Anarchy: definition, and on education : LUSENET : U of C General Studies 500 : One Thread

Ok, I've just got a quick question. Can somebody clarify exactly what Anarchy is? The idea that I have as a definition of anarchy doesn't seem to quite fit with Bakunin's (spelling?). I still see quite a bit of a system of sorts within his concept of a free society. As far as I understand, anarchy is a complete freedom of the individual through getting rid of any authority and just letting people loose to do as they please. I realize that Bakunin basically believes that through educating people in the spirit of freedom they will become moral and live peacefully together of their own accord. First, I'm not sure that that's even true. Secondly, isn't educating people in this frame of "freedom" still an authority structure imposed on them? If people were truly free they would be given the choice of how they want to live, what theory they prescibe to, and even if they want to go to school or not. I know Bakunin would answer this question by saying that once people were given their freedom and experienced living as he imagines life should be they wouldn't choose to live any other way. How can he be so sure of that though? Ok, I'm starting to confuse myself again and this is getting a little long so I'll cut it short here and await your replies. Also, if any of you have the time and desire you should read the short story "The Cloak of Anarchy". I think it'd give you an idea of what true anarchy would be like. Christine

-- Anonymous, November 01, 2000


Response to Anarchy

Good questions!!

A quick clarification: my understanding of anarchism is that anarchists do not believe in absolute liberty as illustrated by "just letting people loose to do as they please." Some actions invariably require the denial of liberty of others. So, for example, anarchists do not support the 'freedom' to rape. Similarly, they do not support the liberty to coerce or oppress others. As Henry David Thoreau put it in "Civil Disobedience": "Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves."

I've also wondered about the possibility of oppression within Bakunin's educational system. Does it not seem that Bakunin ignores the question of parents (or society) oppressing children through forcing them to go to school? Maybe, according to Bakunin, children don't have the same rights as adults? ... although this doesn't seem to fit with his philosophy at all.. maybe children don't have to go to school if they don't want to? This seems more like it.

Interestingly, there is another bulletin board hosted my this same site called "Anarchist Guide to Raising Kids." To get to it, go to, then click on the "show all forums" link at the top, then scroll down to the bboard with the above name.

As to the definition of anarchy: there is no orthodox defiition of what anarchy is. This is one of its strengths. However, for one definition, created by many anarchists from all over the world, go here.


-- Anonymous, November 02, 2000

Response to Anarchy

Thanks Richard. I've got a few more questions and commments for you. If anarchists believe that certain acts (such as rape) must be restricted or prohibited in order to ensure freedom for all, how do they enforce this restriction? And who decides what exactly should be restricted? Once a set of rules is in place to ensure that certain acts are restricted they quickly become laws. From there the laws pile up, law makers are needed, enforcers are needed, and then we end up with pretty much the same confusing complex system that we already have. Also, if everyone is to be free how can we judge what behavior should be restricted? Intuitively we could say that behavior that harms another individual should be restricted. But as it is we have trouble deciding what is considered to be harmful behavior. Even now we have trouble deciding the limits of freedom of expression (pornography, racist literature, even foul language on TV are just a few examples). And that's only one point to be considered. Anyway, my head is full of thoughts on the issue and I could probably go on for quite awhile but I'll just call it quits here for now. Christine

Note: This comment is now its own top-level posting (ie. a "Question"). To respond to it, please go to the posting titled "Anarchism and crime (unsocial behaiour)." Thanks.

-- Anonymous, November 03, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ