Types of Anarchism

There are many ways one could classify the various schools of anarchism. One could look at transitional plans, preferred types of association or community, or even target audience. However, the most important and contentious issue in modern anarchism is economics. In particular justice in property and justice in trade. The following table shows how two simple questions about property can categorize the bulk of anarchist thought.

Categories of
Should cost be the limit of price?
(Is profit wrong/exploitative?)
Yes No
Should natural
be private
Individualist anarchism Anarcho-capitalism
Libertarian socialism Geoanarchism

Anarchism arose in the throes of the industrial revoltion. The liberals brought love of liberty and human rights to the table, the socialists brought exploitation theory and a critique of existing property arrangements. They both brought a healthy disdain for the State, and ideas about federalization and self-rule. Two men, a radical French philosopher and a practical American yankee, worked out the theory and practice of anarchism unbeknownst to each other in the early to mid-1800's. Pierre Proudhon shocked the literati with his essay "What is Property." Meanwhile, Josiah Warren had already implemented a time store and anarchist communities. Mutualism was a movement whose time had come, and the anti-statist part of this movement was the original anarchism.

Shortly after, the German philosopher Max Stirner presented his rational egoist philosophy in "The Ego and Its Own" (1844) also translated as "The Individual and His Property." Stirner was semi-anarchist - he denied the legitimacy of the State (and rights, and gods, and even morality), but he did not oppose the existence of the State or seek to abolish it. Nevertheless, his egoism and individualism was extremely influential to later anarchists, particularly individualist anarchists and (via Ayn Rand) anarcho-capitalists.

The socialist anarchists took Proudhon's critique of property as their main theme. Michael Bakunin soon became the movement leader, with a collectivist turn from Proudhon's private possession mutualism. Bakunin's socialist anarchism (called generally "libertarian socialism") developed into several sub-branches, depending on the vision for change. Kropotkin's anarcho-communism borders on primitivism in its notion of local collective life; Anarcho-syndicalism sees industrial workers as the key players, and simultaneous "general" strikes as a major weapon.

The individualist anarchists took Proudhon's individualism to heart, with its private property, but also Proudhon's exploitation theory - the labor theory of value. Mutualists are basically capitalists who think making a profit (from rent, labor, or interest) is wrong. They support the right to profit - they would not use force against a profiteer - but they consider it a vice and only possible due to government monopoly or privilege. Individualist anarchists generally either take a natural rights position or rely on Stirnerite egoism.

Just as mutualism predates Proudhon, Georgism predates Henry George. For those who hold this position, land (and all natural resources) are not man-made, so they cannot be owned. The theory that labor creates ownership and land is "commons" goes back to Locke, and was supported by Adam Smith, Tom Paine, Thomas Jefferson and many others. The Georgist idea is that people should pay rent to the community for land they use. When Georgism met with Oppenheimer's anti-statist sociology, the result was Geoanarchism.

The whole logic of laissez-faire capitalism leads to anarchism, and the same can be said for liberalism. As Thoreau eloquently wrote:

"I heartily accept the motto, 'That government is best which governs least;' and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which I also believe - that government is best which governs not at all."
Anarcho-capitalism takes the economics of the Austrian School, the politics of individualist anarchists, the anti-war and anti-socialist agenda of Old Right geoanarchists, and spinkles on objectivist egoism to taste.


Property Systems

Property is a relationship between people regarding a scarce good. Denying the validity of the State, anarchists consider all property as allodial. The following property qualification types address who may hold property and how can it be transferred to a new owner.

Who May Own

How Transferred

These are the property types favored by the four anarchist schools:

Anarchist Schools Socialist Mutualist Geoist Capitalist
Land and natural resources corporate possession pure possession community pure contract
Man-made capital goods corporate possession pure contract pure contract pure contract
Is it moral to collect profit
from land, labor, or capital?
It's criminal and
should be expropriated.
No, but it's
so shouldn't be prevented.
No, for land;
Yes, for labor and capital.
It's permissable
and generally a virtue.

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