Economic Value, they advocate the Subjective Theory of Economic Value (which has been accepted by nearly all economists since Walras, Menger and Jevons). As such, they feel that capitalism is not an inherently exploitative system; rather they see an employment contract as no different to any other form of contractual relationship. Anarcho-capitalists also reject the view that "big business" and "big government" are enemies of each other; rather they see the former as a force that benefits from having 'friends in high places' and the latter as more than willing to bestow privileges and special favors upon the former. There has been a lot of historical evidence for this view.
A movement related to anarcho-capitalism, but not quite the same thing. Agorists hold as a revolutionary goal the development of freely-competing, market producers of law and security through non-aggressive black market activity, which will eventually drive the state out of existence. In fact, this is precisely what sets agorism apart from other forms of anarchism.
Ecological or Green anarchism
Similar to anarcho-communism, but with a higher emphasis on respecting nature. The more radical forms of this, like anarcho-primitivism, believe that civilization is inherently oppressive, and wish to abolish industrial technology, agriculture, and in some cases even abstract thought (writing, language) etc., returning to a primitive (hence the name) existence as hunter-gatherers.
They believe the individual is paramount, over anything else. Max Stirner and, later on, Benjamin Tucker were the only major writers to advocate this, and in fact Stirner did not label himself an anarchist (they were among the groups he critiqued), but his rejection of the state, capitalism, and, well, all institutions basically, means he has been counted with them. He believed that rights, property, the state, conventional morality and God were all "spooks" holding back the individual from themselves, since all these are placed above them. It's worth noting Stirner, while believing the individual's right to act was unlimited, advised that it would be best if they respected each other as individuals, to best let each flourish, even saying people could not have their full self-expression absent communion with others, so they could join together voluntarily in a way he called the "Union of Egoists." Here is a classic text by Situationist International, advancing a collectivist form of egoism. Stirner denounced authoritarian communism of his time, but a kind which respected individuals and lent them full expression of themselves is viewed to be compatible with his ideas.
In addition to this, there are other different anarchist movements which don't focus on the organization of an actual anarchist society, but rather on the means to bring it.
Focuses on the power of revolutionary unions to undermine the government, capitalism and eventually overthrow it. Related most often to anarcho-communism and collectivism. This was the way it was done in Anarchist Catalonia. Noam Chomsky is by far the most visible proponent with this school of thought today.
The belief that state control and violence are related closely, so an anarchy is this most pacifist-friendly kind of society. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was arguably one of these, although he worked for an independent, united Indian national state. Also known as anarcho-pacifism. Definitely badass pacifists and the complete, total inversion of Bomb-Throwing Anarchists. Speaking of which...
Propaganda of the deed
Not a school of thought, rather the tactic prominent in the last decades of the 19th century of killing powerful figures in society, both to avenge their perceived abuses but also to inspire revolt through such "attentats" (acts that would draw attention). Needless to say, this backfired spectacularly, allowing the anarchist movement to be painted as mindless terrorists. A few made this even worse by targeting random people. Heads of state assassinated included the President of France, the Empress of Austria, the King of Italy, and the President of the United States in 1901, around the time propaganda of the deed ended. Almost no anarchists today actually advocate this, so it could be considered something of a Discredited Trope in philosophy.
Related to philosophical anarchism, this is the view that the teachings of Christ are compatible with, or even require, a non-hierarchical stateless society. They also argue that early Christian communes were anarcho-communist in nature. Often connected with anarcho-pacifism, as in the work of Leo Tolstoy.
Movement for women (especially led by anarcho-communist Emma Goldman) popular in the early twentieth century, which claims that society is inherently male-dominated and that anarchist societies should be egalitarian in nature.
Same as above, but replace "women" with "sexual minorities" and "male" with "heterosexuals".
A movement within anarchism that rejects left-right political distinctions. Often associated with ecological and "lifestyle" trends.
As mentioned above, it is more of a tactic of revolution than an ideological system.
Anarchism Without Adjectives
An Anarchist FAQ will prove to be an invaluable resource to those interested in the social anarchist perspective. A more general FAQ (the author is anarcho-capitalist, but does a reasonably good job presenting leftist anarchist perspectives as well; unfortunately, many of the links presented are now out of date) is this one.
- Political Justice, by William Godwin (Philosophical)
- What is Property? and The General Idea of the Revolution, by Pierre Joseph Proudhon (Mutualist)
- God and the State and Statism and Anarchy by Mikhail Bakunin (Collectivist)
- The Conquest of Bread and Mutual Aid, by Pyotr Kropotkin (Communist)
- Walden and Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau (Green and philosophical, respectively)
- No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority by Lysander Spooner (Individualist)
- Instead of a Book by a Man Too Busy to Write One, by Benjamin Tucker (Individualist)
- The Soul of Man Under Socialism, by Oscar Wilde (Communist; interesting in that Wilde gives an individualist argument for it)
- The Kingdom of God is Within You, by Leo Tolstoy (Christian/Philosophical)
- Red Emma Speaks, My Disillusionment in Russia, My Further Disillusionment in Russia, and Living My Life,by Emma Goldman (Anarchist/Feminist)
- Anarcho-Syndicalism and The Great French Revolution by Rudolf Rocker (Syndicalist)
- Collectives in the Spanish Revolution, by Gaston Leval (Syndicalist)
- The Anarchist Collectives, by Sam Dolgoff (Syndicalist)
- Man, Economy and State and The Ethics of Liberty by Murray N. Rothbard (Capitalist)
- The Machinery of Freedom, by David Friedman (Capitalist)
- Anarchy, State and Utopia by Robert Nozick (Capitalist)
- Studies in Mutualist Political Economy by Kevin A. Carson (Mutualist)
- Our Synthetic Environment by Murray Bookchin (Green; notably, predated Rachel Carson's much better known Silent Spring by six months)
- A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn (Social Anarchist/Without Adjectives - Zinn wasn't particularly committed to a particular brand of leftist anarchism)
- Chomsky on Anarchism and literally dozens of other works by Noam Chomsky (Syndicalist)
- V for Vendetta by Alan Moore (A lot of his other work qualifies too)
- The Invisibles by Grant Morrison
- The Elric Saga by Michael Moorcock
- The Illuminatus Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson
- The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin, describes a working anarchist society, along with its problems.
- The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake (Like Moore, and for that matter the other authors listed in the fiction section, a lot of his other work probably qualifies as well)
- The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad
- The Culture series by Iain M. Banks
- Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon
- Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow
- Germinal by Émile Zola
- Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
- Dead Kennedys (before the resurrected group [minus Jello Biafra]'s Face Heel Turn into the living embodiment of Money, Dear Boy)
- The genre of anarcho-punk (Crass being probably the most famous example besides the Dead Kennedys)
- Napalm Death
- Wolves in the Throne Room
- The KLF
- Throbbing Gristle
- Fallout: New Vegas (No, the developers haven't stated they're anarchists, but this is possibly the first computer game that allows the player to be an anarchist without being necessarily an evil character.
- arguably the Ur Example, although Godwin acknowledged a large debt to Edmund Burke's A Vindication of Natural Society. The latter work is generally regarded as satire since Burke explicitly stated it was such, though some, such as Murray Rothbard, have argued that Burke meant it in earnest but felt it was necessary to disavow it for political reasons
- Since this is for works that promote or are influenced by a particular ideology, this could just as easily have gone under Fascism since it is a very clear critique of that ideology (as well as the perceived fascist overtones of much of the Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction genres); however, its viewpoint is very clearly anti-authoritarian and Spinrad has identified himself as an anarcho-syndicalist
- Acknowledged by Gandhi as one of the central texts that brought him to his theory of satyagraha. A major influence on Thoreau and probably on Tolstoy as well, who in turn influenced Gandhi themselves