As my old supervisor, Dudley Knowles, used to say, the anarchist is not typically found skulking outside the Houses of Parliament with a bomb beneath her long, black coat – the philosophical anarchist is a gentle soul with a belief in the innate goodness of her fellow humans.  Well, I exaggerate, but my anarchism stems from a belief in my right to determine how I should act without a state looming over me and threatening me with sanctions if I do not play its nasty little games.  I reject the neoliberal values of the government at Westminster because they are not my values; I reject the authority of any state to rule over me for reasons that Wolff states far more eloquently than  can:

The defining mark of the state is authority, the right to rule. The primary obligation of man is autonomy, the refusal to be ruled. It would seem, then, that there can be no resolution of the conflict between the autonomy of the individual and the putative authority of the state. Insofar as a man fulfills his obligation to make himself the author of his decisions, he will resist the state’s claim to have authority over him. That is to say, he will deny that he has a duty to obey the laws of the state simply because they are the laws. In that sense, it would seem that anarchism is the only political doctrine consistent with the virtue of autonomy. Robert Paul Wolff, In Defense of Anarchism I, 3

This picture of anarchism is not a world without rules, but a society without a ruler.  Anarchy is not, as some have thought, a place of chaos, it is the freedom to think for ourselves.*  It comes with a belief in the ability of humans to think for themselves, and to act from their conscience as an inner policeman rather than out of fear of punishment. I may be dubious that such a society can ever come to pass, but I hold it as an ideal and dream of a society where I can skip around and smell the pretty flowers.

Now to think about how to use these ideas to make my classroom a better place …

* I started saying this sort of thing earlier, on Ann’s blog

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3 Responses to Anarchy

  1. David Mathew says:

    I don’t necessarily disagree with your picture of anarchy (although I think it’s rather twee, if you don’t mind a criticism) but you might also acknowledge anarchy as a ‘work in progress’. Its features change with time. Wolff’s premise is flawed by its absence of compromise, and the Pistols might have been on to something after all.

  2. David Mathew says:

    Wolff’s work is on anarchism and not anarchy, as well.

    • NomadWarMachine says:

      Hi David – thanks for dropping in. Yes, I agree -my picture is overly simplistic – I wrote it in response to conversations about anarchists being rebels and terrorists. I was also really filtering it through a Rousseauian lens (due to other teaching I am doing at the moment) so it is a bit twee.

      I’ve just read your comment on Maha’s blog about the distinction between anarchy and anarchism – that’s interesting, thanks.

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