The Truth About Anarchy

throwing flowers

Widespread political unrest has had the effect of delegitimizing democracy as a superior form of government. Mainstream discussion of politics assumes the position of “statism“, namely the belief that a governing body is necessary to provide what a society needs to function (e.g., law, order, defense) or to successfully regulate economic equality and stability. Underlying this belief is the assumption that society would descend into chaos without the state. As articulated by 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, we would descend into a state of nature of “war of all against all” in which existence would be marked “…continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Anarchism, in stark contrast to this view, argues that state-run government and representation is oppressive by nature, and the only way to achieve true social equality and make substantial human progress is to rid our society of rule from above.

The discourse surrounding Anarchy aims to increase empowerment, accountability, and autonomy. However, many people who call themselves “anarchists” also tend to harbor contempt for modern government, and rationalize the use of political violence as a tactic to overthrow the state along with its constituents.  What these radical “anarchists” fail to realize is that their extreme actions are actually contradictory to the true essence of Anarchy. Anarchism, at its fundamental level, is a political system that thrives not from the government of high ranking impersonal figures, but from self-government and the support and respect of others. This includes following the established rules of society and being an upstanding and noble citizen. The increasingly popular view that Anarchy is conceptually interchangeable with chaos, destruction, and unregulated behavior undermines the societal benefits that adopting this political view can potentially bring. Even an upcoming Hollywood action thriller titled The Purge: Anarchy depicts a civilization wrought with violence and peril, which is not at all tantamount to what a true Anarchist society would entail.

The prevailing misconceptions of anarchism are reinforced by none other than the pseudo-anarchists who preach and protest without fully grasping the concept behind their political ideology. In Nats Revilo’s short essay, he coins the term Anti-Reality Prejudice to describe the hypocritical behaviors of these pseudo-anarchists, or as he refers to them, anarcho-whimarchists. He critically points out that the misguided motivations and aspirations of anarcho-whimarchists will consistently fail because they refuse to accept the political and legal realities that our world is in. There are instilled processes and parameters that must be recognized and observed before any structural change can feasibly occur. By refusing to acknowledge this reality, anarcho-whimarchists find themselves engaging in extreme measures that promote violence and civil turmoil, which ironically compromises their initial political beliefs.

The plight of the pseudo-anarchist is unfortunate, especially because legitimate Anarchy may very well be the key to a better society. Abraham Maslow, famed humanistic psychologist, was a strong proponent for an anarchist society. His hierarchy of needs theory outlines the process by which humans come to self-actualize, which is a term he used to describe when someone is at their highly capable, best self. Self-actualization is at the top of the hierarchy, and in order to achieve it one must first fulfill various needs. This includes survival needs (food, water, shelter), social needs (friends, family, community), and love needs (companionship, intimacy), among others. The more complex the need is to fulfill, the higher up it is on the scale, and moving up requires fulfilling the previous need. Maslow believed that Anarchy was only possible when the society was made up of people who were self-actualized, efficient, caring, creative, and with integrity. He believed the concept of Anarchy alone was transcendent of self-actualization because of how it integrates a community based off these humanistic ideals. Maslow knew that individuals could experience self-actualization, and he imagined a society of these individuals to closely resemble Anarchy. Regrettably still, with the swirling misconceptions and improper practices of the Anarchist movement, we are all left to sit and wonder if Maslow’s utopian Anarchy is as unlikely as the pseudo-anarchist’s chaotic takeover.

Much of the social confusion around Anarchy is undoubtedly derived from how generally difficult it is to conceptualize a separate political system from the one that we are immersed in and have known all our lives. This conceptual roadblock does not mean that Anarchy is inherently flawed or unachievable. Rather, this trend is indicative of how little we truly comprehend the logistics of an Anarchist society, and how overzealous social activists might need to learn how to walk before they can run.


Undergraduate research assistant and blogger for the Moral Communities Project. **The opinions and views expressed are my own and do not reflect the official positions of The Moral Communities Project or its funders.

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2 thoughts on “The Truth About Anarchy

  1. Hello Aaron,

    Your post is very well written and enjoyable. Just wondering if you could share where you found Maslow’s pro-anarchy stance please.

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