Is anarchism an example of individualism or collectivism? Thaisa Cowin. Anarchism is defined as the political ideology that advocates stateless societies based on non-hierarchical voluntary associations. It is often related to chaos, disorder and violence. The main two strains of anarchism are anarcho-communists on the left which believe that “Monopoly is the father of the state, not its child” this stream has been the main one for more than a century.
Conversely, on the right wing, anarcho-individualists favour “Monopoly is the child of the state, not its father.
” Collectivist anarchism bases its origins in socialism as a pose to liberalism. Collectivism is the belief that human nature makes us better adapted to work together for the ‘common good’ rather than to strive for individual self-interest and gain. This feature of anarchism stresses human’s capacity for social solidarity; this is not the belief that human nature is naturally good, but that every human has the potential for goodness.
There are many overlapping ideas between anarchism and socialism, especially in the ideology of Marxist socialism, both reject capitalism and believe that it is a system that exploits the working classes.
Both also agree that in order to bring about political change a revolution is key, and both exhibit preference towards collective ownership of wealth and the communal organization of social life. There are however, many features at which anarchism and socialism disagree.
The main disagreement is on the conception of the transition from capitalism to communism. Marxists argue that a transitional period between proletarian revolution and the achievement of full communism which would ‘wither away’ the capitalist society. Whereas anarchists regard the state as evil and oppressive and a corrupting body and the only option to abolish capitalism and move on to a communist state is via a revolution to overthrow state power, they believe it cannot diminished but only be abolished.
Anarcho-communism in its most radical form is the belief that social solidarity leads to collectivism and full communism and here humans should be able to lead a shared and communal existence in society. It has highly optimistic beliefs about the human capacity for cooperation. Their opinion on labour is that as people work together the wealth that they produce should be owned in common by the community rather than by an individual. And so also belief that property is theft based on this ideology, as it represents the exploitation of workers.
Their view on private property is that it encourages selfishness and offense to anarchists as promotes conflict and social disharmony. In all, the belief that inequality in ownership creates greed, envy and resentment which further lead to crime and disorder. The right side of anarchism is individualist anarchism, which involves anarcho-capitalism, anarcho-individualism and New Right Anarchists. The philosophical basis of this stream lies in the liberal idea of the sovereign individual.
This idea came from William Rees-Mogg and James Dale Davidson in 1997 who believe that a sovereign individuals characteristics included “a belief in the concept of self-ownership; a strong commitment to individual rights; a distrust of political democracy; a market-anarchist or natural order mind-set; a belief in the right to financial and personal privacy; a willingness to think and act outside the square – as regards being beholden to existing nation states; an active strategy of banking offshore and using various structures to protect one’s assets.
It is believed that this is the outcome of when individualism is taken to its extreme, and the idea that absolute and unlimited authority rests within each human and that any constraint upon the individual is evil. However there are many differences in the ideas between liberalism and individualist anarchism. Liberals accept the importance of individual liberty but do not agree that this can be guaranteed in a stateless society, and think that a minimal state is needed to prevent self-seeking individuals from abusing the freedoms of others, and so Law is needed to protect this freedom rather than constrain it.
On the other side, anarchists argue that individuals can behave peacefully, harmoniously and prosperously without the need of a government and police enforced society and can protect themselves from others. Anarchists here differ from liberals ideas due to the rigid belief that freedom allows humans to live and work positively due to their rational and moral nature. There overall view is that all laws restrict individual liberty and so all states are an offence against freedom. In the second half of the 20th century there was a restoration of interest in free market economics which led to increasing drastic political conclusions.
The New Right conservatives wanted to ‘get government of the back of business’ and wanted the more liberal idea of the economy being disciplined by market forces as a pose to the interventionist state. Thinkers such as Rand, Rothbard and Friedman pushed the free market ideas to their limits and developed a form of anarcho-capitalism, which believed that the government can be completely eradicated and replaced by an unregulated market competition. The ideas of anarcho-capitalists went further than the ideas of free market liberals as they believed that the market can satisfy all human wants.
Rothbard saw that in an anarchist society individuals seek protection from each other and that such protection can be gained from special ‘protection associations’ rather than the police and state. Liberals on the other side believe that the market is essential to have an effective and efficient system of delivering foods, but that it has its limits. Concurring to anarcho-capitalists, agencies that offer protection would be a better service than the present police force that controls societies as competition would provide consumers with a choice and so these agencies would need to be cheap, efficient and responsive towards the consumer.
Though this proposal of privatisation is extreme is had already been seen to have had considerable advances in many western countries, and small simple schemes such as the ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ has helped transfer responsibility away from the police and to the community. There are many tensions within anarchism with individualist anarchism in contrast to collectivist anarchism. Individualist anarchism believes in ultra-liberalism, extreme individualism, the sovereign individual, civil disobedience, atomism, egoism, market mechanism, private property and anarcho capitalism.
Whereas on the other side collectivist anarchism’s ideology is based on the ideas of ultra-socialism, extreme collectivism, common humanity, social revolution, class politics, cooperation, social duty, communal organization, common owner ship and anarcho communism. All of these different factors which create the left winged communist view and the right winged individualist view are what generate anarchism, and so it can be said that anarchism is in fact an example of both individualism and communism.