Anarchism is a socio-economic and political theory, but not an ideology. The difference is very important. Basically, theory means you have ideas; an ideology means ideas have you. Anarchism is a body of ideas, but they are flexible, in a constant state of evolution and flux, and open to modification in light of new data. As society changes and develops, so does anarchism. An ideology, in contrast, is a set of “fixed” ideas which people believe dogmatically, usually ignoring reality or “changing” it so as to fit with the ideology, which is (by definition) correct. All such “fixed” ideas are the source of tyranny and contradiction, leading to attempts to make everyone fit onto a Procrustean Bed. This will be true regardless of the ideology in question — Leninism, Objectivism, “Libertarianism,” or whatever — all will have the same effect: the destruction of real individuals in the name of a doctrine, a doctrine that usually serves the interest of some ruling elite. Or, as Michael Bakunin puts it:
“Until now all human history has been only a perpetual and bloody immolation of millions of poor human beings in honour of some pitiless abstraction — God, country, power of state, national honour, historical rights, judicial rights, political liberty, public welfare.” [God and the State, p. 59]
Dogmas are static and deathlike in their rigidity, often the work of some dead “prophet,” religious or secular, whose followers erect his or her ideas into an idol, immutable as stone. Anarchists want the living to bury the dead so that the living can get on with their lives. The living should rule the dead, not vice versa. Ideologies are the nemesis of critical thinking and consequently of freedom, providing a book of rules and “answers” which relieve us of the “burden” of thinking for ourselves.
If you are looking for a new ideology, then sorry, anarchism is not for you.
While anarchists try to be realistic and practical, we are not “reasonable” people. “Reasonable” people uncritically accept what the “experts” and “authorities” tell them is true, and so they will always remain slaves! Anarchists know that, as Bakunin wrote:
“[a] person is strong only when he stands upon his own truth, when he speaks and acts from his deepest convictions. Then, whatever the situation he may be in, he always knows what he must say and do. He may fall, but he cannot bring shame upon himself or his causes.” [quoted in Albert Meltzer, I couldn’t Paint Golden Angels, p. 2]
What Bakunin describes is the power of independent thought, which is the power of freedom. We encourage you not to be “reasonable,” not to accept what others tell you, but to think and act for yourself!
One last point: to state the obvious, this is not the final word on anarchism. Many anarchists will disagree with much that is written here, but this is to be expected when people think for themselves. All we wish to do is indicate the basic ideas of anarchism and give our analysis of certain topics based on how we understand and apply these ideas. We are sure, however, that all anarchists will agree with the core ideas we present, even if they may disagree with our application of them here and there.
-This is a section of whats called the anarchist FAQ. A link to the anarchist faq can be found at the links section of our website.