What is anarchy

What is anarchy?

The approach to the concept of anarchy is complex because it draws on political and philosophical ideas.

The term, which formally appeared in the 12th century, has several meanings, depending on the context, but it points to a way of building collective coexistence among people, without the mediation of institutions.


A first reading of the term anarchy indicates that the Greek word Acracia, which means (a) –sin- and (cratos) –government- make up the phrase “no government”; thus, a first reading is that Anarchy is a political proposal based on the absence of the State; but others project the meaning to “without sovereign” or “without authority”.

However, anarchy is considered to refer to any situation in which the State or some public power is absent, that is, to situations of a political order.

This extension of the term brings with it other complications, since the word State can be taken as a synonym of government, society, collectivity, hierarchy, social control, superior administration of a country and centralized power; it is also a condition, a way of being and a social regime, hence the polysemy of the word.

What is clear is that it opposes the imposition of an authority on individuals; It classifies them as undesirable, unnecessary and even harmful.

Despite being a proposal that has generated numerous political and social movements, there is no consensus on what an anarchist is. And it is not surprising, since being focused on the interests of an individual and the society in which he lives, the social change that he tends has to be subject to points of view as extreme and different, as are the individuals themselves.


In ancient times, it was considered that the worst that could happen to a city was to be without a government; They not only believed that it was a punishment from their gods, but that it marked the beginning of new misfortunes; They called this anarchy and it was associated with disorder and chaos of any kind within their institutions.

Then, at the origins of the French Revolution of 1789, the same term was used to describe its most turbulent moments. As movement, there is talk of anarchism from the 20th century when the oppressed working class began its struggle for demands in the 19th century, as a result of industrialization.

Its premises, based on socialism, seek to give the person a leading role in all their relational instances; However, the methods they have used to gain notoriety have been highly criticized: massive calls for strikes, demonstrations and calls for insurrection, promoting civil uprisings, forming groups of militiamen in military or social conflicts, and even planting bombs.

Principles of anarchism

  • Liberty:
    regards human nature as kind and compassionate, thus preferring the consolidation of a self-regulating society.
  • Equality:
    rejects the creation of private property and the existence of social classes.
  • Solidarity:
    From its principle of equality, it is cooperativism and not competitiveness that should regulate a society of individuals.

Anarchist currents

They respond to different times and in the way in which they conceive the ideal society of individuals without government.

  • Individualist anarchism: it refers to the individual above the moral, social and religious norms created by the same individual.
  • Mutualism: the individual is capable of supplying himself and exchanging what he produces with others.
  • Communist anarchism: believes in the association of individuals without the interference of the State.
  • Anarcho-Syndicalism: It seeks to abolish the wage system and social classes.
  • Environmental anarchism: it stands against the lifestyles resulting from industrial society.
  • Anarchist feminism. This movement for the legitimization of women’s rights combined its principles with those of anarchism to produce an ideology whose central precept is that the vindication of the female role in history can only occur after the abolition of the State, together with the traditional conceptions of sexuality, family and gender.
  • Insurrectionary anarchism: It is based on the formation of groups by affinity, so that they act together in uprisings that lead to a revolution that would overthrow the State and allow the formation of a free society.
  • Anarchism without adjectives: seeks the grouping of the different currents of anarchism to coexist simultaneously, without ideological biases.
  • Anarcho-capitalism: it supposes that implementing a real capitalism produces a free society, without exploited or exploiters.
  • Panarchism: seeks the peaceful coexistence of all political systems, emphasizing the importance of the individual and their right to live freely, without being subject to a particular government.

Main exponents

  • William Godwin: (1756-1836): This British politician and writer wrote what is considered the first anarchist treatise A Question About Political Justice. He is the founder of philosophical anarchism.
  • Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865): This French revolutionary and political philosopher was one of the founders of anarchist thought and its first economic trend, mutualism. In 1843, he wrote The System of Economic Contradictions or the Philosophy of Misery.
  • Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876): this first generation Russian anarchist philosopher, belonging to the collectivist thesis, laid the theoretical foundations of the anarchist movements of today
  • Piotr Kropotkin (1842-1921): this Russian political thinker is considered one of the main theorists of the anarchist movement; He was one of the founders of anarcho-communism, and developed the theory of mutual support.
  • Errico malatesta (1853-1932): he is considered the greatest exponent of modern Italian anarchism. With him the stage of the classical anarchists closes.


The 21st century perspectives offer an optimistic outlook for anarchic ideas, once both socialism and capitalism seem to be exhausted forms of government in many countries. Decentralization, voluntary association, mutual aid, and social media all point to this.

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