What is Anarchy

Anarchy is the condition of a society, entity, group of people, or individual that rejects hierarchy and promotes self-governing. Anarchism is a political philosophy that eschews the notion of a state and its authority.


Anarchy has also been used colloquially as a term denoting societal breakdown and collapse. While the common critique of anarchy is that it results in lawlessness and chaos, a variety of anarchist philosophy's adherents suggest societies can remain intact and in fact thrive under alternatives to traditional hierarchies.

There are a number of schools of thought regarding anarchism and societal ideals. Two major schools are the individualist anarchists and the social anarchists. Individual anarchism calls on Isaiah Berlin's conception of negative liberty, which focuses on the right of the individual to be free from constraints, in this case by the state or larger society. Individual anarchism inspired bohemian movements such as the free love and naturist movements, and individual reclamation: a kind of Robin Hood direct action that pulls resources directly from the rich and gives to the poor.

Social anarchists, by contrast, focus on the companion concept of positive liberty, which identifies freedom as not merely liberty from outside interference but in the acquisition of one's full potential and equity of resources among all persons. They call for a system with common ownership of the means of production and direct democracy. This school of thought has a number of branches, including collectivist anarchism, also referred to as revolutionary socialism; anarcho-communism, also known as libertarian communism; and anarcho-syndicalism, which focuses on the labor movement and promotes collectivist labor unions with no union bosses to speak of.

Most anarchists fall on the far-left end of the political spectrum, but there are surprising variants of anarchist thought. Anarcho-capitalists, or lasseiz-faire capitalists, for example, see free market capitalism as the basis for a free and prosperous society, and unlike most anarchists, believe in some version of private property. Anarcho-capitalists also believe that private businesses would fill the void of government and provide the services that people need, including those traditionally thought of as essential government functions, like building roads and providing police and fire protection. In this case, the group is similar in ideology to Libertarians, though at the extreme edge, as they reject all state involvement in economic and personal matters.

Anarchist Influence on Present-Day Economics 

Anarchist philosophy was in part or in whole embraced by anti-war, anti-capitalist, and anti-globalization movements in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Anarchists were involved in the protests against the meetings of the World Trade Organization, Group of Eight, and the World Economic Forum, which led to the confrontations at the WTO conference in Seattle in 1999.

Crypto-anarchists support decentralized currency such as Bitcoin. Some advocates of Bitcoin claim that Bitcoin itself was "built as a reaction against corrupt governments and financial institutions," "was meant to function as a monetary weapon, as a cryptocurrency poised to undermine authority," and was not "solely created for the sake of improving financial technology."