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Different people, different forms of government (part 19)




Last week, we x-rayed the meaning, history, origin, and commenced eras of anarchy. Anarchy, as seen so far, refers to the absence of government; a condition in which a nation or state operates without a central governing body.


Today, we shall conclude with anarchy. Please read on. Eras of Anarchy (continues) Modern era During the French Revolution, partisan groups saw a turning point in the fermentation of anti-state and federalist sentiments.


The first anarchist currents developed throughout the 18th century as William Godwin espoused philosophical anarchism in England, morally delegitimising the state.


Max Stirner’s thinking paved the way to individualism and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s theory of mutualism found fertile soil in France. Drawing from mutualism, advocated for free federation and for the distribution of goods according to one’s needs. At the turn of the century, anarchism had spread all over the world. It was a notable feature of the international syndicalism movement.



During this time, a minority of anarchists adopted tactics of revolutionary political violence. This strategy became known as propaganda of the deed. The dismemberment of the French socialist movement into many groups and the execution and exile of many Communards to penal colonies following the suppression of the Paris Commune favoured individualist political expression and acts.


Even though many anarchists distanced themselves from these terrorist acts, infamy came upon the movement. Illegalism was another strategy which some anarchists adopted during this period.


Post-war era of anarchy


At the end of World War II, the anarchist movement was severely weakened.


However, the 1960s witnessed a revival of anarchism, likely caused by a perceived failure of Marxism–Leninism and tensions built by the Cold War. During this time, anarchism took root in other movements critical towards both capitalism and the state such as the anti-nuclear, environmental and peace movements, the counterculture of the 1960s and the New Left.


It also saw a transition from its previous revolutionary nature to provocative anti-capitalist reformism.


Anarchist schools of thought


Anarchist schools of thought have been generally grouped into two main historical traditions, social anarchism and individualist anarchism, owing to their different origins, values and evolution.


The individualist current emphasizes negative liberty in opposing restraints upon the free individual while the social current emphasizes positive liberty in aiming to achieve the free potential of society through equality and social ownership.


Beyond the specific factions of anarchist movements which constitute political anarchism lies philosophical anarchism, which holds that the state lacks moral legitimacy, without necessarily accepting the imperative of revolution to eliminate it.


A component, especially of individualist anarchism, philosophical anarchism may tolerate the existence of a minimal state but it argues that citizens have no moral obligation to obey government when it conflicts with individual autonomy. Anarchism is usually placed on the far-left of the political spectrum.


Much of its economics and legal philosophy reflect anti-authoritarian, anti-statist, libertarian and radical interpretationsof left-wing and socialist politics such as collectivism, communism, individualism, mutualism and syndicalism, among other libertarian socialist economic theories.


As anarchism does not offer a fixed body of doctrine from a single particular worldview, many anarchist types and traditions exist and varieties of anarchy diverge widely.


One reaction against sectarianism within the anarchist milieu was anarchism without adjectives, a call for toleration and unity among anarchists first adopted by Fernando Tarrida del Mármol in 1889 in response to the bitter debates of anarchist theory at the time. Despite separation, the various anarchist schools of thought are not seen as distinct entities but rather as tendencies that intermingle.


Issues in anarchism


As anarchism is a philosophy that embodies many diverse attitudes, tendencies, schools of thought, disagreement over questions of values, ideology and tactics is common. Its diversity has led to widely different uses of identical terms among different anarchist traditions which have created a number of definitional concerns in anarchist theory.


The compatibility of capitalism, nationalism and religion with anarchism is widely disputed. Similarly, anarchism enjoys complex relationships with ideologies such as communism, collectivism, Marxism and rade unionism.



Anarchists may be motivated by humanism, divine authority, enlightened self-interest, veganism, or any number of alternative ethical doctrines.


Phenomena such as civilisation, technology (e.g. within anarcho-primitivism) and the   democratic process may be sharply criticised within some anarchist tendencies and simultaneously lauded in others.


Anarchism and the state


Objection to the state and its institutions is a sine qua non of anarchism. Anarchists consider the state as a tool of domination and believe it to be illegitimate regardless of its political tendencies. Instead of people being able to control the aspects of their life, major decisions are taken by small elite. Authority ultimately rests solely on power, regardless of whether that power is open or transparent, as it still has the ability to coerce people.


Another anarchist argument against states is that the people constituting a government, even the most altruistic among officials, will unavoidably seek to gain more power, leading to corruption.


Anarchists consider the idea that the state is the collective will of the people to be an unachievable fiction due to the fact that the ruling class is distinct from the rest of society.


Criticism of anarchy


The most common critique of anarchism is that humans cannot self-govern and a state is necessary for human survival.


Philosopher Bertrand Russell supported this critique, noting that peace and war, tariffs, regulations of sanitary conditions and the sale of noxious drugs, the preservation of a just system of distribution: these, among others, are functions which could hardly be performed in a community in which there was no central government.


Another common criticism of anarchism is that it fits a world of isolation in which only the small enough entities can be selfgoverning.


Colin Ward responds that major anarchist thinkers advocated federalism. Philosophy lecturer Andrew G. Fiala also believed that humans could not self-govern and included it in his list of arguments against anarchism.


Fiala’s other critiques were that anarchism is innately related to violence and destruction, not only in the pragmatic world, i.e. at protests, but in the world of ethics as well. Secondly, anarchism is evaluated as unfeasible or utopian since the state cannot be defeated practically.


This line of arguments most often calls for political action within the system to reform it.


The third argument is that anarchism is self-contradictory. While it advocates for no-one to archiei, if accepted by the many, then anarchism would turn into the ruling political theory. In this line of criticism also comes the self-contradiction that anarchism calls for collective action whilst endorsing the autonomy of the individual, hence no collective action can be taken. Lastly, Fiala mentions a critique



towards philosophical anarchism of being ineffective (all talk and thoughts) and in the meantime capitalism and bourgeois class remains strong.


Philosophical anarchism has met the criticism of members of academia following the release of pro-anarchist books such as A. John Simmons’ Moral Principles and Political Obligations. Law professor William A. Edmundson authored an essay arguing against three major philosophical anarchist principles which he finds fallacious.


Edmundson claims that while the individual does not owe the state a duty of obedience, this does not imply that anarchism is the inevitable conclusion and the state is still morally legitimate.


In The Problem of Political Authority, Michael Huemer defends philosophical anarchism, claiming that “political authority is a moral illusion”.


Another criticism is that anarchism defies and fails to understand the biological inclination to authority as first articulated in an 1886 article for the North American Review by Frances L. Ferguson. Joseph Raz argues that the acceptance of authority implies the belief that following their instructions will afford more success.


Raz believes that this argument is true in following both authorities’ successful and mistaken instruction. Anarchists reject this criticism because challenging or disobeying authority does not entail the disappearance of its advantages by acknowledging authority such as doctors or lawyers as reliable, nor does it involve a complete surrender of independent judgment.




Academic John Molyneux notes in his book Anarchism: A Marxist Criticism that “anarchism cannot win”, believing that it lacks the ability to properly implement its ideas.


The Marxist criticism of anarchism is that it has an utopian character because all individuals should have anarchist views and values.


According to the Marxist view, that a social idea would follow directly from this human ideal and out of the free will of every individual formed its essence.


Marxists argue that this contradiction was responsible for their inability to act. In the anarchist vision, the conflict between liberty and equality was resolved through coexistence and intertwining.




“Our government… teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy”. (Louis D. Brandeis).


“If we don’t make earnest moves toward real solutions, then each day we move one day closer to revolution and anarchy in this country. This is the sad,…” (Louis Farrakhan).




Fellow Nigerians, synergise with me every week, to put our heads together on how to retool Nigeria.


Right here on “The Nigerian Project”, by Chief Mike A. A. Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb, LL.M, Ph.D, LL.D.


• Follow me on twitter @ MikeozekhomeSAN




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