Compare and contrast anarchism and socialism. Where is there overlap? Where is there divergence?
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Anarchism entails much more than violence and immorality, as most people presume. Anarchists can be categorized into two sub-groups. In addition, anarchism overlaps with the ideologies of liberalism and socialism, which implies that anarchists share various similarities with both liberals and socialists. Heywood (2007, p.175) defines anarchism as the “central belief that political authority in all its forms, and especially in the form of the state is both evil and unnecessary”. Anarchists believe that the government is a repressive tool that should be abolished in order for people to attain freedom. Anarchists believe that human beings need to collaborate in order to enhance unity, which makes the role of the state redundant. The sub-groups in anarchism result from differences in their line of thought. Some support anarchy communism, others are libertarian thinkers, while another group entails individualist anarchists (Heywood, 2007).
One of the similarities between socialists and anarchists is that they both view the state as a form of oppression. Both hold the notion that states regard human beings as laborers whose role is to find work and increase capital. The various sub-groups of anarchists hold differing notions of revolution. For instance, the socialists, like collectivist anarchists, believe in the capabilities of human beings. Hence, socialists believe that more can be achieved by groups through collectivism, than as individuals. Another similarity between socialists and anarchists is their value of direct actions like strikes in trade union movements. Both ideologies argue that conventional politics in the trade unions are a waste of time, and prefer to have a voice (Heywood 2007, p.189). Their preference of unions is due to the decentralization and non-hierarchical nature, which represents their ideal society.
There is some dissimilarity between anarchists and democratic socialists, due to the pre-occupation of the latter with reform as opposed to revolution (Heywood 2007, p. 189). Democratic socialists differ from communists and disagree with the notions of Marxists. These socialists are democratic, reformist and open-minded. Unlike Marxists, they believe in peaceful social reform through democratic political action. Anarchists, on the other hand, regard democratic state processes as sugar-coated oppression. Anarchists believe in face-to-face communication between individuals in their communities to solve their problems (Heywood 2007, p. 190).
How might anarchist ideology lead to a critique of capitalism? How might anarchist ideology lead to a defense of capitalism?
Libertarians and individualist anarchists are supporters of capitalism since they value individual rights over submission to authority. However, the ideologies of collectivists and anarcho communists contradict capitalism. Anarchism and capitalism have a similar origin since they both came into being during the challenge of religious authorities by secular governments. Heywood (2007, p. 36) argues that capitalists support the notion that humans are rational beings with the ability to reason. However, capitalists also believe that humans are capable of committing evil deeds, hence the requirement of a state to provide security. Unlike anarchists, capitalists argue that people need to sacrifice a portion of their own freedom in order to protect both their rights, and to ensure the freedom of all people. Heywood (2007, p. 193) defines libertarianism as a “belief that the individual should enjoy the widest possible freedom”. While the libertarians value private property, they believe in self governance as opposed to the existence of a state, like capitalists. Heywood (2007, p. 193) states “that the government is best which governs least” in order to show the notions held by classical liberals who support a laissez-faire capitalist model that favors market autonomy over government control. He further suggests that anarcho-capitalists are similar to capitalists, since they are interested in their welfare, and not the freedom of man.
How do anarchists attempt to achieve their objectives? Where might debate and disagreement exist in this regard?
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Anarchists varied in their opinions of a revolution against the oppression posed by the state, which led to the creation of sub-groups. For instance, Proudhon, a collectivist anarchist, rejects the communist notion of subordinating the individual to collectivity. Though he agrees that the state oppresses its citizens, Proudhon argues that revolutions contradict the ideologies of anarchists due to their political nature. Instead, he suggests that people should break away from the state and form informal contracts that govern terms of trade or services among individuals. These informal contracts would deprive the state of the workforce, which would eliminate the capitalist and state authority over humanity. This notion differs from the Marxist goal in terms of implementation of the strategy.
Bakunin, another collectivist anarchist who influenced the beliefs of anarcho syndicalism, supported the notion of revolution, unlike Proudhon. While Marx argues for a hostile revolution of workers against the state, Bakunin suggests that violence against bourgeois is unnecessary. Instead, he argues that laborers should attack things and relationships in order to destroy both property and state, which would permanently paralyze the state. Bakunin also differs from the Marxists notion in terms of the takeover. While Marxists argue that a dictator ship of the proletariat should take over from the bourgeois, Bakunin argues that dictatorship of whichever group results in self-perpetuation. Hence, the take-over should not insist on communism, but a bottom-up level of management in terms of organization of society.
Like Marxists, anarcho communists argue for the overthrow of bourgeois using violent revolutions, though they disagree in replacing the bourgeois state with a proletariat state. Anarcho communists argue that the existence of a state of whichever kind is evil since human goodness cannot be trusted, and it has to be abolished (Heywood 2007, p. 187).
Heywood, A 2007, Political Ideologies: An Introduction, 4th edn, Hampshire and New York, Palgrave MacMillan.