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Should We Take Anarchism Seriously? Essay

2018 words - 8 pages

Anarchism as a political ideology did not emerge until Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865) declared himself an 'anarchist' in his book What is Property? in 1840. Before this, the term 'anarchy', deriving from Greek and literally meaning 'without rule', had negative connotations and was often applied to political opponents as a derogatory term with the meaning "advocating chaos", for example the Diggers of the English Civil War and the Enragés of the French Revolution were referred to as 'anarchist' by their opponents. These pejorative connotations are still around today:In conventional usage it conjures up visions of chaos, confusion and disorder, and is frequently equated with the actions of urban guerrillas, plane hijackers, even common criminals.'The aim of this essay is to assess such criticisms of anarchism, and to show that we should not, as is usual, dismiss it as 'puerile and absurd' or dismiss its 'ideal of pure liberty as at best utopian, at worst, a dangerous chimera'. But, as this essay will show, we should instead see it as a set of coherent political ideas that we should take seriously as a political ideology with influence in the past and relevance to modern political issues.Although there are different strands of anarchism, all directly oppose political authority and advocate the abolition of the state and its governing institutions, believing it to be 'unnecessary to social, political and economic life' and oppressive and limiting to human freedom and equality:For anarchists the root of all evil was government, whether by the state, church, party, or individuals. At the door of government they laid the multiple ills...holding it responsible for all inequality and injustice.Instead, anarchists propose a stateless society, or a 'state of nature', 'in which free individuals manage their own affairs by voluntary agreement, without compulsion or coercion' and where 'a more natural and spontaneous social order will develop.' Anarchist supporters all follow the same views on certain principles, notably 'the right to complete individual freedom, a complete rejection of authority of all forms, the establishment of a non-hierarchical society and an abiding belief that human nature is always essentially good'. The origins of anarchism are debateable, the ideas have been traced back to Ancient Greece; to Taoism in Ancient China; to the Gnostics of the twelfth-century; to the German Anabaptists of the sixteenth-century; to Buddhist ideas. But, although not claiming to be an anarchist himself, it's principles were first set down by William Godwin (1756-1836) in his Equality Concerning Political Justice in 1793. Godwin 'believed that people have a natural propensity to organize their own lives in a harmonious and peaceful fashion.' Anarchism gained support in the late nineteenth century in Russia and South Europe, as well as India, Japan and the USA#, and gained prominence as a movement, particularly in the form of anarcho-syndicalism, in...

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