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Anarchists believe that the state is a deeply harmful institution and that the good society is one without a state or government. Visions of a stateless society can be found throughout history, but comprehensive theories of anarchism emerged in the late eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries in the wake of the French and Industrial Revolutions. Anarchist thinkers have appealed to a variety of ethical systems, these yielding different arguments against government and different understandings of the desirable anarchist society. In the “classical” tradition, thinkers such as Godwin, Proudon, Bakunin and Kropotkin argued for anarchism on grounds including utilitarianism, individual liberty, “mutualism” (fair exchange for equal value), and Darwinian evolution. Later streams of anarchism have appealed to egoism, existentialism, feminism, ecologism, and poststructuralism. None of these approaches is without its difficulties, but all pose a stimulating challenge to standard assumptions in moral and political philosophy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of Ethics
EditorsHugh LaFollette
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9781119488873
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2021


  • Anarchism
  • anarcho-syndicalism
  • Michael Bakunin
  • Murray Bookchin
  • Michel Foucault
  • William Godwin
  • Peter Kropotkin
  • libertarianism
  • Existentialism


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