Most Misunderstand Anarchy

Posted on May 2, 2023 by


Anarchy is a word frequently used but seldom understood. It is often equated with ideas of mob rule, disorder, and chaos. The philosophy, however, is more complex. Anarchy comes from the Greek word anarchos, with “an” meaning “without” and “archos” meaning “rulers,” so “anarchy” in its simplest translation simply means “without rulers.”  Anarchy is essentially a philosophy that advocates as much human freedom as possible in the absence of central authority.

Anarchy might be understandably compared to modern libertarianism, and, in some cases, they can be one and the same, but most branches of anarchy also have significant differences from the more right-of-center philosophy. For example, most types of anarchy (with the exception of anarcho-capitalism) view corporations as an equivalent threat to the government, viewing work as an inherent form of authoritarianism. Left and post-left anarchy also differ from right-libertarianism on the issue of property. Most anarchists (again, with the exception of the self-dubbed “anarcho-capitalists”) consider property ownership to be antithetical to a free society.

Anarchy is, however, not without its similarities to right-libertarianism. For example, both groups oppose centralized authority, offensive foreign wars, and infringements on bodily autonomy. It can even be argued that, in the United States, left-anarchy and right-libertarianism share an intellectual grandfather in the form of abolitionist activist and philosopher Lysander Spooner. Spooner was an “Individualist Anarchist” (an anarchist philosophy that has aspects in common with both left and right anarchists) whose writing heavily inspired none other than Frederick Douglass.

The philosophy of anarchy was declared and created by a man named Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, a Frenchman who was a libertarian socialist. Proudhon wrote a book in 1876 titled What is Property? in which he wrote the iconic lines “I am an Anarchist” and “Property is theft!” John A. Johnson, a professor of psychology, defined the phrase “Property is theft” as, “any case where a person owned a piece of land, a factory, or a company, and did no work, but still profited by the labor of the farmers, factory workers, or company employees working on or within the property.” Proudhon believed “theft” was when a man owns a business or has acquired large amounts of wealth with the work of other people.

Anarchism is, a lot of the time, associated with communism or Marxism. However, Proudhon and Marx did not agree with each other’s ideologies and views. Proudhon once called Marx a “utopian socialist,” which, in other words, is wanting an unrealistically perfect world with no hardships or work. Anarchy was opposed to capitalist leadership and state socialism. Proudhon advocated for the working class and wanted more of a stateless society.

Another misconception is the stateless society, that abolishment of government means no authority or criminal punishment system will exist. This is simply wrong. A stateless society is a society with authority that owns little power over the public. 

Realistically, a stateless society or an “anarchist society” would be very hard to introduce in the 21st century. Anarchy is more of a philosophy of how life should have been lived rather than an economic and political system. 

Anarchy, however, is not solely inspired by intellectuals. Anarchists take inspiration from fiction writers like Edward Abbey,  journalist Hunter S. Thompson, and famous non-fiction man of letters, Henry David Thoreau.

Anarchist Extremist is the most psychologically connected form of anarchism to the word itself. As mentioned previously, anarchy is often seen as violence, destruction, and physical rebellion. According to, an anarchist extremist is a minority of anarchists that believe society can only accomplish no government, law, or law enforcement through the means of violence and criminal acts.

One of the most popular cases of an anarchist extremist is Theodore John Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber. The Unabomber has become more popular in present times due to his anti-consumerist, anti-technology, and anti-capitalistic/government beliefs and lifestyle.