Should We Take Anarchism Seriously?

Essay by looseereowUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, January 2006

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Anarchism as a political ideology did not emerge until Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865) declared himself an 'anarchist' in his book What is Property? in 1840. Before this, the term 'anarchy', deriving from Greek and literally meaning 'without rule', had negative connotations and was often applied to political opponents as a derogatory term with the meaning "advocating chaos", for example the Diggers of the English Civil War and the Enragés of the French Revolution were referred to as 'anarchist' by their opponents. These pejorative connotations are still around today:

In conventional usage it conjures up visions of chaos, confusion and disorder, and is frequently equated with the actions of urban guerrillas, plane hijackers, even common criminals.'

The aim of this essay is to assess such criticisms of anarchism, and to show that we should not, as is usual, dismiss it as 'puerile and absurd' or dismiss its 'ideal of pure liberty as at best utopian, at worst, a dangerous chimera'.

But, as this essay will show, we should instead see it as a set of coherent political ideas that we should take seriously as a political ideology with influence in the past and relevance to modern political issues.

Although there are different strands of anarchism, all directly oppose political authority and advocate the abolition of the state and its governing institutions, believing it to be 'unnecessary to social, political and economic life' and oppressive and limiting to human freedom and equality:

For anarchists the root of all evil was government, whether by the state, church, party, or individuals. At the door of government they laid the multiple ills...holding it responsible for all inequality and injustice.

Instead, anarchists propose a stateless society, or a 'state of nature', 'in which free individuals manage their own affairs by voluntary agreement, without compulsion or coercion' and...