Is Anarchy Chaos or Decentralized Self-Rule?

anarchy (n.) – 1530s, from French anarchie or directly from Medieval Latin anarchia, from Greek anarkhia “lack of a leader, the state of people without a government” (in Athens, used of the Year of Thirty Tyrants, 404 B.C., when there was no archon), noun of state from anarkhos “rulerless,” from an- “without” (see an- (1)) + arkhos “leader” (see archon).

Either the State for ever, crushing individual and local life, taking over in all fields of human activity, bringing with it its wars and its domestic struggles for power, its palace revolutions which only replace one tyrant by another, and inevitably at the end of this development there is … death! Or the destruction of States, and new life starting again in thousands of centers on the principle of the lively initiative of the individual and groups and that of free agreement. The choice lies with you! [Prince Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921)]


The first reason, accepted as a basic concept by anarchists of all political stripes, is that anarchism is philosophically justified. Although the debate within the field of political philosophy will never be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, the anarchist view that state power can never be morally justified–even in its American representative majority-rule variant– finds impressive support within academic philosophy (see, for example, Wolff, 1970). Anarchists on the left and on the right agree that political arrangements such as the US Constitution, agreed upon by a small unrepresentative minority two centuries ago, can lay no moral claim on individuals today. That most philosophical anarchists do in fact conform to the demands of their political state is a matter of practicality, not ethics, in much the same manner that a decision to hand over one’s money to an armed mugger is often the wisest course of action.

The key point is that individuals are morally bound only by decisions that they themselves participate in making, and anarchists consequently approve of decisionmaking procedures that move towards consensus and direct local control while allowing dissenters to preserve their autonomy. Psychologists who are interested in the nature of personal values, in moral judgment, and in issues of freedom and authority and personal responsibility would find much in anarchism that is relevant to their concerns.


I’ve been reading about various streams of modern anarchism for some time now.   While there has been much about them that attracted me, there were also many ideas that repelled me.  Chief among the ideas I rejected was the notion of using violence as an agent of change – the “propaganda of the deed” championed by Mikhail Bakunin in the 1800’s.  That idea was the tar-brush that brought the very word “anarchy” into disrepute, shifting its meaning from the simple recognition that order is possible without rulers (it comes from the Greek “an-” meaning “no-”  and “archon” meaning “ruler”) to a pejorative implying chaos, disorder and mindless violence.  My position has eventually converged on a slightly mutant offspring of two of those streams: eco-anarchism and anarcho-primitivism.

In this article I present an interpretation of how civilization wound up in its current social and ecological mess, and what I think we as self-empowered, autonomous representatives of a great species might do to improve things.   In the interest of using re-languaging to achieve more positive outcomes, rather than use the semantically damaged word “anarchy” I prefer to call this vision of a better world the “Natural Order”.



In an amazing game theory study by Duéñez-Guzmán-Sadedin on the topic of police corruption, they concluded that once a police system becomes entrenched, nothing can stop it from eventually becoming corrupt, with the result being a population of gullible sheep and hypocritical overlords. But they didn’t stop the study there. They decided to tweak it ever so slightly. In the words of Suzanne Sadedin: “The results were startling”. By making a few alterations to the composition of the justice system, corrupt societies could be made to transition to a state called ‘righteousness’. In righteous societies, police were not a separate, elite order. They were everybody. When virtually all of society stood ready to defend the common good, corruption didn’t pay. Similarly, as it turns out, social norms in hunter-gatherer societies are enforced by the whole group rather than any specially empowered individuals.”


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