The following is a transcript of an email interview withAndrew Gavin Marshall , Geopolitics Department Chair at the Hampton Institute and Project Manager of The People's Book Project . In it we discuss anarchism, trace its beginnings, delve into some of its history in both the United States and around the world, and conclude by discussing anarchism's effect on the Occupy movement.
Devon DB: Could you provide a working definition of anarchism?
Mr. Marshall : Anarchism is difficult to define simply because it is such a diverse political philosophy, with so many different variants. So the definition tends to alter as the particular brand of anarchism differs. However, at is core, anarchism - in its original Greek wording - means simply to be "without a leader." Running in opposition to traditional Liberal thought, such as that articulated by Hobbes' notion of anarchy as a "state of nature" mired in war and conflict, and thus the State was necessary to maintain order, one of the original anarchist thinkers, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon countered, "Anarchy is Order." Despite the connotation of the word "anarchy" to that of "chaos" and "disorder," anarchism and anarchist societies are highly organized and 'ordered.' The central difference between an anarchist conception of order and others is that anarchy removes the structures of authority, so that society is organized through free association and non-hierarchical organization. It promotes both the individual and the collective, simultaneously. This is opposed to Liberal thought, which promotes the individual above all else, or socialist thought, which promotes the collective above all else. As one of the most influential anarchist thinkers, Mikhail Bakunin, described anarchist thought when he stated, "We are convinced that liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; and that socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality." This has often led anarchism to be synonymous with what is referred to as "Libertarian Socialism," which is where the root of Libertarianism lies, but has strayed quite far from. Ultimately, what underlies all anarchist thought is a heightened and radical critique and questioning of power and authority: if a source of authority cannot legitimize its existence, it should not exist.