From Anarchy In Action

Types of Libertarian Socialism

Note: Many of these theories are not mutually exclusive. Also, one can practice any of the broader categories without identifying as a subcategory.


Anarchism (from the Greek words "an" (without) and "archos" (ruler) is a political theory and practice that aims to abolish coercive hierarchy. In other words, Anarchists try to implement anarchy, an absence of rulers. In 1840, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon first called himself an Anarchist and used the words anarchy and Anarchism in this way. Anarchism is a type of libertarian socialism: libertarian because it seeks to maximize liberty and socialist because it supports the abolition of private property and wage labor. As Peter Kropotkin explained in 1910 (using now-archaically gendered language), Anarchists believe that in a libertarian socialist society, "Man would thus be enabled to obtain the full development of all his faculties, intellectual, artistic and moral, without being hampered by overwork for the monopolists, or by the servility and inertia of mind of the great number."[1]

Most forms of Anarchism can be classified as either social Anarchism or individualist Anarchism. Social Anarchism is the more common orientation today, and within that category, Anarchist Communism is the most popular tendency.

Social Anarchism

Unlike individualist Anarchists, the social Anarchists advocate putting the means of production under communal (or social) control. There are four main types of social Anarchism: mutualism, collectivism, communism and syndicalism. These tendencies are not mutually exclusive. Many anarchists see mutualism or collectivism as a necessary step before communism. Moreover, Anarchists generally see communism and syndicalism as compatible or even as necessarily conjoined.


Mutualism, a type of Anarchism developed by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1808-1865), combines an opposition to coercive hierarchy with a commitment to market socialism. One main difference between the mutualists and the individualists is that mutualists advocate a community-owned bank that would provide very low-interest or even no-interest loans. A second main difference is that many mutualists support what Proudhon called an "agro-industrial federation", a federation of worker-cooperatives and producers to help each other out and build public goods like roads. Finally, mutualists have a more pronounced opposition to private property, influenced by Proudhon's slogan "property is theft".[2]

Anarchist Collectivism

Anarchist collectivism, developed by Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876), combines an opposition to coercive hierarchy with a commitment to an economy coordinated with money between federations of worker-cooperatives and federations of communes. The main difference between collectivism and communism is that only the latter abolishes money.[3] Under collectivism, the product of labor is put on a communal market, and people are remunerated according to their deeds (for example, how many hours they worked), not their needs.

Anarchist Communism

Anarchist Communism, developed by Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921), combines an opposition to coercive hierarchy with a commitment to the distribution of economic goods to each person according to their needs. The economy is coordinated between industry-wide federations of worker-cooperatives and federations of communes. This is the most popular of the specific anarchist tendencies today.[4]

Anarchist Syndicalism

Under Anarchist Syndicalism, decentralized and federated trade unions use strikes and other direct action to enact reforms under capitalism until they are powerful enough to overthrow it. Syndicalists sometimes place a greater emphasis on workplace organizing than do other social anarchists, and there is arguably tension between the syndicalists' support of worker control and the communists' support of community control. Nonetheless, the great anarchist communist Peter Kroptokin saw syndicalism as totally compatible with his own theory.[5] Peter Kropotkin, "Syndicalism and Anarchism," LibCom,</ref>

Individualist Anarchism

Individualist Anarchists share the social anarchists' opposition to hierarchy, the State and capitalism. Individualist Anarchists are often market socialists, and they are more likely than social Anarchists to insist on using only gradual and nonviolent means of social change. Unlike the mutualists, who advocate a community-owned bank to help equalize wealth, the individualists would have banks run as worker-cooperatives. Benjamin Tucker (1854-1939) is the most significant individualist anarchist theorist. Social Anarchist critics warn that the individualist Anarchists' reliance on a market economy could introduce significant wealth disparities and recreate hierarchies such as boss-worker and landlord-tenant relationships. [6]

Green Anarchism

Green Anarchists combine anarchism with an emphasis on protecting the environment. In his 1964 essay "Ecology and Revolutionary Thought," the writer and activist Murray Bookchin argued that an ecologically sound society would necessarily be an anarchistic one, with decentralized decision-makers taking into account the conditions of their local ecosystems.[7] Often, green anarchists combine anarchism with Social Ecology, green syndicalism, or the controversial but influential "primitivist" tendency.

Social Ecology

Social Ecology, a type of libertarian communism first developed by Murray Bookchin, asserts that social hierarchy is the root cause of the destructive belief that humans may dominate nature. The implication, then, is that the solution of ecological problems requires a movement to abolish hierarchy within human society. Social Ecologists posit an account of the rise of hierarchy, a political strategy for social change (libertarian municipalism, or Communalism), and even a philosophy for understanding evolution (dialectical naturalism). Unusual for an Anarchist, Bookchin advocated running Green candidates for local office to educate the public about Anarchism. Bookchin had heated debates with syndicalists, deep ecologists, primitivists, proponents of consensus decision-making, and many others who disagreed with him. Toward the end of his life, Bookchin broke with Anarchism, advancing Social Ecology as a stand-alone theory.

Green Syndicalism

Green syndicalism is a term Jeff Shantz uses to describe a tendency among syndicalists that emphasizes ecological protection. Judi Bari, a particularly influential figure, united members of Earth First! and Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the struggle to protect redwood forests in northern California. Today, the IWW's Environmental Union Caucus advocates an Ecological General Strike.


A controversial tendency, anarcho-primitivists advocate a global return to hunter-gatherer society. They argue that industrial society requires extensive division of labor, leading to hierarchy and ecological destruction. Even agriculture is thought to require the unhealthy domestication of humans and wildlife. Critics say that the anarcho-primitivists lack a non-authoritarian strategy for reducing the global population to the low levels that a hunter-gatherer lifestyle could support.

Religious Anarchism

Christian Anarchism

Anarchist Feminism

Queer Anarchism

Anarchist Indigenism



Insurrectionary Anarchism

Communalism (libertarian municipalism) and Social Ecology

See Social Ecology under Social Anarchism. Initially, Bookchin declared Social Ecology and Libertarian Municiaplism (which he later called Communalism) to be fully compatible with the Anarchist tradition. Privately in 1995 and publicly in 1999, Bookchin broke with Anarchism and declared Communalism to be a stand-alone theory.[8]

"Broad Anarchist Tradition"

In their book Black Flame: The Revolutionary Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism, Lucien van der Walt and Michael Schmidt speak of a broad anarchist tradition that encompasses class-struggle Anarchists since Bakunin as well as revolutionary syndicalists. Because of their insistence that Anarchism requires class struggle, their "broad" tradition excludes many self-identified Anarchists like Proudhon.[9]

Participatory Society

Michael Albert and Robin Hanhel's theory of participatory economics and Stephen Shalom's theory of participatory polity propose complementary visions for a Participatory Society. In participatory economics, workers' councils and consumers' councils deliberate with each other in order to optimally allocate materials to workplaces and goods to consumers. Workers' councils ensure that each worker has an interesting variety of tasks and workplaces, called a balanced job complex. Workers are remunerated based on their effort and sacrifice.[10]

In participatory polity, nested councils make decisions, striving for consensus and resorting to majority vote when consensus is not reached. From the the local councils upward, councils send immediately recallable, rotating delegates to coordinate affairs among regions. Delegates are not mandated to vote for the position favored by their council, since such an arrangement would prevent them from reaching a more informed decision based on deliberation with members from other councils. The higher councils only vote on relatively non-controversial matters. When there is a close vote, or when enough lower councils demand it, matters are returned to the lower councils for a vote. Each council above the local level has a council court, made of randomly-selected, rotating citizens, who overrule decisions they deem in violation of the rights of minorities.[11]

Inclusive Democracy


This category includes, among others Anarchist Syndicalism, Marxist Syndicalism, and Green Syndicalism.

Libertarian Marxism


Council Communism

De Leonism

Left Communism

Marxist Syndicalism

Open Marxism


The Situationist International was a libertarian Marxist group, based primarily in France from 1957 to 1972, that criticized the consumerist “society of the spectacle” and played a guiding role in the May 1968 French revolt. They urged the creation of spontaneous "situations" that would jolt people out of their ordinary routines. Ever since, their cultural critiques have influenced anti-authoritarian movements around the world.


Note: This section is largely based on pages from Beautiful Trouble and An Anarchist FAQ.

Types of power

Power is simply the ability to act. There are different types.[12]

  • Power-over: the ability to command, control the resources of, or limit the choices of others. It's also called domination and constituted power.
  • Power-to: the ability to act. It's sometimes called constituent power, counter-power and anti-power.
  • Power-with: collective power when people act together.
  • Power-among: influence within a group, based on respect. It involves being an authority on something, as opposed to having authority over others.
  • Power-within: the individual's internal strength, courage and creativity. For some, it's also spiritual.

Analysis of hierarchical society


Capitalism is a profit-driven economic system rooted in inequality, exploitation, dispossession and environmental destruction.

Commodity fetishism

There is nothing natural or inevitable about money, debt, property rights, or markets; they are symbolic systems that derive their efficacy from collective belief. Activists should inspire radical hope by exposing the mutability of these social relationships.

Cultural hegemony

Politics is not only fought out in state houses, workplaces or on battlefields, but also in the language we use, the stories we tell, and the images we conjure — in short, in the ways we make sense of the world.


Hierarchy refers to a relationship of command and obedience[13], or more broadly, a relationship where one party can control the resources of and limit the choices of another.[14] Examples include patriarchy, racism, class exploitation, and rule of the State. For social and ecological reasons, anarchists and anti-authoritarians oppose almost all forms of hierarchy (except for some temporary instances like that of a parent over very young children). [15]

Pillars of support

Power stems not just from a ruler’s ability to use force, but from the consent and cooperation of the ruled, which can be voluntarily and nonviolently withdrawn by identifying, targeting and undermining the ruler’s “pillars of support” — the institutions and organizations that sustain its power.

Private property and possession

Personal possession refers to something one personally uses, like a home, a coffee mug, a pair of shoes, or a car, and therefore has a right to own. Private property refers to something one owns not in order to use, but in order to extract profit or rent from the people who use it. So, a capitalist factory is the private property of its owner and an apartment building the private property of its owner. The establishment of capitalism and most of its private property required extensive violent theft through the dispossession of peasants from their lands, the enslavement of Africans, the genocide of indigenous peoples, witch hunts against subversive women, and the imperial conquest of countries in the Global South. Moreover, the mere maintenance of private property today requires a violent State, whose police will arrest tenants that refuse to pay rent, workers who try to run their factory without a boss, or hikers who ignore a developer's "No Trespassing" sign. So, anarchists since Proudhon have argued that "Property is theft!"[16]

Society of the spectacle

Modern capitalism upholds social control through the spectacle, the use of mass communications to turn us into consumers and passive spectators of our own lives, history and power. As our experience become shaped by spectacle, we get increasingly alienated from our communities, our environment, and even our own desires.

The propaganda model

The propaganda model seeks to explain the behavior of news media operating within a capitalist economy. The model suggests that media outlets will consistently produce news content that aligns with the interests of political and economic elites.

The shock doctrine

Pro-corporate neoliberals treat crises such as wars, coups, natural disasters and economic downturns as prime opportunities to impose an agenda of privatization, deregulation, and cuts to social services.

The State

The State is a body of professional decision-makers, or politicians, who rule over the rest of society. Anarchists oppose the State because it corrupts the people who serve in it, because it props up private property and capitalism, and because its top-down approach proves devastating for the environment. To some anarchists and anti-authoritarians, opposing the State does not always imply opposing government. Some anarchists like Peter Kropotkin and Murray Bookchin thought it possible to oppose the State while supporting an inclusive and participatory government that carries out the decisions made by the population through direct democratic procedures.[17]

Resistance and Reconstuction

Action logic

Your actions should speak for themselves. They should make immediate, natural sense to onlookers. They should have an obvious logic to the outside eye.

Affinity groups

Affinity groups are the basic unit used by anarchists and many direct action movements to organize social struggle. The term comes from the Iberian Anarchist Federation. The affinity group is a small group, usually about 5 to 15 people in the context of contemporary North America, that educates the public, participates in campaigns, and injects anti-authoritarian ideas into popular organizations.[18]

Alienation effect

Bertolt Brecht developed a set of theatrical techniques to subvert the emotional manipulations of bourgeois theater. The alienation effect was Brecht’s principle of using innovative theatrical techniques to “make the familiar strange” in order to provoke a social-critical audience response.


Anti-oppression practice provides a framework for constructively addressing and changing oppressive dynamics as they play out in our organizing.

Class struggle Class struggle is the struggle of the working class against their exploiters in the ruling class, often thought to be the top 5-15% of society that control key investment and policy decisions.[19]


Communes are communities based on self-government through direct, face-to-face democracy in grassroots neighbourhood assemblies is the means to that end. An anarchist society would be one big confederation of communes.[20]

Debt revolt

Today’s class consciousness falls increasingly along debtor-creditor lines rather than worker-capitalist lines.

Direct action

Direct action is acting for oneself instead of waiting for someone else to do it. In the words of the Ruckus Society, direct action is "the strategic use of immediately effective acts to achieve a political or social end and challenge an unjust power dynamic." This concept encompasses anything from cooking free community meals, to blocking a road used by an oil company, to conducting a strike that forces the boss to make concessions. David Graeber writes, " Mass direct action—especially when organized on democratic lines—is incredibly effective. Over the last thirty years in America, there have been only two instances of mass action of this sort: the anti-nuclear movement in the late ‘70s, and the so called “anti-globalization” movement from roughly 1999-2001. In each case, the movement’s main political goals were reached far more quickly than almost anyone involved imagined possible." See also Points of Intervention.[21]

Dunbar’s number

Dunbar’s number refers to the approximate number of primary, care-based relationships people can maintain. The concept carries interesting implications for navigating the leap from organizing among friends to organizing under formal structures.

Environmental justice

By exposing the connections between social justice and environmental issues we can most effectively challenge abuses of power that disproportionately target indigenous and other economically and politically disenfranchised communities.

Ethical spectacle

To be politically effective, activists need to engage in spectacle. By keeping to certain principles, our spectacles can be ethical, emancipatory, and faithful to reality.

Expressive and instrumental actions

Political action tends to be driven by one of two different motivations: expressing an identity, and winning concrete changes. It’s important to know the difference, and to strike a balance between the two.

Floating signifier

An empty or “floating” signifier is a symbol or concept loose enough to mean many things to many people, yet specific enough to galvanize action in a particular direction.


In the words of media researcher Charlotte Ryan, “A frame is a thought organizer, highlighting certain events and facts as important, and rendering others invisible.” Framing a message correctly can make or break an entire campaign.

Hamoq and hamas

Turning anger into action is necessary to move the powers that be, but that anger is most effective when it is disciplined and intelligently focused (hamas). Uncontrolled, stupid anger (hamoq) mostly undermines your own cause.

Hashtag politics

Hashtags are powerful tools for conveying a conversation around a strategically chosen subject. In many cases the hashtag is a person, place, thing or other concrete noun. Your action or campaign doesn’t just send a message, it convenes a conversation. By strategically defining the hashtag and curating the ensuing conversation, you can expand and deepen your support base.

Intellectuals and power

Intellectuals should use their specialized knowledge to expose the machinations of power, utilize their position in institutions to amplify the voices of people struggling against oppression, and work tirelessly to reveal the ways that they themselves are agents of power.


Memes (rhymes with “dreams”) are self-replicating units of cultural information that spread virally from mind to mind, network to network, generation to generation.

Narrative power analysis

All power relations have a narrative dimension. Narrative power analysis is a systematic methodology for examining the stories that abet the powers that be in order to better challenge them.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

An approach to education that aims to transform oppressive structures by engaging people who have been marginalized and dehumanized and drawing on what they already know.

People's Shock

In contrast to the authoritarian shock doctrine, the masses can organize around crisis in order to advance a liberatory agenda. Naomi Klein writes, "There is a rich populist history of winning big victories for social and economic justice in the midst of large-scale crises. These include, most notably, the policies of the New Deal after the market crash of 1929 and the birth of countless social programs after World War II."[22]

Points of intervention

A point of intervention is a physical or conceptual place within a system where pressure can be put to disrupt its smooth functioning and push for change. Points of intervention include (1) Point of production (2) Point of destruction (3) Point of consumption (4) Point of decision (5) Point of assumption.

Points of Intervention, from Re:Imagining Change by Patrick Reinsborough and Doyle Canning

Political identity paradox

Group identity offers embattled activists a cohesive community, but also tends to foster a subculture that can be alienating to the public at large. Balancing these two tendencies is crucial to sustaining the work of an effective group, organization or movement.

Radical flank effect

The radical flank effect refers to radicals' effect on moderates within a social struggle. Many moderates warn that radicals discredit moderate groups. The political scientist Herbert H. Haines has argued that radicals often strengthen moderates and thus have a "positive radical flank effect": "Radicals may thus provide a militant foil against which moderate strategies and demands can be redefined and normalized, i.e., responded to as 'reasonable.'"[23]


Traditionally, anarchists saw revolution as a rapid, violent break with the institutions and culture of society. Kropotkin wrote, "A revolution is a swift overthrow in a few years, of institutions which have taken centuries to root in the soil, and seem so fixed and immovable that even the most ardent reformers hardly dare to attack them in their writings. It is the fall, the crumbling away in a brief period, of all that up to that time composed the essence of social, religious, political and economic life in a nation." More recently, some anarchists like David Graeber have reconceptualized revolution to include phenomenon like the dramatic cultural changes brought by modern feminism since the 1960s. Graeber writes, citing the ideas of Immanuel Wallerstein, that revolutions now consist "above all of planetwide transformations of political common sense." See also social revolution and world revolution.[24]

Revolutionary nonviolence

Revolutionary nonviolence emphasizes unity among radicals and proposes a militant nonviolent praxis based on revolutionary transformation and mass civil resistance.

Social revolution

A social revolution is a change in all spheres of society, including the political, the economic, the cultural, and the interpersonal.[25]

Spectrum of allies

The spectrum of allies is a concept and diagram created by Training for Change that illustrates how a campaign can strategically move people over to its side. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee's 1964 Freedom Summer campaign is a good example. SNCC invited some passive allies, sympathetic students in the northern US, to become active allies by spending the summer working on civil rights organizing in Mississippi. These volunteers wrote home about the white mobs and police brutality they saw, and their parents and friends became passive allies. When some of the volunteers went back to school, they became leaders and recruited more people to the movement. "The landscape in the U.S. changed."[26]

Spectrum of allies


A syndicate, also known as a worker cooperative, is a democratically self-managed productive enterprise whose assets are controlled by its workers. Anarchists believe that most workplaces will be run as syndicates in an anarchist society.[27]

Temporary autonomous zone

An alternative to traditional models of revolution, the T.A.Z is an uprising that creates free, ephemeral enclaves of autonomy in the here-and-now.

The commons

Our common wealth — the shared bounty that we inherit and create together — precedes and surrounds our private wealth. By building a system that protects and expands our common wealth rather than one that exploits it, we can address both our ecological and social imbalances.

The social cure

The student movement Otpor was able to galvanize a movement against Serbian president Milošovic through hip slogans and a cult of cool around getting arrested. People are more likely to be motivated to action by peer groups than by information or appeals to fear. The social cure is a method of harnessing this power of social groups for social change.

The tactics of everyday life

Tactics are not a subset of strategy, but a democratic response to it.

Theater of the Oppressed

Theater of the Oppressed provides tools for people to explore collective struggles, analyze their history and present circumstances, and then experiment with inventing a new future together through theater.

Third revolution

Both the French Revolution's sans-culottes in 1973 and the Russian Revolution's Kronstandt sailors in 1921 advocated a third revolution. In each case, a first revolution overthrew a repressive authority and installed a moderate government consisting of liberals, radicals and disaffected members of the ruling class. Then, a second revolution replaced the moderate government with a more radical government: the National Convention in France and the Bolsheviks in Russia. The proposed third revolution referred to the installation of a genuinely libertarian power structure. In his multi-volume study The Third Revolution, Murray Bookchin explored the libertarian tendencies of revolutions.[28]

World revolution

The historian Immanuel Wallerstein and anthropologist David Graeber argue that revolutions consist "above all of planetwide transformations of political common sense." Examples include the world revolutions of 1789, 1917, 1968 and 2011. The world revolution of 1789 mainstreamed the notions that political change is a normal and desirable phenomenon, and that the government gets its legitimacy from "the people" rather than from the sovereign. These ideas were heretical a generation earlier, but even conservatives had to pay lip service to these ideas a generation afterwards. The world revolution of 1848 introduced radicalism as a very serious force in world politics. In no place did the 1848 revolutionaries take state power, but nonetheless, their ideal of universal education became widely implemented soon afterwards. The Russian Revolution of 1917 mobilized people around the world and scared elites into implementing welfare state policies in the United States and Europe. The world revolution of 1968 smashed the conventional faith in bureaucratic institutions and popularized modern feminism and struggles against racism, heterosexism and conformity. The ultimate effect of the world revolution of 2011--a rebellious wave that spread from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street--remains to be seen.[29]

External Links

An Anarchist FAQ

Beautiful Trouble

Wikipedia: Anarchist schools of thought

Wikipedia: Libertarian socialism

  1. Peter Kropotkin, "Anarchism", Encyclopedia Britannica, 1910.
  2. An Anarchist FAQ, "Section A.3 What types of anarchism are there?",
  3. An Anarchist FAQ, "Section A.3 What types of anarchism are there?",
  4. An Anarchist FAQ, "Section A.3 What types of anarchism are there?",
  5. An Anarchist FAQ, "Section A.3 What types of anarchism are there?", Murray Bookchin, "The Ghost of Anarcho-Syndicalism," Anarchy Archives,
  6. An Anarchist FAQ, "Section A.3 What types of anarchism are there?",
  7. Murray Bookchin, "Ecology and Revolutionary Thought", Comment, 1964,
  8. Biehl, Janet, "Bookchin Breaks with Anarchism,"
  9. Lucien van der Walt and Michael Schmidt, Black Flame: The Revolutionary Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism (Oakland: AK Press, 2009).
  10. Michael Albert, Life After Capitalism,
  11. Stephen R. Shalom, "A Political System for a Good Society," ZNet, 31 December 2008,
  12. Starhawk, Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising (Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers, 2002), 6-7, 170-175. John Holloway, Change the World Without Taking Power,, 58, 65. An Anarchist FAQ, “B.1 Why are anarchists against authority and hierarchy?”,
  13. Murray Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy (Palo Alto, Calif.: Cheshire Books), 4.
  14. Starhawk, Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising (Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers, 2002), 6.
  15. An Anarchist FAQ, "Why are anarchists against hierarchy and authority?",
  16. An Anarchist FAQ, "B.3.1 What is the difference between private property and possession?", Sylvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation (New York: Autonomedia, 2004.
  17. Murray Bookchin, The Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1987), 34. Peter Kropotkin, "The State: Its Historic Role,"
  18. An Anarchist FAQ, "J.3.1 What are affinity groups?",
  19. An Anarchist FAQ, "B.7 What classes exist within modern society?",
  20. An Anarchist FAQ, I.5.1 "What are the participatory communities?",
  21. Ruckus Society, Action Strategy, a how-to guide, David Graeber, "The Shock of Victory", Infoshop, 12 October 2007,
  22. Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014, 10.
  23. Herbert H. Haines, Black Radicals and the Civil Rights Mainstream, 1954-1970 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press 1988), 3-4.
  24. Peter Kropotkin, The Great French Revolution: 1789-1793, The Anarchist Library, David Graeber, The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2013),
  25. An Anarchist FAQ, "J.7 What do anarchists mean by social revolution?",
  26. Ruckus Society, Action Strategy: a how-to guide,
  27. An Anarchist FAQ, "I.3.1. What is a Syndicate?",
  28. Introduction to The Third Revolution, Volume 1,
  29. David Graeber, The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2013), Immanuel Wallerstein, World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction (Durham, Duke University Press, 51, 63-4, 84-5.