Anarchism: An Unpopular Political Theory

Ideas and Movements

From the Greek word anarchos, meaning without government or authority, anarchism is the belief that governmental regulation is both unnecessary and harmful to society. Human beings are by nature good, but are corrupted by societal institutions. Those institutions, particularly the state, must be destroyed to allow the natural development of voluntary associations among individuals and groups.

Forms of anarchism existed in ancient times and among some early Christian sects. The movement became associated with violence under the influence of the Russian revolutionary Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876), who eventually lost out in an ideological struggle with Karl Marx. A wave of political assassinations in Europe during the 19th and early 20th centuries was a means employed by anarchists to destroy corrupt governments.

Josiah Warren

Anarchism has never been a major force in the United States, but did have an early advocate in the utopian Josiah Warren (1798-1874). The movement lost what meager support it had in the wake of the Haymarket Riot and the McKinley assassination. In 1901, Congress enacted legislation barring known anarchists from entering the United States. Such notable activists as Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were deported at this time.

Post-World War I xenophobia was evidenced in the trial and execution of anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti in the 1920s. The movement has few adherents today and is largely confined to making protest statements at well publicized international gatherings.

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Quotes regarding Anarchism: An Unpopular Political Theory.

By Henry David Thoreau
I heartily accept the motto, "That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe— "That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.
From the essay Civil Disobedience, 1849

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Anarchism: What It Really Stands For
... of destruction is the very thing Anarchism is combating? Nor is he aware that Anarchism, whose roots, as it were, are part of nature's forces, destroys, not healthful tissue, but parasitic growths that feed on the life's essence of society ...

From Revolution to Reconstruction: Outlines: Outline of American Literature: American Poetry Since 1945: Authors: Philip Levine (1928- )
Much of his poetry is somber and reflects an anarchic tendency amid the realization that systems of government will endure. In one poem, Levine likens himself to a fox who survives in a dangerous world of hunters through his courage and cunning ...