Forms of anarchism also differ in terms of the content of the theory, the focal point of the anarchist critique, and the imagined practical impact of anarchism.
Socialist forms of anarchism include communist anarchism associated with Kropotkin and communitarian anarchism
The socialist approach focuses on the development of social and communal groups, which are supposed to thrive outside of hierarchical and centralized political structures.
Individualist forms of anarchism include some forms of libertarianism or anarcho-capitalism as well as egoistically oriented antinomianism and non-conformism.
The individualistic focus rejects group identity and ideas about social/communal good, while remaining firmly rooted in moral claims about the autonomy of the individual .
Individualistic anarchism is historically associated with ideas found in Sterner who said, “every state is a despotism”
. He argued that there was no duty to obey the state and the law because the law and the state impair self-development and self-will. The state seeks to tame our desires and along with the church it undermines self-enjoyment and the development of unique individuality. Sterner is even critical of social organizations and political parties.
While not denying that an individual could affiliate with such organizations, he maintains that the individual retains rights and identity against the party or social organization: he embraces the party; but he ought not allow himself to be “embraced and taken up by the party”
. Individualist anarchism has often been attributed to a variety of thinkers including Josiah Warren, Benjamin Tucker, and Thoreau.
Individualist anarchism also seems to have something in common with egoism of the sort associated with Ayn Rand.
But Rand dismissed anarchism as “a naïve floating abstraction” that could not exist in reality; and she argued that governments properly existed to defend people’s rights (Rand 1964).
A more robust sort of pro-capitalist anarchism has been defended by Murray Rothbard, who rejects “left-wing anarchism” of the sort he associates with communism, while applauding the individualist anarchism of Tucker (Rothbard 2008).
Rothbard continues to explain that since anarchism has usually been considered as being primarily a left-wing communist phenomenon,
libertarianism should be distinguished from anarchism by calling it “non-archaism” (Rothbard 2008). A related term has been employed in the literature, “min-archaism”,
which has been used to describe the minimal state that libertarians allow
Libertarians are still individualists, who emphasize the importance of individual liberty, even though they disagree with full-blown anarchists about the degree to which state power can be justified.
It is worth considering here, the complexity of the notion of liberty under consideration by appealing to Isaiah Berlin’s well-known distinction between negative and positive liberty (Berlin 1969).
Some individualist anarchists appear to focus on negative liberty, i.e., freedom from constraint, authority, and domination. But anarchism has also been concerned with community and the social good. In this sense,
anarchists are focused on something like positive liberty and concerned with creating and sustaining the social conditions necessary for actualizing human flourishing. In this regard, anarchists have
also offered theories of institutional rules and social structures that are non-authoritarian. This may sound paradoxical (i.e., that anarchists espouse rules and structures at all).
But Prichard has argued that anarchists are also interested in “freedom within” institutions and social structures.
According to Prichard rather than focusing on state-authority, anarchist institutions will be be open-ended processes that are complex and non-linear (Prichard 2018).
We see then that individualist anarchism that focuses only on negative liberty is often rejected by anarchists who are interested in reconceiving community and restructuring society along more egalitarian lines
. Indeed, individualistic anarchism has been criticized as merely a matter of “lifestyle” (criticized in Bookchin 1995), which focuses on dress, behaviour, and other individualistic choices and preferences.
Bookchin and other critics of lifestyle individualism will argue that mere non-conformism does very little to change the status quo and overturn structures of domination and authority.
Nor does non-conformism and lifestyle anarchism work to create and sustain systems that affirm liberty and equality. But defenders of lifestyle non-
conformism will argue that there is value in opting out of cultural norms and demonstrating contempt for conformity through individual lifestyle choices.
Like Rousseau, who praised the noble savage, who was free from social chains until forced into society,
Godwin imagined original anarchy developing into the political state, which tended on his view to become despotic. Once the state comes into being, Godwin suggests that despotism is the primary problem since “despotism is as perennial as anarchy is transitory”
Anarchism is often taken to mean that individuals ought to be left alone without any unifying principle or governing power. In some cases, anarchism is related to libertarianism (or what is sometimes called “anarcho-capitalism”).
But non-rule may also occur when there is unanimity or consensus—and hence no need for external authority or a governing structure of command and obedience.
If there were unanimity among individuals, there would be no need for “ruling”, authority, or government. The ideas of unanimity and consensus are associated
with the positive conception of anarchism as a voluntary association of autonomous human beings, which promotes communal values.
One version of the anarchist ideal imagines the devolution of centralized political authority, leaving us with communes whose organizational structure is open-ended and consensual.
Given this emphasis on communal organization it is not surprising that political anarchism has a close historical association with communism,
despite the connection mentioned above with free market capitalism. Authors such as Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Goldman developed their anarchism as a response
to Marx and Marxism. One of the first authors to explicitly affirm anarchism, Pierre Proudhon, defended a kind of “communism”, which he understood as being grounded in decentralized associations,
communes, and mutual-aid societies. Proudhon thought that private property created despotism. He argued that liberty required anarchy, concluding,
The government of man by man (under whatever name it be disguised) is oppression. Society finds its highest perfection in the union of order with anarchy.
Following Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, and the other so-called “classical anarchists”, anarchism comes to be seen as a focal point for political philosophy and activism.
Let’s turn to a conceptual analysis of different arguments made in defines of anarchism.
If all men have a continuing obligation to achieve the highest degree of autonomy possible, then there would appear to be no state whose subjects have a moral obligation to obey its commands. Hence, the concept of a de jure legitimate state would appear to be vacuous, and philosophical anarchism would seem to be the only reasonable political belief for an enlightened man. (Wolff 1970: 17)
As Wolff puts it here, there appears to be “no state” that is legitimate. This claim is stated in absolute and a priori fashion, a point made by Reiman in his critique of Wolff (Reiman 1972). Wolff does not deny, by the way, that there are de facto legitimate states: governments often do have the approval and support of the people they govern. But this approval and support is merely conventional and not grounded in a moral duty; and approval and support are manufactured and manipulated by the coercive power and propaganda and ideology of the state.
We noted here that Wolff’s anarchism is connected to Kant. But Kant is no anarchist: he defended the idea of enlightened republican government in which autonomy would be preserved. Rousseau may be closer to espousing anarchism in some of his remarks—although these are far from systematic (see McLaughlin 2007). Some authors view Rousseau as espousing something close to “a posteriori philosophical anarchism” (see Bertram 2010 )—which we will define in the next section. Among classical political philosophers, we might also consider Locke in connection with “libertarian anarchism” (see Vardan 2015) or Locke as offering a theory “on the edge of anarchism”, as Simmons has put it (Simmons 1993). But despite his strong defines of individual rights, the stringent way he describes voluntary consent, and his advocacy of revolution, Locke believes that states can be defended based upon the social contract theory.
Leaving the canonical authors of Western political philosophy aside, the most likely place to find deontological and a priori anarchism is among the Christian anarchists. Of course, most Christians are not anarchists. But those Christians who espouse anarchism usually do so with the absolute, deontological, and a priori claims of the sort made by Tolstoy, Berdyaev, and Ellul—as noted above
One significant philosophical and ethical problem for politically engaged anarchists is the question of how to avoid ongoing cycles of power and violence that are likely to erupt in the absence of centralized political power. One suggestion, mentioned above,
is that anarchists will often want to emphasize the unity of means and ends. This idea shows why there is some substantial overlap and conjunction between anarchism and pacifism.
Pacifist typically emphasize the unity of means and ends. But not all pacifists are anarchists. However, we mentioned above that there is a connection between anarchism and Christian pacifism, as found in Tolstoy, for example.
Gandhi was influenced by Tolstoy and the anarchists. Although Gandhi is better known as an anti-colonial activist, Marshall includes Gandhi among the anarchists
It is possible to reconstruct anti-colonial movements and arguments about self-determination and home rule as a kind of anarchism (aimed at destroying colonial power and imperial states)
. Gandhi noted that there were many anarchists working in India in his time. In saying this, Gandhi uses the term anarchism to characterize bomb-throwing advocates of violence. He says: “I myself am an anarchist, but of another type”
Gandhian anarchism, if there is such a thing, embraces nonviolence. In general, nonviolent resistance as developed in the Tolstoy-Gandhi
King tradition fits with an approach that turns away from political power and views the state as a purveyor of war and an impediment to equality and human development.
Objecting to this anarcho-pacifist approach are more militant activists who advocate direct action that can include sabotage and other forms of political violence including terrorism. Emma Goldman explains, for example, that anti-capitalist sabotage undermines the idea of private possession.
While the legal system considers this to be criminal, Goldman contends it is not. She explains