Characteristics of anarchism origin movement currents and rise


Anarchism is a movement that is primarily interested in the individual and society and seeks to break the established order . Under the banner of anarchism, different political and social currents have been grouped with tendencies that differ from each other, even with very different procedures. In this article we will provide you the Characteristics of anarchism.

For this reason there are more violent and radical anarchists, who hope to play an active role in the abolition of the state. While there are others more calm, who prefer pacifism and calm resistance. However, there is no precise and unique explanation of what it is to be an anarchist or how you should act.

Discover in this article how anarchism is defined, what were its origins in history, what are its characteristics and who have been its main promoters.

Definition of anarchism

Anarchism can be defined as a philosophical, political and social movement whose primary objective is to eradicate the State and all forms of government or authority. Nor is he in agreement with the social hierarchy or the control of society over the individual.

For anarchism these forms of domination are artificial, harmful and unnecessary, because the human has a natural tendency that guides him to a just and equanimous order. Nature that has been corrupted, according to this current of thought, by social pacts.

With the rejection and elimination of the State and the established order, anarchism seeks to promote a change at the social level that leads individuals to a society without sovereigns or masters.

Enhance your reading: Paleolithic age time period/stages/Chronological evolution etc.

Origin of anarchism

The term anarchism derives from two Greek words that mean “without power or mandate.” It arises to designate the periods of power vacuum that appeared after the French Revolution and the decline of the monarchy, which ended in the 18th century .

It was used as a derogatory expression to catalog those who caused disorder and promoted revolutionary terror. There are several thinkers of antiquity who are credited with the precursor ideas of anarchist thought.

It is common that the beginning of anarchism is taken as thought with the work created by William Godwin at the end of the 18th century in Western Europe. But there are authors who prefer to attribute the first place to Étienne de La Boétie who published his work in 1572.

Anarchist Movement

The anarchist movement or historical anarchism is a term that is used to refer to the social movement that emerged in the second half of the 19th century . Although anarchist thought had its origin in earlier times, at the end of the 18th century with the work of Godwin, the movement as such emerged later.

Start of the anarchist movement

Historical anarchism appears from different currents of thought and various organizations. Although it was always a minority movement, it increased its influence until it acquired a certain political relevance and popular support in some Latin European countries and Russia.

Contemporary anarchist movements were the product of the labor movement of the early 19th century . The latter struggled to improve the working conditions of the proletariat .

The utopian socialism , the communism liberal and more radical aspects of trade unionism were of great importance in the development of anarchism. This especially when an authoritarian left appeared, which sought to establish a single and powerful state.

The anarchists, who did not fraternize with authority and oppression, frowned upon the dictatorship of the proletariat promoted by Marxism . For this reason they emancipated themselves and created their own militancies, political and social aspects.

The rise and fall of 20th century anarchism

In the process of change between the 19th and 20th centuries, anarchism was dominated by a variant known as anarcho-syndicalist. This prevailed over the other currents until they became almost indistinguishable from one another at the beginning of the 20th century, this being the time of greatest influence for the movement.

The boom was relatively brief, the anarchist movement fell rapidly and deeply in 1910 , until it disappeared at the end of 1930. The context that surrounded its fall was the First World War and World War II and the popularity of other currents and social movements, among them the fascism and communism .

A few decades later, in 1960, anti-authoritarian student movements appear with anarchist ideas . Thinkers and scholars reworked the principles of anarchism and some were rebuilt in certain more current movements and doctrines.

Enhance your reading: Role of the church in the middle ages/predominant religion etc.

Characteristics of anarchism

Despite the differences that anarchists may have, they are usually governed by three fundamental principles:

  • Libertarian thinkingIn anarchism there is no room for authority and domination. It is opposed to the State, to any type of authority, to the different forms of power. He prefers a spontaneously and naturally self-regulating society.
  • Dissolution of inequities. Fairness and equality are essential in anarchism. It does not accept hierarchies, or private property or any other form of possession.
  • Solidarity between individuals. Brotherhood between humans is another ideal of anarchism. In the total absence of laws, hierarchies and authorities; there should be free interaction between individuals. This would lead, according to your thoughts, to cooperation, solidarity and mutualism.

Promoters of anarchist thoughts

Anarchist philosophy has various promoters and thinkers throughout history. The movement is very diverse and also complex, but these are the names that always come up when talking about anarchist currents:

  • Étienne de La Boétie: Author of the work  The politics of obedience: the discourse of voluntary servitude”, an essay that analyzed the question of why people obey the rules.
  • William Godwin: Publishes a pamphlet initially in the 17th century that supported communal property and economic organization based on small farming communities.
  • Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: He wrote in 1840 “What is property?” He was the first to call himself an “anarchist.”

Others who supported and promoted anarchism were:

  • Max Stirner
  • Anselme Bellegarrigue
  • Mikhail Bakunin
  • Lysander spooner
  • Emile armand
  • Piotr Kropotkin
  • Élisée Reclus

Anarchist currents

The most relevant anarchist currents are:

Individualist anarchism

It is a group of anarchist literary manifestations and philosophies that gather around the individual elevation above the social, moral and religious standards imposed by society. It is also characterized by the rejection of the revolution, the creation of a society of transitory obligations and far from all control.


In this current a society is visualized where each person possesses the necessary means to produce and satisfy their needs and demands. It also establishes an idea of ​​exchange in which each individual looks for something that is equivalent to what they offer. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was the one who gave rise to this idea.

Communist anarchism

It is also known as anarcho-communism or libertarian communism. The ideas derive from what the Russian aristocrat and revolutionary proposed: Mikhail Bakunín , although he rejects the conception of an authoritarian state.

Communist anarchism establishes free voluntary association, but without the presence of the State, or social classes and through the socialization of services, goods and means of production.


It is a union of the union struggle on the part of the workers with the ideologies of anarchism . It encourages workers to conquer the means of production to end the wage system and social classesSociety would be reordered based on federalism and direct democracy .

Anarchism without adjectives

At the end of the 19th century, in Europe (especially Italy and Spain), anarcho-communists and collectivists managed to overcome differences and founded anarchist organizations that did not distinguish between ideological nuances.

More recent currents of anarchism

Currently anarchism has taken different forms, generally seeking to ally with other trends and addressing concerns of recent societies. Some of these currents of anarchism are:

Environmental anarchism

Green anarchism or eco-anarchism, is the one that fights against industrialized society and its lifestyles. It proposes sustainable, self-sufficient and simple integration with the environment.

Anarchist feminism

It is a movement that legitimizes women’s rights and mixes with anarchist ideas . It creates an ideology based on the claim that the female role in history is only possible after abolishing the State and the typical conceptions of family, gender and sexuality.


It is a kind of New Right, it is an anarchist movement but on the other side of the range of ideologies . He argues that real capitalism allows a truly free society, without the exploited or their exploiters. But for this it is necessary to eliminate the state that is the one who perverts relations and forms monopolies.

Relationship with Marxist socialism

The anarchism is related to Marxism in his desire for a society free of classes and the struggle against exploitation and domination of the working class . But it does not have the same proposal when it comes to the role of the State.

The socialism proposed by Marx , which is finally heading towards what he called scientific communism , proposes a society governed by the proletariat (the only social class). Marxism supports the idea of ​​a strong state, a single and central authority that controls with an iron fist.

But anarchists, unlike Marxist socialism, see the state as their main enemy. They prefer not to sympathize with the idea of ​​any kind of dictatorship , because their thoughts are always libertarian.

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