Is anarchy synonymous with mere disorder?

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Anarchy is undoubtedly the most misrepresented idea in political theory.  The anarchist movement developed mainly in the middle of the nineteenth century and at that time it produced its brilliant theorists.

The origin of the word anarchy is the Greek word anarchos.  Anarchos means ‘without a ruler’ and therefore “anarchy itself can clearly be used in a general context to mean either the negative condition of unruliness or the positive condition of being unruled because rule is unnecessary for the preservation of order.  Anarchy and anarchist were first used freely in the political sense during the French revolution”.  At that time they were terms of negative criticism.  Historically speaking, “anarchism is concerned mainly with man in his relation to society.  It’s ultimate aim is always social change, its present attitude is always one of social condemnation, even though it may proceed from an individualist view of man’s nature, its method is always of social rebellion, violent or otherwise”.

The definition of anarchy may vary and this is mainly due on who is defining the notion, if he is someone who is in favour of anarchism or not.  According to Alexander Berkman “anarchism is the finest and biggest thing man has ever thought of, the only thing that can give you liberty and well being and bring peace and joy to the world”.  Furthermore, Emma Goldman describes anarchism as “the philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by man-made law, the theory that all forms of government rest on violence and are therefore wrong and harmful as well as unnecessary”.  On the other hand Girondin Brissot declared in 1793, ‘it is necessary to define this anarchy’.  He defined anarchy as “laws that are not carried into effect, authorities without force and despised, crime unpunished, property attacked, the safety of the individual violated, the morality of the people corrupted, no constitution, no government no justice, these are the features of anarchy”.

Before going on it is essential to explain the meaning of the word ‘state’, which is the root-cause of a great deal of misunderstanding.  “Anarchists have used the word ‘state’, and still do use it, to mean the whole agglomeration of institutions, political legislative judicial, military financial and so on, by means of which the government of the people’s affairs, the regulation of their personal conduct, the responsibility for their safety are taken away from them and entrusted to others who, by usurpation or delegation, are invested with the right to make laws over the heads of and on behalf of everyone, and to force the people to observe them, if necessary with the use of the community’s agents of enforcement”.

Another important key word that must be defined is that of the anarchist.  One presents him, as a man who believes that government must die before freedom can live.  The other dismisses him as a mere promoter of disorder who offers nothing in place of the order he destroys.  For Sebastian Faure however, “whoever denies authority and fights against it is an anarchist”.  “If anything has distinguished them from others it has not been evil character but an extraordinary passion for what they regarded as justice”.  

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The questions that we must first consider are ‘what is anarchism?’ and ‘what is not?’  Anarchism, nihilism and terrorism are notions that are often mistakenly equated.  Anarchy for most of the people means chaos and disorder.  Yet chaos is clearly very far from the intent of men like Tolstoy and Godwin, Bakunin and Kropotkin who were the ones that established anarchism and whose social theories have all been described as anarchists.  For them “anarchy is not bombs, disorder or chaos, robbery and murder.  It is not a war of each against all”.  For them anarchism means that people should be ...

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