Anarchism and the State

Anarchism and the State

States have varied both historically and geographically such that for example David Held distinguishes between traditional states, feudal states,the polity of estates ,absolutist states and modern states while Richards and Smith distinguish between liberal states, social democratic states, collectivist states, totalitarian states and developmental states. Such distinctions are extremely important but I shall be concentrating in the following documents on the modern liberal democratic and social democratic states and later on important more recent changes in the nature of the modern British State.
A very useful brief definition of the state has been provided by Andrew Heywood. He states that " the state can most simply be described as a political association that establishes sovereign jurisdiction within defined territorial borders and exercises authority through a set of permanent institutions.” Using this definition let us isolate the key features of the state follows:
1. States aim to ensure that citizens comply with their laws and they may do so by engineering the consent of the citizens and or by the use of force. The monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force is central to Max Weber's definition of the state. He states that "a compulsory political organisation with continuous operations will be called a "state" insofar as its administrative staff successfully upholds the claims to the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order."
2. It has also been argued by the French Marxist Louis Althusser that institutions such as the family, the church, the education system and the mass media should be seen as part of the state since they are ideological state apparatuses which function to legitimise the continued existence of the capitalist state. However other theorists would claim that these institutions are part of civil society rather than the State.

3. Modern states are organised on the basis of their Constitutions. A state's constitution may be defined as a system of rules and conventions by which the state is governed. Most importantly the Constitution specifies the relative powers of and relationships between the various political institutions of the state, most notably the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary and the rights and obligations of the citizen in relation to the state.

Anarchism literally means “without rule” or “without government”. It has traditionally been associated with chaos, social disorder, destruction, violence and even terrorism. For example in the latter stages of the French Revolution the so-called Enrages who were critical of the Jacobin government for their failure to do more to help the poor and the disadvantaged were described by the government as “anarchists” in this pejorative sense and since then the word “anarchist” has often been used, particularly by moderates as a term of political abuse. However increasingly from the late C18th political theorists building on long standing political criticisms of authority developed an altogether more positive interpretation of the term anarchism.

The case for Anarchism has come to rest essentially on the idea that political arguments in support of political authority and particularly arguments in support of the state are flawed. In the anarchist view the state does not guarantee social order, nor protect individual liberty, nor create the economic conditions for the improvement of working class life as conservatives, liberals and non-anarchist socialists would argue: rather the state constrains the individual and creates social disorder. Conversely the anarchists claim it is only individual freedom and the abolition of the state which will result in real human self-development and social harmony. To see this let us discuss the Anarchist logo.

We must recognise that although the ideology of Anarchism contains important core elements there are also major divergences within this ideology. Anarchists are committed to the cause of individual liberty. They believe that individuals are the best judges of their own best interests and that they should therefore possess the high degree of liberty necessary to enable them to think and act as they see fit. The exercise of individual liberty will result also in social order and social harmony whereas if individuals are constrained by other individuals and organisations and especially if they are constrained by the State the result will be social disorder and social disharmony.

All anarchists of all types are united in their opposition to authority and in particular to the authority of