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The Anarchist (1892) by Félix Vallotton
The Anarchist (1892) by Félix Vallotton

"To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so [...]. --Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

"No gods, no masters"

"The defining image of the moment was provided by an iconic ink sketch by Félix Vallotton for the Revue Blanche, which depicted Ravachol in a muscular refusal to submit to his tormenters, his hair wild and eyes staring, white shirt stripped from his shoulders as the prison guards force his straining neck down towards the board of the guillotine: the anarchists’ answer to a meek Jesus stumbling under the weight of his cross, on the way to Calvary."--The World That Never Was (2010) by Alex Butterworth

This page Anarchism is part of the politics series.Illustration:Liberty Leading the People (1831, detail) by Eugène Delacroix.
This page Anarchism is part of the politics series.
Illustration:Liberty Leading the People (1831, detail) by Eugène Delacroix.

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Anarchism is a generic term describing various political philosophies and social movements that advocate the elimination of all forms of imposed authority, including social hierarchy and coercive power. In place of hierarchy, these movements favor relations based upon voluntary cooperation and mutual aid, leading to a society characterised by the ability of each actor to have a say in outcomes proportionate to the degree they are affected by them. These philosophies use anarchy to mean a society based on voluntary cooperation of free individuals. Philosophical anarchist thought does not advocate chaos or anomie — it refers to "anarchy" as a manner of human relations that is intentionally established and maintained.


Anarchist themes can be found in the works of Taoist sages Laozi, Zhuangzi and Bao Jingyan [1]. Zhuangzi wrote, "A petty thief is put in jail. A great brigand becomes a ruler of a Nation," while Bao Jingyan said that as soon as "the relationship between lord and subject is established, hearts become daily filled with evil designs, until the manacled criminals sullenly doing forced labour in the mud and the dust are full of mutinous thoughts." Diogenes of Sinope and the Cynics, their contemporary Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism, also introduced similar topics.

The term "anarchist" first entered the English language in 1642, during the English Civil War, as a term of abuse, used by Royalists against their Roundhead opponents. By the time of the French Revolution some, such as the Enragés, began to use the term positively, in opposition to Jacobin centralisation of power, seeing "revolutionary government" as oxymoronic. By the turn of the 19th century, the English word "anarchism" had lost its initial negative connotation.

Modern anarchism sprang from the secular or religious thought of the Enlightenment, particularly Jean-Jacques Rousseau's arguments for the moral centrality of freedom. From this climate William Godwin developed what many consider the first expression of modern anarchist thought. Godwin was, according to Peter Kropotkin, "the first to formulate the political and economical conceptions of anarchism, even though he did not give that name to the ideas developed in his work", while Godwin attached his anarchist ideas to an early Edmund Burke. Benjamin Tucker instead credits Josiah Warren, an American who promoted stateless and voluntary communities where all goods and services were private, with being "the first man to expound and formulate the doctrine now known as Anarchism." The first to describe himself as an anarchist was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, a French philosopher and politician, which led some to call him the founder of modern anarchist theory.

Political Justice (1973) by William Godwin

In 1793, William Godwin, who has often been cited as the first anarchist, wrote Political Justice, a book which some consider the first expression of anarchism. Godwin was a philosophical anarchist and from a rationalist and utilitarian basis opposed revolutionary action and saw a minimal state as a present "necessary evil" that would become increasingly irrelevant and powerless by the gradual spread of knowledge. Godwin advocated individualism, proposing that all cooperation in labour be eliminated on the premise that this would be most conducive with the general good.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Anarchism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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