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Anarchy is the theory of life and conduct under which social interactions exist without government interference or assistance. It is not chaos, nor terrorism, and has no connection to senseless violence; anarchy is simply existing without being governed. Harmony in such a society would be obtained not by submission to laws, or by obedience to any form of authority, but by freely entered agreements between individuals. The United States has strong ties to anarchy, a rather paradoxical situation. It was conceived by, and is even to this day constantly being refined by anarchists; people who maintain the view that the highest attainment of humanity is the freedom of individuals to express themselves unhindered by any form of external repression. Men such as the likes of Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers, whose views can best be summarized in something he preached, "If you think people incapable of exercising their choices with wholesome discretion, the solution is not to take away their choices, but to inform their discretion." So where did the concept of anarchy come from? Could it be inherent in human nature, a hold over from adolescence perhaps? Could it be people are naturally opposed to being told what to do? Abraham Lincoln, during the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, said something that summarizes human view towards being governed, "No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent." The modern concept of anarchy as being a sort of ethical civil society came during the French Revolution, around 1848. A man named Pierre Joseph Pfoudhon envisioned a society in which people's ethical nature and sense of moral responsibility would be so highly developed that government would be unnecessary to regulate and protect society, and is thus credited with fathering modern anarchy. Anarchy requires a lot of commitment on the part of the individual. How does the old saying go With freedom comes responsibility. On an individual level, no one wishes to be dominated, but at the same time the individual does not want to be infringed upon by others. A Russian-American anarchist and women's rights activist named Emma Goldman wrote, "I want full freedom and cooperation to evolve as a human being, to gain wisdom and knowledge." She does not refer to freedom of others, merely herself. Greed of freedoms is understandable because it is so hard to trust others to always do what is good. Socrates might respond, "To know the good is to do the good." Can the idea of an ethical civil society, a term coined by Adam Michnik in the 1970s, be not only applied to the individual, but can that individual wish for government to be taken off of their neighbors as well? "Let us treat the men and women well: treat them as if they were real: perhaps they are." wrote Ralph Emerson in an essay entitled Experience. What he is implying is even a person who is not your friend, or even a person who you do not know, can still have similar responsibility levels as yourself. In the past government has been justified by people like James Madison, who claimed, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary, but" His quote implies that, since men are not angels, we need government to function. Many have come to agree with him, feeling that law maintains order and balance. It is very easy in the short run to agree with some limited government when it helps you out. So, why reject all the benefits of a governed society? If there was no government there could be no governmentally sponsored health care, welfare programs, education, national defense, prisons, post offices, or maintained roads, right? What would happen? The Libertarian party puts forth the idea that private companies would take over and be able to both maximize the contentment for the individual and minimize spending waste; charities would be run by private voluntary donations. Private institutions are able to provide a more customized service, thus providing greater satisfaction for the individual. They site examples such as private schools being able to provide much better services than public schools, private family doctors being far superior to public health clinics, and private apartments being better maintained than low income housing provided by the government. Their views are criticized because a lot of people doubt in a corporation's ability to maximize anything other than profits. There could be no government inspections, or even government standards. Because in an anarchist society they wouldn't be monopolies, due to a completely free market theory being placed on the economy, customer satisfaction would have to be insured by competition: each company would need to please their customers or else run the risk of going out of business. "Government functions could be funded by user fees," say the Libertarians, thus insuring that the individual only pay for what he uses. Forcing people to pay money though is fairly minor in comparison to another problem with government. The other problem, which is so prominent in our culture today, is that Government says to people, through laws, that they don't have to think anymore. They can just do what is legal, and there is no need to think about what is actually right. "The State never intentionally confronts a man's sense, intellectual or moral, but only his body, his senses. It is not armed with superior wit or honesty, but with superior strength," wrote Henry David Threau in an essay entitled Resistance to Civil Government. The government is thus, just a big bully who forces us to do it's bidding. Being an anarchist is like being the prisoner who Plato writes about in his Allegory of the Cave. Once a person has seen the sun, or rather how ideal anarchy is, they are not often welcomed by the people who are still living in the dark, or rather under a governmental system. Even so, Thomas Jefferson claimed, "A little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical." The world needs anarchists, if only to provide ideas for a more liberated existance. What has kept anarchy from being a more prominent force in the world? Perhaps it requires something that we as a society are not yet ready to commit to: personal responsibility. Anarchy requires every person to take responsibility for his own actions. We would have to rid ourselves of a lot of our destructive tendencies: excessive greed, violence, and hatred. Anarchy requires that the individual live his life without infringing upon others, something hard for anyone. As Henry David Threau wrote in the opening lines of his most famous essay: "I heartily accept the motto, - "That government is best which governs least," and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which I also believe, - "That government is best that governs not at all;" and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government they will have. Bibliography Avrich, Paul. An American Anarchist: The Life of Voltairine de Cleyre. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978. Baym, Nina (editor). The Norton Anthology: American Literature. London, England: Norton & Company, Inc., 1995. Carter, April. The political Theory of Anarchism. London, England: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., 1971. Goldman, Emma. Anarchism and Other Essays. New York, NY: Dover Publications, 1969. Lavine, T.Z.. From Socrates to Sartre: the Philosophic Quest. United States: Bantam Books, 1989. Microsoft Corporation. Microsoft Bookshelf 98. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 1998. Shatz, Marshall (editor). The Essential Works of Anarchism. United States: Bantam Books, 1971. The Libertarian Party, 1998. "The Libertarian Party Website".


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