In 1976, the Sex Pistols released their debut single: “Anarchy in the U.K.”. By the 2000s, frontman John Lyndon (a.k.a Johnny Rotten) was starring in butter commercials and proclaiming “I never preached anarchy. It was just a novelty in a song. I always thought anarchy was a mind game for the middle classes, really. Impractical.”.

Anarchism is a political philosophy that advocates free association in voluntary, self-governing societies. It is an anti-authoritarian ideology, and rejects state hierarchies. The earliest advocates of anarchism include the French political philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and the Russian revolutionary Mikhail Bakunin.

Attempts have been made to implement anarchism in practice, though most have been communes operating at a very local level (though exceptions exist, such as the so-called “Free Territory” of seven million people formed in 1918 during the Ukrainian revolution, or “Rojava” in northeastern Syria).

Still, could stateless, free societies work everywhere? How would the division of labour work? Who would volunteer to collect the garbage? Could an anarchist collective really protect its borders from neighbouring states over the long-term?

Could anarchism ever work in practice? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: BigStock (c) KYNA STUDIO


51 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Sárdi

    You sure are not a government organisation.

  2. avatar
    Любомир

    No. It’s a utopic idea.

  3. avatar
    Stefanos

    Borris Johnson? Is that you behind this page?

  4. avatar
    Dan

    Maybe with the generation that cones after the next one.

  5. avatar
    Aubrey

    Theoretically, in small non-communities. There you run into theoretical problems already. Most people want some sort of proto-community, even a tenuous link.

  6. avatar
    Pedro

    Yes, when people aren’t people anymore

  7. avatar
    Alexander

    Most people interactions in practice are based on anarchy and the imaginary idea that someone would punish you if you misbehave. No one would or everyone will. Therefore, people should just realize it and boom! Welcome to Anarchy! ^^

    • avatar
      Георги

      And so the people with the guns will give up power when they realize that God is not real and no one will punish them?

    • avatar
      Alexander

      Thats not really the point. Because God’s not punishing them at the moment and wont punish them in the future.

    • avatar
      Георги

      Alexander, But it’s not God’s laws that dictate peoples behavior …
      Unless we are living within an Anarchy right now, I am afraid that won’t solve a thing.

    • avatar
      Alexander

      The degree to which law applies to your behavior on a daily basis is so low, that you can totally ignore it and it would barely affect you. Most of the scrutinizing is made from other people or from “other people\s eventual judgement”. One would rarely kill, mostly because he would disappoint his friends, his family and so on.

    • avatar
      Георги

      Alexander, I never said that it’s laws what keeps society together.
      It is the threat/fear of violence, hunger and social exclusion.

    • avatar
      Alexander

      Георги, That would be absolutely correct if within the society there were no implemented violence and fields of violence – like soccer mobs for example, late discos, box clubs and so on. And just as there is rarely any interception of law and punishment within these fields, they can manifest themselves just as same way in Anarchy as in a lawful state.

    • avatar
      Георги

      Alexander,The threat of being removed from your job and left without a home or income is not very similar to a box match. Those are the actual forces that dictate behavior.
      And when we are talking about violence we are talking about the policeman taking your girl and raping her for a week while you know where they are but are still completely incapable of doing anything. Not a box match.

    • avatar
      Alexander

      As I said in the beginning – in a society either “no one would or everyone will”. This goes the same way for that violence as well. If people are more aware that they are the ones who control the acts of misbehavior, they would be much more active in actually preventing such actions before even they’ve emerged.

    • avatar
      Георги

      Alexander, There are military organisations that can vaporize the world. What is going to change when we become aware of that fact.

    • avatar
      Alexander

      Георги, Unite and destroy them Save your own community. Yet, stop paying them would be a great start.

    • avatar
      Георги

      Alexander, It’s not possible to unite . Even if it was it would not be possible to destroy them. And most certainly it is not possible to stop paying them.

    • avatar
      Alexander

      Георги, Currently – most likely you are correct, yet its all based on personal awareness of the world in general. And if awareness raises (even though that new technologies are gently substituting it with greatly designed filters), then that would slowly change.

  8. avatar
    Στέργιος

    No. Anarchism is an ideal. When put in real world practice it starts dealing with the errors of matter. It is similar to philosophy. You can’t really call someone a philosopher before his/her death.

  9. avatar
    Rémi

    Well if you analyse “la Commune de Paris” in 1870, you can see that the experience was originally positive (enforcing equal rights for everyone and trying to limitate the inequality of birth).
    However, the authoritarian French government with the help of the bourgeoisie, wasn’t that keen to let their privilege go away and let the rest of the people reclaim dignity and equality…
    Interesting to see that most of the pacifists anarchists movements were shut down with violence by authoritarian entities (see Mahknotchina / Haymarket affair / la Commune…)

  10. avatar
    Julia

    It’s a romantic idea but not practical. It would end in chaos. One family can’t get on with each other let alone all humanity. Whilst there is selfishness, greed, low morals, lack of caring, respect and conscience this cannot work. No system can ever work perfectly. Whichever system is needs to be continuously improved by raising the bar on standards, values, morals, caring, practicalities, responsibility, duties, safety, and wisdom.

    • avatar
      Alexander

      Julia – Selfishness is a product of higharchy. ;)

    • avatar
      Julia

      selfishness is ingrained in humanity full stop

    • avatar
      Георги

      Alexander, In every society on earth there is solidarity and also in every society on earth there is exploitation of one sort or another.
      Maybe people need and like to feel both solidarity with people and control over people. Solidarity being the second best option.
      Maybe Stockholm Syndrome is stronger than solidarity.

    • avatar
      Alexander

      Георги, I won’t agree – solidarity as Kropotkin place it is the foundation of society in general – compassion, empathy, care for others is a generality that keeps people in particular groups. On the other hand, exploitation is a modern term that could not be understood by people of past cultures. As it generally means that you are getting less than you are worth for whatever you contribute to your group/company/country whatever. This sense of worth is a product of capitalism in general, as previously people never questioned whether the reward they have for their doings is worth what they are – because they were not comodified. The class structures that were operating were giving people an actual goal to pursuit and this sense of individuality was not even considered. Thus, you are exploited only if there is a general sense of economic relations of a web showing you that you could have gotten a better deal.

    • avatar
      Георги

      Alexander, Exploitation in the sense you are using it is a very modern term. It’s brought with capitalism.
      I am not using the Marxist “Exploitation” I am saying that every big society we’ve witnessed is based on some sort of exploitation(the English word) . Maybe it is an economic fact that people are most productive when they are terrified and therefore every big society is some iteration of slavery. Maybe we are just naturally sadistic and when someone stacks power he likes to use and abuse it. But the most important products we are using are not created with the means of solidarity, compassion or empathy. It’s done out of fear.
      It’s almost always that the most terrified workers are the most productive. They are catching workers who try to suicide in China and sending them back to work. I don’t think they are making shoes to make you happy with the cheap price.
      And even saying that small tribes are based on solidarity is a big jump. They might very well be based on fear too. In a huge percentage of the cases in school classes there is a bullied child. I think a tribe might act in a similar manner.

    • avatar
      Alexander

      I believe that there is exploitation when you can feel exploited. Because in general whether you are exploited or not and who is exploiting who is always a matter of subjectivity – for example – one would say that policemen exploit the wrongdoers when they are taking bribes. Others could say that when the police are taking bribes they are being exploited of their moral and ethical stance, that the system itself is using them and providing them with enough (power, respect, judgement opportunities and so on). An outsider to the situation may want to claim that both of them are exploiting the system or he can even claim that these are counter-actions against the machine of exploitation that is the state for ever creating mechanisms for “paid crimes”. Thus, I believe that it is up to the people to feel exploited. Meaning that they all can feel exploited.
      If we go back in time though, people who gave their lives for the church as martyrs, even though they got nothing in return, never felt it as exploitation – since this is a modern term. Even slaves never felt it as exploitation in the modern sense. They felt it as hard labour but as a necessary duty since they are slaves. Even if you go against that and claim that they were physically exploited and that others were gaining the outcome of their actions in previous society that was mostly the case – this sense of individual and self-worth were not even there.

    • avatar
      Георги

      Alexander, I am sure we can doubt that every single thing is 100% subjective and words don’t have meanings but that can be absolutely said in reverse for “Societies are based on solidarity” . Both are extrapolations.
      I am not really sure how you can speak with such certainty about the feelings of slaves, so let’s take an example. Do you believe that if someone does not have the concept of exploitation and you beat him into making him do whatever you need, he would not feel exploited? Because he knows no English?
      And I am very sure that slaves had many justifications for why their suffering was necessary. This is what people do when they see no options and it’s pretty much identical to Stockholm Syndrome. This is what a wife does with the men beating her.

    • avatar
      Alexander

      Георги, to a certain degree language is one of the tools that develops particular emotions and emotion states because these states are based on the realization of them. Pain, suffering, endless labour are not something new in the sense of making others do your job, yet they are not exploitation because in general exploitation requires the idea of human equality to function, the sense that someone is mistreated and this idea of mistreating presupposes an idea of righttreating and without you having any idea how you should be treated or that you deserve to be treated better, you cannot feel mistreated – you would feel pain, you would feel the heaviness of being in its purest forms, yet that won’t be a mistreatment – that would be the treatment that you receive.
      Slavery the way it happened prior to the middle ages was never even thought as something that could be unethical. People were selling themselves if they do not want to pay taxes. They had Saturnalias to remind them of compassion towards these individuals and so on.

    • avatar
      Георги

      Alexander, I don’t want to really focus on the word exploitation and how we translate it that much. It doesn’t matter at all if slaves were feeling “mistreated” because they didn’t have the ethical concepts.
      What you need to argue in order to prove your point is that Slavery was a product of solidarity and not that people can’t feel things without language.

    • avatar
      Alexander

      Slavery was a product of economic interests and greed. Not of Solidarity. And the main engine for economic interests and greed is the competitiveness of higharchy. There is no exploitation in systems which do not presuppose power structures. PS as they are done on the voluntary participation of people.

    • avatar
      Alexander

      Also, I believe that the idea of exploitation is quite basic for anarchist societies as even though some would work more than others and would use less than others, they do not feel exploited, they feel belonging and fulfilled.

    • avatar
      Julia

      I think it is more simple; people have not been taught critical thinking skills. People are being taught obedience, acceptance. Challenging anything is punished even in school and frowned upon nearly everywhere else. A system of fear, lack of free time and distraction is in place for most people’s life. Plus beliefs with absolutely no proof are encouraged, so people are enslaved by their political, business, spiritual and religious beliefs and do not enjoy a free mind.

    • avatar
      Георги

      Alexander, “Also, I believe that the idea of exploitation is quite basic for anarchist societies as even though some would work more than others and would use less than others, they do not feel exploited, they feel belonging and fulfilled.”
      It’s not about who will work more. It’s about who will be able to own his time more. And the question is how everyone being free and nice would stop the slave society that’s building tanks to glorify their awesome leader by forcing you to make shoes for 0.01$ an hour

    • avatar
      Alexander

      Георги, Anarchy is a consciousness and you have to start somewhere. For example the current market is what keeps the particular dictator in power, the absence of marketing power which would support the Chinese exploitation. I don’t believe in a person who would argue for power to stop the exploitation and would not use it to benefit himself.

    • avatar
      Георги

      Alexander, But if this happens who will make shoes? People would always prefer shoes to someone elses suffering. And it’s not only marketing (thou a lot of it is). Shoes really are that good.

    • avatar
      Alexander

      Self-awareness. Buy them from a local shoemaker, make your own shoes if necessary. There are a lot of campaigns against sweatshops of people trying to change something.

    • avatar
      Георги

      Alexander , Oh yes I am aware. They did very little and then the market upped the price of Chinese workers so now companies are moving to Africa.

    • avatar
      Alexander

      Георги, Even more shoes which are made for 0.01$ are still sold on normal prices – the profit for which goes high up. If you can force companies to lower profit for increasing work conditions, even the price won’t change.

    • avatar
      Георги

      Alexander, The problem is that when you increase work conditions you don’t have slaves and you don’t have shoes. And even if you have “local shoemaker” you won’t have something else that you will want.
      And even if you create society in which everyone have their basic needs met you just created a society in which the price of luxury goods skyrockets and at the end you have a tea company controlling the government and starting a war with China.

    • avatar
      Alexander

      Георги, Don’t forget that most of “consumption” is actually manufactured by huge corporations. Consumption for which you have no actual need, yet they must sell it you, otherwise they would bankrupt. Same goes for most of the luxury items and complicated stuff that some people have the job to sell it to you. .

    • avatar
      Георги

      Alexander, They throw away most of the production to keep the value high. Still no reason to believe those things would exist at all if the conditions of fear disappear within the producers.

    • avatar
      Alexander

      I personally believe that if there is a necessity for a good and the demand is natural (meaning that it does not emerge from a corp), then people would definitely make a way to produce it. Most of the stuff that would not exist is not needed anyway.

    • avatar
      Георги

      Alexander, I never met a single person doing anything useful in my entire life because all of them live in China/Africa and they live like cattle so they don’t have time to socialize with me. If China + Africa just stop producing we would die within a year because our function within the great system is to consume not produce. And we are good at consuming not producing.

  11. avatar
    catherine benning

    Could anarchism ever work in practice?

    Work? Clarify what your definition of work is in this context?

    The search is too nebulous for a definitive answer.

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