Anarchy:About

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About This Website

This website is a resource for anyone to research and write about how and when anarchy can work. Anarchy, coming from the Greek words an (without) and archos (ruler) refers to a situation without domination, without coercive hierarchy.

We sort the examples by their scale and focus. The list of societies encompasses federations of residential communities. The list of communities includes communes, towns and neighborhoods small enough for people to make decisions at face-to-face meetings. The movements and uprisings category includes large-scale movements, rebellions, campaigns and mobilizations. The organizations category includes groups and their federations. Everyday anarchy lists anarchic projects and phenomena that exist all around us even in capitalist societies. Somewhat playfully, we add two further categories. In a nod to the naturalist Peter Kropotkin who saw cooperative activity as a factor of evolution, we add nonhuman anarchy to explore power relations in nonhuman animal and ecological communities. Lastly, we add the category of fictional anarchy, which includes, for example, the planet Anarres from Ursula K. LeGuin's novel The Dispossessed.

Types of anarchy. Anarchism refers to a political theory and practice that arose in the 19th century, aimed at abolishing coercive hierarchy. Anti-authoritarianism (also known as libertarianism, libertarian socialism, or small-a anarchism) refers to a broader category of politics including Anarchists but also groups such as the Wobblies and Zapatistas that eliminate coercive hierarchy in their practice and in the world they're trying to build. . None of the Anarchist or anti-authoritarian experiments in our study have fully succeeded in abolishing coercive hierarchy; what makes them anti-authoritarian according to our definition is their attempt to extend anarchy to everyone, through horizontal means. Third, a participatory category includes examples such as the classical Athenian polis where anarchy is extended to many but not to all or even necessarily to most of society. Participatory politics encompasses anti-authoritarianism, which encompasses Anarchism (with the important caveat that Anarchists don't always succeed in living up to their ideals). Finally, the autonomous category refers to self-governed entities that have liberatory features but fall short of fully participatory decision-making, such as the Paris Commune.

We also sort these examples into four main organizational categories: Anarchism, Anti-authoritarianism, Participatory, and Autonomous. See the "Types of Anarchy" sidebar for definitions and explanations of how these categories overlap and relate to each other. Also see the Definitions page. By looking for anarchy beyond "big-A" Anarchist projects (although we're interested in those too!), we respond to Maia Ramnath's call in Decolonizing Anarchism to "locate the Western anarchist tradition as one contextually specific manifestation among a larger-indeed global-tradition of antiauthoritarian, egal­itarian thought/praxis".[1]

In our articles, we try to explore how horizontal societies and communities deal with culture, decisions, economy, environment, crime, revolution, and neighboring societies. We do not claim or attempt to present evidence that anarchy is possible in all situations. Nor do we deny humans' innate potential for hierarchy and indeed for extreme cruelty. We present this resource for open-minded people to collaboratively explore the question of whether a horizontally-run world is possible and what this world might look like.

Many of the examples come from the following books:

An Anarchist FAQ (excerpt)

Anarchy in Action by Colin Ward

Anarchy Works by Peter Gelderloos

Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism by Michael Schmidt

Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism by Peter Marshall

Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution by Peter Kropotkin

People Without Government: An Anthropology of Anarchy by Harold Barclay

The Politics of Social Ecology: Libertarian Municipalism by Janet Biehl with Murray Bookchin (excerpt)


The website started as a project by Dan Fischer and Capitalism vs. the Climate, now known as Dragonfly Climate Collective, with web development assistance from Diggity and getlibre.org.

This wiki is done entirely by volunteers, and we encourage you to check our work and help us to constantly improve it. If you see misinformation, please contact us right away so that we can either fix it or assist you in setting up an account so you can edit the page directly. Additionally, if you are a member of an organization or another group described on this website, please feel free to send us information on current campaigns, and we will include it so that our readers will know how to get involved or participate in solidarity efforts.


Note on colonialism and representation

Part of our goal with this website is to challenge Eurocentric conceptions of anarchy. Thus, we try to show that the European-derived Anarchist tradition sits within a much broader set of anti-authoritarian, participatory and autonomous practices around the world and throughout human history.

There are several dangers, however. First, we run a risk of misrepresenting non-European groups, of trying to fit them into categories where they may not belong or want to belong. As Peter Gelderloos puts it, "we could easily fall into the accustomed eurocentric pattern of manipulating and exploiting these other cultures for our own ideological capital." To try to avoid this pattern, we aim to quote and cite voices from the groups we study, and we make note of the biases that European authors carry when they/we write about colonized cultures. Moreover, we try point out that many of the groups we study are still involved in struggles against domination, and we include links for where readers can learn more and get involved in solidarity work. As Gelderloos writes, " After all, if we are inspired by certain other societies, shouldn’t we do more to recognize and aid their ongoing struggles?" See "The_Tricky_Topic_of_Representation".

A second trap involves our inclusion on this website of "participatory" and "autonomous" examples that practiced and/or practice slavery, genocide, and other extreme forms of oppression. Some could argue that this website's inclusion of classical Athens, the New England town meetings, and the Zionist kibbutzim on this website is to whitewash these societies' violence against people they did consider citizens. We respond, however, that including those examples is important if we are to understand how horizontality can sometimes be put in the service of exclusivity and atrocity.

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  1. Maia Ramnath, Decolonizing Anarchism: An Antiauthoritarian History of India's Liberation Struggle (AK Press, 2011), 6.