With this post, I begin a series of posts that will explore the relationship between the philosophical and political doctrine of anarchism and the dramatic transformations in modern political activity wrought by the internet and electronic communication. I invite comments and responses. The locus classicus for these arguments is of course my little book, In Defense of Anarchism, published thirty-nine years ago and available now in a paperback reissue by the Univetrsity of California Press.
I. What is Anarchism?
Anarchism, put simply, is the thesis that there never has been, never will be, and never could be a morally legitimate state. The state is a group of people who claim the right to issue commands and the right to have them obeyed by the people over whom they assert their authority. Sometimes the state is one person [L’etat, c’est moi, as Louis XIV of
The defenders of the democratic state argue that when the people, through their chosen representatives, make the laws to which they are to submit, then they are truly free, for in obeying the laws, they are obeying only themselves, and hence retain their autonomy. This, in a sentence, is the argument of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s great treatise, Of The Social Contract. But despite his philosophically brilliant tergiversations, Rousseau is wrong, for when I submit to the will of a majority whose laws I judge to be ill-considered and immoral, I am forfeiting my autonomy as surely as if I were the loyal subject of a despot.
next post: The Problem of Social Coordination