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The nature of capitalism is a polarizing issue among anarchists, who advocate stateless societies based on non-hierarchical voluntary associations. Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary and harmful as well as opposing authority and hierarchical organization in the conduct of human relations. Capitalism is generally considered by scholars to be an economic system that includes private ownership of the means of production, creation of goods or services for profit or income, the accumulation of capital, competitive markets, voluntary exchange and wage labor which has generally been opposed by anarchists historically. Since capitalism is variously defined by sources and there is no general consensus among scholars on the definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category, the designation is applied to a variety of historical cases, varying in time, geography, politics and culture.
Anarcho-capitalists argue that capitalism is the absence of coercion and therefore fully compatible with the philosophy of anarchism; they claim that an effort to put a stop to what they consider voluntary hierarchy is inconsistent with the philosophical tradition of freedom present in anarchist thought. Some supporters also argue that anarcho-capitalism is a form of individualist anarchism.
Anarcho-capitalist author and theorist Murray Rothbard, who coined the term itself and developed such philosophy from the 1950s through the 1970s, stated that individualist anarchism is different from capitalism due to the individualist anarchists retaining the labor theory of value. Most anarchist commentators do not consider anarcho-capitalism as a legitimate form of anarchism due to perceived coercive characteristics of capitalism. In particular, they argue that certain capitalist transactions are not voluntary and that maintaining the class structure of a capitalist society requires coercion in violation of anarchist principles.
Ultimately, many writers deny that anarcho-capitalism is a form of anarchism at all, or that capitalism itself is compatible with anarchism, seeing it instead as a form of New Right libertarianism.
It has been pointed out that historically the anarcho-communist economic theories published by Peter Kropotkin and others have been ignored or intentionally sidelined by historians. Furthermore, some anarchists like Kropotkin object to the portrayal of economics as a value-free science, arguing in his Revolutionary Pamphlets:
[A]ll the so-called laws and theories of political economy are in reality no more than statements of the following nature: "Granting that there are always in a country a considerable number of people who cannot subsist a month, or even a fortnight, without accepting the conditions of work imposed upon them by the State, or offered to them by those whom the State recognizes as owners of land, factories, railways, etc., then the results will be so and so." So far middle-class political economy has been only an enumeration of what happens under the just-mentioned conditions—without distinctly stating the conditions themselves. And then, having described the facts which arise in our society under these conditions, they represent to us these facts as rigid, inevitable economic laws.
Within the realm of anarchist labor issues is the issue of the monetary system. While all anarchists are against the current monetary system, there is disagreement as to whether or not there should be a monetary system. Alexander Berkman was an anarchist against the monetary system. In his book What Is Anarchism?, Berkman argues that in an anarchist society money would become unnecessary. Within anarchy, all occupations are viewed as equally beneficial to society. Since the concept of value is different for everyone and cannot be determined, it is argued that it should not be set and one's contribution to society through their occupation entitled them to be a part of it. Within this system, there is a free distribution of goods without the need for money. Money in its current form is a hierarchical system, the exception being when all people are paid equal salaries. The argument goes further to question the purpose of money if people are paid equally. Indeed, those who agree with this would also note that a monetary system would open a vulnerability for some to acquire more of it and create a class system. However, not all anarchists oppose the idea of money. Individualist anarchists and mutualists see currency as a tangible form of workers receiving the full product of their labor. They support mutual banking (some individualists support no banking at all to keep exchange rates constant) and local currency as opposed to national currency. Others see money as simply an index for exchanging goods and that its existence would not necessarily create a class system.
Many anarcho-capitalists believe that inequality is not a major concern so long as everyone has equality of opportunity. Anarcho-capitalist Murray Rothbard argued "the 'rightist' libertarian is not opposed to inequality". W. Duncan Reekie argues that because of a person's self-ownership any freedom given up in a laissez-faire marketplace would be a voluntary contract (consent) and that there is nothing authoritarian about capitalist employer-employee relationships in such a condition, saying: "There is nothing authoritarian, dictatorial or exploitative in the relationship. Employees order employers to pay them amounts specified in the hiring contract just as much as employers order employees to abide by the terms of the contract".
Rothbard defines equality as "A and B are 'equal' if they are identical to each other with respect to a given attribute. [...] There is one and only one way, then, in which any two people can really be 'equal' in the fullest sense: they must be identical in all their attributes". Thus, Rothbard argues that "men are not uniform, that the species, mankind, is uniquely characterized by a high degree of variety, diversity, differentiation; in short, inequality". This runs counter the concept of equality amongst most anarchists as they would argue that freedom without equality simply gives more freedom to those who are supposedly superior and that equality without freedom is a form of oppression. Indeed, collectivist anarchist Mikhail Bakunin famously proclaimed: "We are convinced that freedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice, and that Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality". With equality meaning equal liberty, Bakunin also argued that "I am truly free only when all human beings, men and women, are equally free. The freedom of other men, far from negating or limiting my freedom, is, on the contrary, its necessary premise and confirmation". As a further confirmation of equality's misunderstanding, social anarchist Alexander Berkman similarly argued in The ABC of Anarchism:
"But will not life under Anarchy, in economic and social equality mean general leveling?" you ask. No, my friend, quite the contrary. Because equality does not mean an equal amount but equal opportunity. [...] Do not make the mistake of identifying equality in liberty with the forced equality of the convict camp. True anarchist equality implies freedom, not quantity. It does not mean that every one must eat, drink, or wear the same things, do the same work, or live in the same manner. Far from it: the very reverse, in fact. Individual needs and tastes differ, as appetites differ. It is equal opportunity to satisfy them that constitutes true equality. Far from levelling, such equality opens the door for the greatest possible variety of activity and development. For human character is diverse, and only the repression of this free diversity results in levelling, in uniformity and sameness. Free opportunity and acting out your individuality means development of natural dissimilarities and variations. [...] Life in freedom, in Anarchy, will do more than liberate man merely from his present political and economic bondage. That will be only the first step, the preliminary to a truly human existence.
Some anarcho-capitalists who consider themselves part of the individualist anarchist tradition draw upon the writings of early American individualist anarchists such as Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner who argued that unequal wealth would not equal an unequal society. However, said anarchists believed that equality of condition, equality of access to the means of production and equal opportunity would counteract any potential tyranny in a market society. Indeed, Spooner and William Godwin insist that "inequality corrupts freedom. Their anarchism is directed as much against inequality as against tyranny" and "[w]hile sympathetic to Spooner's individualist anarchism, they [Rothbard and David D. Friedman] fail to notice or conveniently overlook its egalitarian implications". Tucker himself argued for a society with "the greatest amount of liberty compatible with equality of liberty".
There is some debate about the question of private property and economic organization which is mainly caused by the meaning of private property. Social anarchists claim that the existence of private property (productive property) results in wage slavery while certain anti-capitalist individualist anarchists and mutualists argue for private property (personal property and possessions) and wages owned and controlled directly by workers themselves in the form of labor-owned cooperative firms and associations. For Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, "strong workers' associations would enable the workers to determine jointly by election how the enterprise was to be directed and operated on a day-to-day basis". This is not supported by anarcho-capitalists and one major issue and divide within anarchism and anarcho-capitalism which cause the latter as not being recognized as part of anarchism remains that of private property and its meaning. By property, or private property, ever since Proudhon's book What is Property?, published in 1840, anarchists meant possession (or what other socialists, including Marxists and communists, distingue as personal property) which he considered as liberty ("Property is liberty") versus productive property (such as land and infrastructure, or what Marxists terms the means of production and the means of labor) which he considered as theft ("Property is theft"), causing him to also say "Property is impossible". However, individualist anarchists like Benjamin Tucker started calling possession as property, or private property. Anarcho-capitalists generally make no such distinction. Such distinction is extremely important to anarchists and other socialists because in the capitalist mode of production private and personal property are considered to be exactly equivalent. Instead, anarchists make the following distinctions:
Anarcho-capitalists generally support wage labor and oppose workplace democracy which most anarchists support, claiming that wage labor is voluntary. However, most anarchists argue that certain capitalist transactions, including wage labor, are not voluntary and that maintaining the class structure of in a capitalist society requires coercion which violates both anarchist principles and anarcho-capitalism's non-aggression principle itself.
Traditional individualist anarchist such as Benjamin Tucker (who identified his individualist anarchism as anarchistic socialism) are opposed to both capitalism and compulsory communism. Such anarchists support wage labor as long as the employers and employees are paid equally for equal hours worked and neither party has authority over the other (this approach was put into practice in American individualist anarchist colonies such as Utopia, organized by Josiah Warren). By following this principle, no individual profits from the labor of another. Tucker described the wages received in such an employer-employee relationship as the individual laborer's full product. He envisioned that in such a society every worker would be self-employed and own their own private means of production, free to walk away from employment contracts. Tucker called communism pseudo-anarchism because it opposes wages and private property, fearing that collectivization would subdue individuals to group mentality and rob workers of the full product of their labor.
Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work," we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, "Abolition of the wage system."
Anarcho-capitalism is a political philosophy that espouses anything voluntary is moral, including a voluntary employee/employer hierarchy which anarchists reject. Anarcho-capitalists advocate the elimination of centralised state in favour of self-ownership and individual sovereignty, private property and free markets. Anarcho-capitalism developed from radical American anti-state libertarianism and individualist anarchism, drawing from Austrian School economics, study of law and economics and public choice theory. Anarcho-capitalists, distinguished from minarchists who advocate a small Jeffersonian night-watchman state limited to protecting individuals and their properties from foreign and domestic aggression; and from anarchists who seek to prohibit or regulate the accumulation of private property and the flow of capital, hold that in the absence of statute (law by arbitrary autocratic decrees, or bureaucratic legislation swayed by transitory political special interest groups) society tends to contractually self-regulate and civilize through the spontaneous and organic discipline of the free market (in what its proponents describe as a voluntary society). In an anarcho-capitalist society, law enforcement, courts and all other security services would be operated by privately funded competitors selected by consumers rather than centrally through confiscatory taxation. Along with all other goods and services, money would be privately and competitively provided in an open market and personal and economic activities would be regulated by victim-based dispute resolution organizations under tort and contract law, rather than by statute through centrally determined punishment under political monopolies which tend to become corrupt in proportion to their monopolization. Business regulations such as corporate standards, public relations, product labels, rules for consumer protection, ethics and labor relations would be regulated voluntarily via the use of competitive trade associations, professional societies and standards bodies. In theory, this would establish market-recourse for businesses' decisions and allow the market to communicate effectively with businesses by the use of consumer unions instead of centralized regulatory mandates for companies imposed by the state which anarcho-capitalists argue is inefficient due to regulatory capture.
Anarcho-capitalists generally consider that their philosophy predates the socialist forms of anarchism as according to them various theorists like Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari and Jean-Baptiste Say have espoused legal philosophies similar to anarcho-capitalism. However, the first person to use the term was Murray Rothbard, who synthesized in the mid-20th century elements from the Austrian School of economics, classical liberalism and 19th-century American individualist anarchists Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner (while rejecting their labor theory of value and the norms they derived from it). A Rothbardian anarcho-capitalist society would operate under a mutually agreed-upon libertarian "legal code which would be generally accepted, and which the courts would pledge themselves to follow". This pact would recognize self-ownership, property, contracts and tort law in keeping with the universal non-aggression principle, with anarcho-capitalists arguing that it represents the only pure form of anarchism.
Conversely, critics within anarchism do not believe that anarcho-capitalism can be considered to be a part of the anarchist movement due to the fact that anarchism has historically been an anti-capitalist movement and for definitional reasons which see anarchism as incompatible with capitalism. Indeed, throughout most of its history anarchism has been defined by its proponents in opposition to capitalism which they believe can be maintained only by state violence. Anarchists generally follow Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in opposing ownership of workplaces by capitalists and aim to replace wage labor with workers' associations. These anarchists also agree with Peter Kropotkin's comment that "the origin of the anarchist inception of society [lies in] the criticism [...] of the hierarchical organisations and the authoritarian conceptions of society" rather than in simple opposition to the state or government. They argue that the wage system is hierarchical and authoritarian in nature and consequently capitalism cannot be anarchist. Most early individualist anarchists, including Tucker and Spooner who Rothbard claimed as anarcho-capitalist influences, considered themselves "fervent anti-capitalists [who see] no contradiction between their individualist stance and their rejection of capitalism". Many defined themselves as socialists. These early individualist anarchists defined capitalism in various ways, but it was often discussed in terms of usury: "There are three forms of usury, interest on money, rent on land and houses, and profit in exchange. Whoever is in receipt of any of these is a usurer". Excluding these, they tended to support free trade, free competition and varying levels of private property such as mutualism based on occupation and use property norms. It is this distinction which has led to the rift between anarchism and anarcho-capitalism, with the latter supporting the homestead principle. Historically, anarchists considered themselves socialists and opposed to capitalism, therefore anarcho-capitalism is considered by many anarchists today as not being a form of anarchism. Anarchist organisations such as the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (Spain) and the Anarchist Federation (Britain and Ireland) generally take an explicitly anti-capitalist stance. When in the 20th century several economists began to formulate a form of radical American libertarianism known as anarcho-capitalism, this has met resistance from those who hold that capitalism is inherently oppressive or statist and many anarchists and scholars do not consider anarcho-capitalism to properly cohere with the spirit, principles, or history of anarchism. While other anarchists and scholars regard anarchism as referring only to opposition to the non-privatisation of all aspects of the state and do consider anarcho-capitalism to be a form of anarchism, Gary Chartier has joined Kevin Carson, Roderick T. Long, Charles W. Johnson, Brad Spangler, Sheldon Richman and Chris Matthew Sciabarra in maintaining that—because of its heritage, emancipatory goals and potential—radical market anarchism should be seen by its proponents and by others as part of the socialist tradition and that market anarchists can and should call themselves socialists, echoing the language of American individualist anarchists like Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner and British Thomas Hodgskin. In particular, Chartier has argued that proponents of a genuinely free market, termed freed market to distinguish them from the common conception which these left-libertarians (referred to as left-wing market anarchists to distingue themselves from anarcho-capitalists, or market-oriented left-libertarians who believe markets to be riddled with statist and capitalist privileges) should explicitly reject capitalism and identify with the global anti-capitalist movement while emphasizing that the abuses the anti-capitalist movement highlights result from state-tolerated violence and state-secured privilege rather than from voluntary cooperation and exchange. Like anarcho-capitalists, proponents of this approach strongly affirm the classical liberal ideas of self-ownership and free markets, but they maintain that taken to their logical conclusions these ideas support anti-capitalist, anti-corporatist, anti-hierarchical and pro-labor positions in economics; anti-imperialism in foreign policy; and thoroughly radical views regarding such cultural issues as gender, sexuality and race. While anarcho-capitalists who argue for private property which supports absentee and landlordism ownership rather than occupation and use property norms as well as the principle of homesteading are considerated right-libertarians rather than anarchists (this is due to anarchism generally viewing any absentee ownership and ownership claims on land and natural resources as immoral and illegitimate and seeing the idea of perpetually binding original appropriation as advocated by some anarcho-capitalists as anathema to traditional schools of anarchism as well as to any moral or economic philosophy that takes equal natural rights to land and the Earth's resources as a premise), other anarcho-capitalists are closer to mutualism and are considered part of free-market anarchism which argue that a true free-market or laissez-faire system would be best served under socialism rather than capitalism. As such, Chartier has argued that anarcho-capitalists should reject capitalism and call themselves free-markets advocates, writing:
[I]t makes sense for [freed-market advocates] to name what they oppose "capitalism." Doing so calls attention to the freedom movement's radical roots, emphasizes the value of understanding society as an alternative to the state, underscores the fact that proponents of freedom object to non-aggressive as well as aggressive restraints on liberty, ensures that advocates of freedom aren't confused with people who use market rhetoric to prop up an unjust status quo, and expresses solidarity between defenders of freed markets and workers — as well as ordinary people around the world who use "capitalism" as a short-hand label for the world-system that constrains their freedom and stunts their lives.
One criticism is that anarcho-capitalism turns justice into a commodity as private defense and court firms would favour those who pay more for their services. Indeed, Albert Meltzer argued that since anarcho-capitalism promotes the idea of private armies such as private defense agencies, it actually supports a "limited State". Thus, Meltzer contends that it "is only possible to conceive of Anarchism which is free, communistic and offering no economic necessity for repression of countering it".
Many anarcho-capitalists believe that negative rights should be recognized as legitimate, but positive rights should be rejected. Some critics, including Noam Chomsky, reject the distinction between positive and negative rights, with Chomsky arguing:
Anarcho-capitalism, in my opinion, is a doctrinal system which, if ever implemented, would lead to forms of tyranny and oppression that have few counterparts in human history. There isn't the slightest possibility that its (in my view, horrendous) ideas would be implemented, because they would quickly destroy any society that made this colossal error. The idea of "free contract" between the potentate and his starving subject is a sick joke, perhaps worth some moments in an academic seminar exploring the consequences of (in my view, absurd) ideas, but nowhere else.
Most anarchists argue that certain capitalist transactions are not voluntary and that maintaining the class structure of a capitalist society requires coercion which violates both anarchist principles and anarcho-capitalism's non-aggression principle itself.
David Graeber noted his skepticism about anarcho-capitalism along the same lines:
To be honest I'm pretty skeptical about the idea of anarcho-capitalism. If a-caps imagine a world divided into property-holding employers and property-less wage laborers, but with no systematic coercive mechanisms[;] well, I just can't see how it would work. You always see a-caps saying "if I want to hire someone to pick my tomatoes, how are you going to stop me without using coercion?" Notice how you never see anyone say "if I want to hire myself out to pick someone else's tomatoes, how are you going to stop me?" Historically nobody ever did wage labor like that if they had pretty much [any] other option. Similarly when markets start operating outside the state (and they never start outside the state, but sometimes they start operating beyond it), they almost immediate change their character, and stop operating on pure calculating competition, but on other principles. So I just don't think something like they envision would ever happen.
Anarchists generally view any ownership claims on land and natural resources as immoral and illegitimate. While anarchists, including market anarchists such as mutualists, adamantly oppose absentee ownership, anarcho-capitalists have strong abandonment criteria in which one maintains ownership until one agrees to trade or gift it. Anarchists critics of this view tend to have comparatively weak abandonment criteria as one loses ownership when one stops personally occupying and using it. Furthermore, the idea of perpetually binding original appropriation is anathema to traditional schools of anarchism as well as to any moral or economic philosophy that takes equal natural rights to land and the Earth's resources as a premise.
Anarchist schools of thought encompass not only a range of individual schools, but also a considerable divergence in the use of some key terms. Some terms such as socialism have been subject to multiple definitions and ideological struggle throughout the period of the development of anarchism. Others such as capitalism are used in divergent and often contradictory ways by different schools within the tradition. In addition, the meanings of terms such as mutualism have changed over time, sometimes without spawning new schools. All of these terminological difficulties contribute to misunderstandings within and about anarchism. A central concern is whether the term anarchism is defined in opposition to hierarchy, authority and the state, or state and capitalism. Debates over the meaning of the term emerge from the fact that it refers to both an abstract philosophical position and to intellectual, political and institutional traditions, all of which have been fraught with conflict. Some minimal, abstract definitions encourage the inclusion of figures, movements and philosophical positions which have historically positioned themselves outside, or even in opposition to, individuals and traditions that have identified themselves as anarchist. While opposition to the state is central, there is a lot of talk among scholars and anarchists on the matter and various currents perceive anarchism slightly differently. Hence, it might be true to say that anarchism is a cluster of political philosophies opposing authority and hierarchical organization (including the state, capitalism, nationalism and all associated institutions) in the conduct of all human relations in favour of a society based on voluntary association, freedom and decentralisation. However, this definition has its own shortcomings as the definition based on etymology (which is simply a negation of a ruler), or based on anti-statism (anarchism is much more than that) or even the anti-authoritarian (which is an a posteriori concussion). Nonetheless, major elements of the definition of anarchism include the following:
Usages in political circles have varied considerably. In 1894, Richard T. Ely noted that the term had "already acquired a variety of meanings". In its most general sense, these included the view that society is "a living, growing organism, the laws of which are something different from the laws of individual action". Several years earlier in 1888, the individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker included the full text of a "Socialistic Letter" by Ernest Lesigne in his essay on "State Socialism and Anarchism". According to Lesigne, there are two socialisms: "One is dictatorial, the other libertarian". Anti-capitalism is considered a necessary element of anarchism by most anarchists.
Owing to the many anarchist schools of thought, anarchism can be divided into two or more categories, the most used being individualist anarchism vs. social anarchism. Other categorizations may include green anarchism and/or left and right anarchism. Terms like anarcho-socialism or socialist anarchism are rejected by most anarchists since they generally consider themselves socialists of the libertarian tradition and are seen as unnecessary and confusing when not used as synonymous with libertarian or stateless socialism vis-à-vis authoritarian or state socialism, but they are nevertheless used by anarcho-capitalist theorists and scholars who recognize anarcho-capitalism to differentiate between the two, or what is otherwise known as social anarchism. Since anarchism has been historically identified with the socialist and anti-capitalist movement, with the main divide being between anti-market anarchists who support some form of decentralised economic planning and pro-market anarchists who support free-market socialism, anarchists reject anarcho-capitalism as a form of individualist anarchism and reject categorizations such as left and right anarchism (anarcho-capitalism and national-anarchism), seeing anarchism as a libertarian socialist and radical left-wing or far-left ideology. Schools of thought like anarcha-feminism, anarcho-pacifism, anarcho-primitivism, anarcho-transhumanism and green anarchism, among others, can have different economic views and be either part of individualist anarchism or social anarchism.
To differentiate it from individualist anarchism, most anarchists generally prefer using social anarchism, a term used to characterize certain strides of anarchism vis-à-vis individualist anarchism, with the former focusing on the social aspect and generally being more organisational as well as supporting decentralised economic planning and the latter focusing on the individual and generally being more anti-organisational as well as supporting a free-market form of socialism, respectively, rather than seeing the two categories as mutually exclusive or as socialist vis-à-vis capitalism, leading to anarchism without adjectives. For instance, mutualism, especially the theory of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, is seen as the middle or third category between social anarchism and individualist anarchism, although it is often considered part of social anarchism and sometimes part of individualist anarchism. Indeed, Proudhon spoke of social individualism and described the mutualism and the freedom it pursued as the synthesis between communism and property. While most anarcho-capitalists theorists and scholars divide anarchism into social anarchism vis-à-vis individualist anarchism meaning socialism vs. capitalism, seeing the two as mutually exclusive although accepting all anarchist schools of thought under panarchy on the basis of voluntaryism, anarchist theorists and scholars opposing to anarcho-capitalism reject this, not seeing them as a struggle between socialism and capitalism or as mutually exclusive, but instead as complementary, with their differences mainly being based on the means to attain anarchy, rather than on their ends, arguing against certain anarcho-capitalist theorists and scholars who see individualist anarchism as pro-capitalist and reiterating that anarchism as a whole is socialist, meaning libertarian and anti-statist socialism. As an example, many anarcho-communists regard themselves as radically individualists, seeing anarcho-communism as the best social system for the realization of individual freedom. Notwithstanding the name, collectivist anarchism is also seen as a blend of individualism and collectivism. Indeed, anarchism is generally considered an individualist philosophy, opposing all forms of authoritarian collectivism, but one which does see the individual or the community as complementary rather than mutually exclusive, with anarco-communism and social anarchism in particular most rejecting the individualist–collectivist dichotomy. Finally, social anarchism is a term used in the United States to refer to Murray Bookchin's circle and its omonymous journal.
From a materialist perspective, individualist anarchism is simply the anarchist form in the pre-capitalist and largely agrarian and merchantilist capitalism before the Industrial Revolution, during which individualist anarchism became a form of artisanal and self-employed socialism, especially in the United States. Instead, social anarchism is anarchism in an industrial society, being the form of industrial or proletarian socialism, with post-left anarchy and its criticism of industrial technology and anti-workerism arising in a post-industrial society. Thus, such anarchists may simply see these categorisation in these terms. Despite their differences, these are all different forms of libertarian socialism. Before socialism became associated in the 20th century with Marxist–Leninist states and similar forms of authoritarian and statist socialism, considered by critics as state capitalism and administrative command economies rather than planned economies, the word socialism was a broad concept which was aimed at solving the labour problem through radical changes in the capitalist economy. This caused issues between traditional anarchists and anarcho-captalists, whose understanding of socialism is that of the 20th century Marxist–Leninist states, with capitalism meaning the free market rather than actually existing capitalism. Anarchists like Luigi Galleani and Errico Malatesta have seen no contradiction between individualist anarchism and social anarchism, with the latter especially seeing the issues not between the two forms of anarchism, but between anarchists and non-anarchists.
The term left anarchism is sometimes used synonymously with libertarian socialism, left-libertarianism, or social anarchism. More traditional anarchists typically discourage the concept of left-wing theories of anarchism on grounds of redundancy and that it lends legitimacy to the notion that anarchism is compatible with capitalism or nationalism.
Although laissez-faire has been commonly associated with capitalism and anarcho-capitalists advocate such system, there is a similar left-wing or socialist laissez-faire system called free-market anarchism, also known as free-market anti-capitalism and free-market socialism to distinguish it from laissez-faire capitalism. One first example of this is mutualism as developed by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in the 18th century, from which emerged individualist anarchism. Benjamin Tucker is one eminent American individualist anarchist who adopted a laissez-faire system he termed anarchistic socialism in contraposition to state socialism. This tradition has been recently associated with contemporary scholars such as Kevin Carson, Roderick T. Long, Charles W. Johnson, Brad Spangler, Sheldon Richman, Chris Matthew Sciabarra and Gary Chartier, who are critics of laissez-faire as commonly understood and instead argue that a truly laissez-faire system would be anti-capitalist and socialist. Indeed, Murray Rothbard himself, who coined the term anarcho-capitalism and advocated such philosophy, argued that the robber baron period—hailed by the right and despised by the left—as a heyday of laissez-faire, was not characterized by laissez-faire at all, but it was in fact a time of massive state privilege accorded to capital. The doyen of modern American market-oriented libertarianism and an Austrian School economist, Rothbard was initially an enthusiastic partisan of the Old Right, particularly because of its general opposition to war and imperialism. However, Rothbard had long embraced a reading of American history that emphasized the role of elite privilege in shaping legal and political institutions—one that was naturally agreeable to many on the left—and came increasingly in the 1960s to seek alliances on the left and especially with members of the New Left in light of the Vietnam War, the military draft and the emergence of the Black Power movement. Working with other radicals like Ronald Radosh and Karl Hess, Rothbard argued that the consensus view of American economic history, according to which a beneficent government has used its power to counter corporate predation, is fundamentally flawed. Rather, he argued that government intervention in the economy has largely benefited established players at the expense of marginalized groups, to the detriment of both liberty and equality. In tandem with his emphasis on the intimate connection between state and corporate power, he defended the seizure of corporations dependent on state largesse by workers and others.
Rothbard himself ultimately broke with the left, allying himself instead with the burgeoning paleoconservative movement. This caused a divide between left- and right-Rothbardians, with most right-Rothbardians identifying as anarcho-capitalists, conservatives, paleoconservatives, paleolibertarians, propertarians or right-libertarians whereas left-Rothbardians and some thinkers associated with market-oriented libertarianism, drawing on the work of Rothbard during his alliance with the left and on the thought of Karl Hess, came increasingly to identify with the left on a range of issues, including opposition to war, corporate oligopolies and state-corporate partnerships as well as an affinity for cultural liberalism against Rothbard's later cultural conservatism and right-wing populism. One variety of this kind of libertarianism has been a resurgent mutualism, incorporating modern economic ideas such as marginal utility theory into mutualist theory. Carson's Studies in Mutualist Political Economy helped to stimulate the growth of new-style mutualism, articulating a version of the labor theory of value incorporating ideas drawn from Austrian economics. Many left-Rothbardians are mutualists whereas others left Rothbardians and market-oriented left-libertarians have declined to embrace mutualist views of real property while sharing the mutualist opposition to corporate hierarchies and wealth concentration. Such left-libertarians have placed particular emphasis on the articulation and defense of a libertarian theory of class and class conflict, although considerable work in this area has been performed by libertarians of other persuasions. In the end, those left-Rothbardians and libertarians maintain that because of its heritage and its emancipatory goals and potential radical market anarchism should be seen by its proponents and by others as part of the socialist tradition and that market anarchists like anarcho-capitalists can and should call themselves socialists, echoing the language of libertarian socialists like American individualist anarchists Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner and British Thomas Hodgskin.
In response to claims from anarcho-capitalists that he uses the term capitalism incorrectly, Kevin Carson says he is deliberately choosing to resurrect what he claims to be an old definition of the term in order to "make a point". He claims that "the term 'capitalism,' as it was originally used, did not refer to a free market, but to a type of statist class system in which capitalists controlled the state and the state intervened in the market on their behalf". Carson holds that "capitalism, arising as a new class society directly from the old class society of the Middle Ages, was founded on an act of robbery as massive as the earlier feudal conquest of the land. It has been sustained to the present by continual state intervention to protect its system of privilege without which its survival is unimaginable". In addition to individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker's big four monopolies (land, money, tariffs and patents), Carson argues that the state has also transferred wealth to the wealthy by subsidizing organizational centralization in the form of transportation and communication subsidies, arguing that in a truly laissez-faire system the ability to extract a profit from labor and capital would be negligible. In response to criticisms from anarcho-capitalists who reject the labor theory of value in favor of the subjective theory of value and support marginalism, the theoretical sections of Carson's Studies in Mutualist Political Economy are presented as an attempt to integrate marginalist critiques into the labor theory of value.
Gary Chartier offers an understanding of property rights as contingent yet tightly constrained social strategies, reflective of the importance of multiple, overlapping rationales for separate ownership and of natural law principles of practical reasonableness, defending robust yet non-absolute protections for these rights in a manner similar to that employed by David Hume. This account is distinguished from anarcho-capitalists who are propertarian and hold Lockean and neo-Lockean views which deduce property rights from the idea of self-ownership and from consequentialist accounts that might license widespread ad hoc interference with the possessions of groups and individuals. Chartier uses this account to ground a clear statement of the natural law basis for the view that solidaristic wealth redistribution by individual persons is often morally required, but as a response by individuals and grass-roots networks to particular circumstances rather than as a state-driven attempt to achieve a particular distributive pattern. Thus, Chartier advances detailed arguments for workplace democracy rooted in such natural law principles as subsidiarity which anarcho-capitalists reject, defending it instead as morally desirable and as a likely outcome of the elimination of injustice rather than as something to be mandated by the state. He also discusses natural law approaches to land reform and to the occupation of factories by workers which anarcho-capitalists may see as infranging on property owners' rights. Against some anarcho-capitalists who support intellectual property, Chartier ultimately objects on natural law grounds to intellectual property protections, drawing on his theory of property rights more generally and developing a general natural law account of boycotts.
Left-wing market anarchism is a form of individualist anarchism, libertarian socialism and free-market anarchism as distinct from anarcho-capitalism, whose genealogy overlaps to a significant degree with that of Steiner–Vallentyne left-libertarianism as the roots of that tradition are sketched in the book The Origins of Left-Libertarianism. Carson–Long-style left-libertarianism is rooted in 19th-century mutualism and in the work of figures such as American individualist anarchists Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner and Thomas Hodgskin, a British critic of capitalism and defender of free trade and early trade unions. Relationships between such market anarchists and the New Left thrived in the 1960s, laying the groundwork for modern left-wing market anarchism.
Left-wing market anarchism identifies with left-libertarianism whereas anarcho-capitalism is considered a form of right-libertarianism. Unlike anarcho-capitalists, they believe that neither claiming nor mixing one's labor with natural resources is enough to generate full private property rights and those who support private property do so under occupation and use property norms as in mutualism or under the condition that recompense is offered to the local or even global community as advocated by geoists and geolibertarians. Arguing that vast disparities in wealth and social influence result from the use of force and especially state power to steal and engross land and acquire and maintain special privileges, members of this thought typically urge the abolition of the state. They judge that in a stateless society, the kinds of privileges secured by the state will be absent and injustices perpetrated or tolerated by the state can be rectified. According to libertarian scholar Sheldon Richman:
Left-libertarians favor worker solidarity vis-à-vis bosses, support poor people's squatting on government or abandoned property, and prefer that corporate privileges be repealed before the regulatory restrictions on how those privileges may be exercised. They see Walmart as a symbol of corporate favoritism—supported by highway subsidies and eminent domain—view the fictive personhood of the limited-liability corporation with suspicion, and doubt that Third World sweatshops would be the "best alternative" in the absence of government manipulation. Left-libertarians tend to eschew electoral politics, having little confidence in strategies that work through the government. They prefer to develop alternative institutions and methods of working around the state.
Unlike anarcho-captalists, there is also a tendency to support the labor movement and their struggles. For instance, Kevin Carson has praised individualist anarchist Dyer Lum's fusion of individualist economics with radical labor activism as "creative" and described him as "more significant than any in the Boston group". Furthermore, Roderick T. Long is an advocate of "build[ing] worker solidarity. On the one hand, this means formal organisation, including unionization – but I'm not talking about the prevailing model of "business unions," [...] but real unions, the old-fashioned kind, committed to the working class and not just union members, and interested in worker autonomy, not government patronage". In particular, Long has described the situation as such:
|“||[T]he present status of unions as governmentally privileged labor cartels is in large part the result of legislation supported by big business, inasmuch as the corporate elite found unions less threatening as regulated junior partners in the corporate régime, playing on its terms, than as independent actors. After all, the achievements, much heralded by the Left, which unions won in their heyday, such as the weekend and the eight-hour day, were won primarily by market means, often over strong government resistance; likewise, the most notable victories of unions in recent years have been won mainly by unofficial, disapproved unions, without violence of either the governmental or freelance variety, and outside of the traditional labor-law establishment. By contrast, the influence of mainstream unions has been steadily declining ever since they accepted the devil's bargain of "help" from big-daddy government, with all the regulatory strings that go with it. Thus when left-wingers complain that unions are in decline and that workers are disempowered on the job, they're complaining about a situation created and sustained by government — and once again, we should be pointing that out to them.||”|
Contemporary left-wing market anarchists show markedly more sympathy than anarcho-capitalists towards various cultural movements which challenge non-governmental relations of power. For instance, Roderick T. Long and Charles W. Johnson have called for a recovery of the 19th-century alliance with radical liberalism and feminism. While adopting similar views, including opposition to drug prohibition, gun control, civil liberties violations and war, left-wing market anarchists are more likely than most self-identified anarcho-capitalists to take more distinctively leftist stances on issues as diverse as feminism, gender and sexuality, class, immigration and environmentalism. Especially influential regarding these topics have been scholars including Long, Johnson, Chris Matthew Sciabarra and Arthur Silber. Unlike anarcho-capitalism, left-wing market anarchism also does not have any strict agreement what constitutes legitimate property titles. Arguments have been made for Rothbardian, Georgist, mutualist and utilitarian approaches to determining legitimate property claims. Such discrepancies are resolved through deliberation mechanisms like the polycentric law. Instead, such anarchists recognize the importance of property held and managed in common as a way of maintaining common goods.
Such market anarchists recognize that anarchism has been historically identified with the socialist and anti-capitalist movement, with the main divide being between anti-market anarchists (most social anarchists, including anarcho-communists, anarcho-syndicalists and collectivist anarchists) who support some form of decentralised economic planning and pro-market anarchists (certain individualist anarchists, including free-market anarchists and mutualists) who support free-market socialism, arguing that anarcho-capitalists should explicitly reject capitalism and identify with the global anti-capitalist movement since by capitalism they generally mean the free market rather than actually existing capitalism, of which they are critics, arguing that the problem rests on corporatism and state capitalism, a term used by anarchists to criticize state socialism as nothing more than state capitalism, rather than capitalism itself. Much like socialism has been conflated with state socialism in the 20th century due to Marxist–Leninist states, capitalism has been similarly conflated with the free market when the term itself in its modern form was coined in the 18th century to mean a construed political system built on privileges for the owners of capital. Like other anarchists, left-wing market anarchists argue that capitalism necessarily rest on the state to survive (capitalism itself was always seen as what would be later termed state capitalism) while also making the point that the free market for classical economists such as Adam Smith did not necessarily refer to a market free from government interference as it is now commonly assumed or as anarcho-capitalists argue, but rather free from all forms of economic privilege, monopolies and artificial scarcities, implying that economic rents, i.e. profits generated from a lack of perfect competition, must be reduced or eliminated as much as possible through free competition; and that a true free-market or laissez-faire system would be better served under socialism rather than capitalism. Terms like anarcho-socialism or socialist anarchism are rejected by most anarchists since they generally consider themselves socialists of the libertarian tradition, but they are used by anarcho-capitalist theorists and scholars who recognize anarcho-capitalism to differentiate between the two.
Many anarchists are actively involved in the anti-globalization movement, seeing corporate globalization as a neocolonialist attempt to use economic coercion on a global scale, carried out through state institutions such as the World Bank, World Trade Organization, Group of Eight and the World Economic Forum. Globalization is an ambiguous term that has different meanings to different anarchist factions. Many anarchists use the term to mean neocolonialism and/or cultural imperialism (which they may see as related). Anarcho-capitalists instead use globalization to mean the worldwide expansion of the division of labor and trade which they see as beneficial so long as governments do not intervene. Like market anarchists, anarcho-capitalists also see the worldwide expansion of the division of labor through trade (globalization) as a boon, but they oppose the regulation and cartelization imposed by the World Bank, World Trade Organization and managed trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Many also object to fiat money issued by central banks and resulting debasement of money and confiscation of wealth. Groups such as Reclaim the Streets were among the instigators of the so-called anti-globalization movement. The Carnival Against Capitalism on 18 June 1999 is generally regarded as the first of the major anti-globalization protests. Anarchists such as the WOMBLES have on occasion played a significant role in planning, organising and participating in subsequent protests. The protests tended to be organised on anarchist direct action principles with a general tolerance for a range of different activities ranging from those who engage in tactical frivolity to the black blocs.
Anarchism is the view that a society without the state, or government, is both possible and desirable. The following sources cite anarchism as a political philosophy: Mclaughlin, Paul (2007). Anarchism and Authority. Aldershot: Ashgate. p. 59. ISBN 0-7546-6196-2. Johnston, R. (2000). The Dictionary of Human Geography. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers. p. 24. ISBN 0-631-20561-6.
catastrophe of capitalism
The same may be said of anarchism: social anarchism—a nonstate form of socialism—may be distinguished from the nonsocialist, and, in some cases, procapitalist school of individualist anarchism.