Essay, Research Paper: Anarchy


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Anarchism seems to be defined many ways by many different sources. Most
dictionary definitions define anarchism as the absence of government. A leading
modern dictionary, Webster's Third International Dictionary, defines anarchism
briefly but accurately as, "a political theory opposed to all forms of
government and governmental restraint and advocating voluntary cooperation and
free association of individuals and groups in order to satisfy their
needs." Other dictionaries describe anarchism with similar definitions. The
Britannica-Webster dictionary defines the word anarchism as, "a political
theory that holds all government authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and
advocates a society based on voluntary cooperation of individuals and
groups." William Godwin was the first proclaimed anarchist in history and
the first to write about anarchism. Godwin published a book called Political
Justice in 1793 which first introduced his ideas about anarchism, Godwin was
forgotten about, however, and after his death Pierre Joseph Proudhon became a
leading anarchist figure in the world. His book What is Property? incorporated
greater meaning to the word anarchism; anarchism became not only a rejection of
established authority but a theory opposing ownership of land and property as
well. Anarchism fully blossomed as a defined theory when Russian anarchists
Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876) and Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) started to write and
speak. Bakunin had a major influence in the world and introduced anarchism to
many people. Kropotkin was one of the many people inspired by Bakunin. Kropotkin
wrote many books on anarchism, including Muitual Aid, Fields Factories and
Workshops, and The Conquest of Bread, and greatly aided in the evolution of the
theory of anarchism. As the 20th century emerged anarchism began to peak and the
definition of anarchism became concrete with the growth of new anarchist writers
and movements. The execution and imprisonment of eight anarchists in Chicago in
1886 sparked anarchism's growth in the United States. The "Haymarket
Eight" flourished anarchists such as Voltairine de Cleyre and Lucy Parsons.
Parsons was born into slavery and later became an anarchist and an ardent
speaker and working class rebel; the Chicago police labeled Parsons,
"...more dangerous than a thousand rioters." Although the word
anarchism is understood by many in its classic sense (that defined by
dictionaries and by anarchists of history), the word often seems to be misused
or misunderstood. Anarchism, because of the threat it imposes upon established
authority, has been historically, and is still, misused by power holders as
violence and chaos. The claim that anarchism is chaos was refuted long ago by
Alexander Berkman when he wrote: “I must tell you, first of all, what
anarchism is not. It is not bombs, disorder, or chaos. It is not robbery or
murder. It is not a war of each against all. It is not a return to barbarianism
or to the wild state of man. Anarchism is the very opposite of all that.” So,
what is anarchism? All of the pro-anarchy sources I found say that, basically,
anarchism is a political philosophy that embraces democracy and freedom, and
seeks to destroy all forms of coercion and oppression. The root of human
oppression is seen as authority and inequality. This is why they think it is the
perfect ideological guide for destroying poverty, racism, and sexism. All these
oppressions are systems of power based on hierarchy. Hierarchy means top-down,
like a pyramid. Hierarchical constructions of power create positions of relative
privilege and relative oppression. Capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy
(male supremacy) are also top-down constructions of power. Anarchism
conceptualizes power differently. Instead of power over, anarchism proposes
power with, cooperation. This means that social systems and institutions should
be based on cooperation and compromising. Power would rest in individuals and
the collectives they freely associate into. Anarchism revolves around five basic
principles: 1) equality; 2) democracy; 3) free association; 4) mutual aid; 5)
diversity. Equality can have many different meanings. In regards to the
anarchist political philosophy, they speak of equality in reference to power.
This doesn't mean they want a new society based on a totalitarian vision of
everyone looking and acting the same, in fact they see strength in diversity.
Instead they mean that everyone should have equal access to power, to determine
how he or she wants to live his or her lives. It appears the best way for equal
power to be institutionalized is through different forms of democracy. Democracy
is a vague notion, but in general it seeks to empower everyone to have an equal
say in decisions that affect their lives. This is only useful if it extends to
all areas of social life. Capitalism is undemocratic, in my opinion, especially
when combined with racism and sexism. Free Association is the idea that
individuals should not be forced into social arrangements against their will. In
the world today if you are born into poverty, most likely you will die in
poverty. In America, children cannot expect to live at a higher standard than
their parents. In an anarchist society collectives-or organizations, would be
created for every purpose humanly desired, of people freely associated with
equal power to determine its future. This vision extends to all forms of social
arrangements - from your neighborhood, to your city, to a neighborhood
restaurant, etc. When people work together they can accomplish much more than
when they work against each other. I do believe that social organizations should
embrace and encourage this. It may seem like common sense, but when you look
around, all you see is how we are constantly pitted against each other. So
anarchists do not seek to stifle creativity and individual excellence, but hope
to spread it out, and allow everyone to chase their dreams. Diversity in this
sense, is the key to survival in the future. The modern drive to standardize
everything and apply the assembly line to all aspects of social life has left
many alienated and hopeless. Instead of trying to make reality conform to state
bureaucrats conceptions of order through imposition of their authority;
anarchists believe that social organizations function more effectively for the
people involved in them if those same people have the power to shape them in
ways they desire. So anarchists support diverse forms of democracy, family
organization, production, dancing, loving, eating, whatever. Oh yeah, and being
free. Here are my thoughts (they may, at first, seem to be off subject, but in
the end you’ll nderstand why I begin the way I do): At the moment we live in a
society in which there are two major classes - the bosses and the workers. The
bosses own the factories, banks, shops, etc. Workers don't. All they have is
their labor, which they use to make a living. Workers are compelled to sell
their labor to the boss for a wage. The boss is interested in squeezing as much
work out of the worker for as little wages as possible so that he/she can
maintain high profits. Thus the more wages workers get the less profits the
bosses make. Their interests are in total opposition to each other. Production
is not based on the needs of ordinary people. Production is for profit.
Therefore although there is enough food in the world to feed everyone, people
starve because profits come first. This is capitalism. There are other classes
in society such as the self- employed and small farmers but fundamentally there
are workers and bosses whose interests are in opposition to each other. For
workers needs to be fully met we must get rid of the bosses. But this is no easy
task. The bosses are organized. They have the media on their side. They also
have the State and the force of the army and police that go with it. The state
(i.e. governments, armies, courts, police, etc.) is a direct result of the fact
that we live in a class society. A society where about 7% of the people own, at
least, 85% of the wealth. The state is there to protect the interests of this
minority, if not by persuasion then by force. Laws are made not to protect us,
but to protect those who own the property. If you haven’t already guessed it,
I don’t care much for capitalism. I think it is very deceiving how we are led
to believe that the state is run in our interests. “Don’t we have elections
to ensure that any government not behaving itself can be brought to task?” you
ask. Democracy is about putting numbers on a piece of paper every four years. We
are given a choice all right, but between parties who all agree with the system
of a tiny minority ruling the country. So, is it possible for anarchy to exist?
At the moment capitalism would collapse without the support of the working
class. We make everything, we produce all the wealth. The sad thing is, most of
the working class does believe America is being run in our interests. So, my
answer is no; I don’t think anarchy will ever come to be in America. The above
paragraphs may make you think that I am now a anarchist. If so, I have misled
you. I am against the way our nation is run today, but I do not think anarchy is
an applicable alternative. Anarchy sounds as if we could actually live as an
utopian society. It is a nice dream, but will never be reality (at least not in
my lifetime). When people are free, they are uncontrollable. I like the idea of
having groups of different people, with equal power determining how the nation
be run, but there needs to be control. I think the only way to come close to
having an utopian society, is if someone comes up with a way where we can
balance both freedom and control fairly, distribute it equally, and get the
working class to believe it will work. Who knows? Maybe someone actually will

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