What is Anarchism? Definition, History, Types

4 minute read
What is Anarchism

Imagine a big garden where diverse plants thrive without a single gardener. Similarly, Anarchism embraces the idea of ‘self-governance’ and ‘spontaneous organisation’ among people. At its core, Anarchism is a philosophical and political ideology that values individual freedom and autonomy and rejects hierarchical power structures. In this blog, you will learn about Anarchism’s definition, history, and significance, unravelling the ideas and beliefs behind this thought-provoking ideology.

Anarchist Ideology

Anarchism is a political ideology that rejects the concept of centralised authority, including the State, and instead envisions a society based on voluntary cooperation, mutual aid, and individual autonomy. Moreover, it aims to dismantle oppressive structures and create a world where individuals can live freely and equally.

Also Read: What is the Difference between Democracy and Dictatorship?

Values and Beliefs Embedded in Anarchism

Furthermore, Anarchism upholds many core values that drive its principles and ideas:

1. Stateless Society: Anarchism fundamentally opposes the existence of a centralised State. Thus, advocating for decentralised decision-making and governance structures.

2. Individual Autonomy: Anarchists champion individual autonomy, therefore promoting the idea that individuals should have the freedom to make choices without oppressive external authority.

3. Direct Action: Additionally, as a means of achieving social and political change, emphasise grassroots efforts, protests, and collective organising.

4. Mutual Aid: An important concept in Anarchism is mutual aid. Individuals voluntarily cooperate to meet each other’s needs, thus promoting a sense of solidarity and interdependence.

5. Anti-Capitalism: Anarchism critiques and opposes capitalist systems, favouring alternative economic models that prioritise cooperation, equality, and sustainability.

Also Read: What is an Authoritarian Government?

History of Anarchism

The roots of Anarchism can be traced back to various historical periods and thinkers who contributed to its development.

  • Early expressions of anarchistic ideas can be found in the works of Taoist philosophers in ancient China and certain Greek philosophers.
  • However, modern Anarchism emerged during the 19th century.
  • Furthermore, key figures like Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin played significant roles in shaping anarchist thought during this time.
  • Anarchism also found expression in various labour movements and revolutions, such as the Spanish Civil War and the Paris Commune.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, an Anarchist
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Mikhail Bakunin, an Anarchist
Mikhail Bakunin

Also Read: What is Totalitarianism?

8 Types of Anarchism

These categories mentioned below are not mutually exclusive, and many anarchists may incorporate elements from multiple schools of thought. Moreover, Anarchism is a diverse and evolving philosophy with different interpretations and strategies for achieving a stateless and non-hierarchical society. Here are the Types of Anarchism:

  • Individualist Anarchism: It focuses on the sovereignty of the individual and opposes coercive institutions such as the State.
    • Individualist anarchists often advocate for voluntary cooperation, free association as well as the protection of individual rights.
  • Anarcho-Communism: Advocates for a society where common ownership and communal control over resources replace private property.
    • In addition, goods and services are distributed based on need, and there is no concept of currency or a centralised state.
  • Anarcho-Syndicalism: There is an emphasis on the role of labour unions and worker self-management in achieving a stateless society.
    • Anarcho-syndicalists believe that workers, organised through unions, should directly manage and control industries.
  • Mutualism: Proposes a society where individuals or workers own and control their means of production.
    • Additionally, Mutualists support markets but envision them as decentralised and based on mutual exchange, with an emphasis on reciprocity and voluntary cooperation.
  • Anarcho-Primitivism: They argue for a return to a simpler, pre-industrial way of life, hence viewing civilisation and technology as inherently oppressive.
    • Moreover, Anarcho-primitivists advocate for decentralised and non-hierarchical communities.
  • Green Anarchism (or Eco-Anarchism): Explores the intersection between anarchism and environmentalism.
    • Additionally, it emphasizes the need to address ecological issues and sees hierarchical structures, including the state and capitalism, as contributing to environmental degradation.
  • Post-Left Anarchism: Critiques traditional leftist movements for compromising with hierarchical structures.
    • Post-left anarchists often reject formal organisations, thus focusing on individual autonomy and spontaneity in resistance.
  • Anarcho-Feminism: Integrates anarchist and feminist theories by addressing the intersection of gender, patriarchy, and hierarchy.
    • Anarcho-feminists seek to eliminate all forms of oppression, including those related to gender and sexuality.

Also Read: What is Fascism?

Significance of Anarchism

Anarchism is an ideology that advocates for a stateless, cooperative society where individuals can live freely and equally.

  • It challenges traditional power structures and encourages self-governance and mutual aid.
  • By understanding anarchist political views, we can engage in meaningful discussions about alternative forms of social organisation and explore ways to address oppressive systems and promote individual freedoms.

Examples of Anarchism in the World

One historical example is the Free Territory in Ukraine during the Russian Revolution (1917-1922).

  • The Free Territory was a region where anarchists, led by Nestor Makhno, established a self-governing and stateless society.
  • In addition, the area operated on principles of communalism, voluntary cooperation, and local autonomy, thus emphasizing the absence of a centralized government.
Nestor Makhno
Nestor Makhno


#1. Who is considered one of the key figures in the development of modern anarchism?

#2. Anarchism oppose the existence of?

#3. Which one of the following is a core value of anarchism?



What is the core principle of the Anarchist philosophy that opposes hierarchical structures in society?

Autonomy and self-governance are fundamental ideals.

How does Anarchist ideology propose making decisions and organizing communities?

Through decentralized, consensus-based methods.

What is the general perspective on the role of government in an anarchist worldview?

Anarchism typically advocates for the minimization or abolition of traditional government structures.

Who is the founder of anarchism?

The founder of Anarchism is Frenchman Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

What are the three types of anarchy?

The three types of Anarchy are Individualist Anarchism, Anarcho-Communism and Anarcho-Syndicalism.

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