A Brief History of Anarchism

By Weir, Kay | Pacific Ecologist, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

A Brief History of Anarchism


Weir, Kay, Pacific Ecologist


Anarchism is a diverse philosophy arguing the natural state of people is to live together harmoniously, and that authority, law and religion pervert the natural moral sense. To achieve their aims anarchists have created independent communal societies and in the face of state oppression have offered non-violent resistance strategies, which Mahatma Gandhi used to great effect in removing the British Empire from power in India. This article was compiled by KAY WEIR.

Anarchist thought is very diverse but generally argues the natural state of people is to live together harmoniously and that society functions best without the coercion of the State, its laws and institutions. The term is derived from the ancient Greek word anarkhia, meaning 'no ruler.' Mikhail Bakunin (pictured below) is one of the founders of Anarchism along with Karl Marx. While Marx favoured State-run Socialism, Bakunin argued for the abolition of the State as the most fundamental goal of freedom and justice. Rather than seeing the legal apparatus of the State as a means of protecting individual freedom, anarchists contend the State and its laws represent the self-serving interests of powerful groups in society. With this view, law is a means of oppressing the vast majority of people and the best way to eliminate this oppression is to do away with the institutions that create and reinforce it, especially the State and private property. Private property is a particular concern for anarchists, corrupting the democratic process by controlling inputs and outputs in the political system, and also because it directs people to think merely of their own self-interest rather than about how to co-operate with their fellow citizens. Since owners of private property use the State to benefit members of the ruling class/elite, anarchists are not in favor of representative democracy as it is currently practiced.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Of particular concern for many anarchists is the way the State generates violence, conscripting people to fight in wars for its empire and the violence of protecting wealth over the right to life of the masses of people. As Bakunin wrote:

   The state is the most flagrant
   negation, the most cynical and
   complete negation of humanity.
   It rends apart the universal
   solidarity of men upon earth and
   unites some of them in order to destroy, conquer
   and enslave the rest.

Peter Kropotkin said the real moral sense which guides our social behaviour is instinctive, based on the sympathy and unity inherent in group life. 'Mutual aid is the condition of successful social living. The moral base is therefore the good old golden rule: Do to others as you would have others do to you. He saw this natural moral sense as perverted, by superstitions surrounding law, religion and authority, deliberately cultivated by conquerors, exploiters and priests for their own benefit. Morality has therefore become the instrument of ruling classes to protect their privileges.

Leo Tolstoy in his book, The Kingdom of God is Within You: Christianity not as a mystic religion but as a new theory of life, also found the Christian Church mistaken in its support of the state's oppression and wars. He held this to be the antithesis of Christ's teaching and his life and death. Non-resistance, not responding with violence, was a binding tenet of a true Christian and was professed by a minority from the very foundation of Christianity. He wrote eloquently of the problems of wealth and poverty. His words from 1893 are as fitting today:

   We cannot persuade ourselves and others that we
   do not know that men do not like dying of hunger,
   bereft of the right to gain their subsistence from
   the earth on which they live; that they do not like
   working underground, in the water, or in stifling
   heat, for ten to fourteen hours a day, at night in
   factories to manufacture objects for our pleasure. … 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Brief History of Anarchism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.