Digest of terms

anarchism

political philosophy committed to a way of life 'without a rule'. Government is rejected as imposing order from outside the individual. Its exemplary advocates include 16th century revolutionary Baptists and 17th C Puritan Levellers, French and Russian revolutionaries such as Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin, and 20th century critics of all external agencies of control, whether central government or big business, such as writers and educationalists Aldous Huxley, Paul Goodman and Herbert Read. Its characteristic features are simplicity, sincerity and spontaneity.

Anarchists argue that society should be organized without a state and its coercive power and authority. Views vary on how this might work in practice, ranging from a strong defence of private property to advocacy of communal ownership, but anarchists are typically optimistic (critics would say utopian) about possible schemes of labour and cooperation which would safeguard individual liberty while promoting social harmony. In its ethical ideals anarchism has much in common with socialism and indeed aspects of Marxism, but historically has been antagonistic to these because of their espousal of the role of the state in introducing and implementing the relevant values.

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