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Shouldn't anarchism be far-right, since right-wing politics opposes "big government" and favours less government influence? Anarchism has basically no government influence, so shouldn't it be the most radical viewpoint on the right?

Anarchism is traditionally viewed as far-left, but it doesn't make much sense, since left-wing politics supposedly favours "big government" influence.

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    Political philosophies don't necessarily fall on a 1 dimensional spectrum. They also overlap and combine into all sorts of concepts. For example, you can have anarcho-communism (arguably left wing) as well as anarcho-capitalism (arguably right wing). As such, there really is no way to answer this question with a simple answer other than "forms of anarchism can exist in a lot of areas on the political map"
    – user1530
    Mar 26, 2016 at 20:42
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    Anarchism doesn't acknowledge your one-dimensional political spectrum. Anarchism doesn't have to be anything, because it is anarchism.
    – J Doe
    Jul 26, 2017 at 18:58
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    Oh yeah, and "right-wing"/conservative/Republicans don't oppose "big government" as long as it is spent on the military, police, national security, vice enforcement, etc.
    – Chloe
    Jul 26, 2018 at 17:25
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    Right-wing politics, in practice, seems to be fine with big intrusive government when it favors their particular demographic groups or philosophies, so I'm not sure the premise is sound. Jul 27, 2018 at 13:18
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    Right wing politics doesn't oppose big government, historically. Where are you getting this idea? Apr 7, 2021 at 11:50

11 Answers 11

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No, because there are different dimensions. There is authoritarianism/anti-authoritarianism, versus liberal/conservative. Here are several charts which shows the possible outlays expanding on the limited left/right paradigm.

This is a Nolan Chart. It uses the axis of personal freedom vs. economic freedom. Left anarchists don't believe in economic freedom. If someone tried to price gouge, they would be visited with violence.

Nolan Chart

This chart shows authoritarianism vs. left/right. I might disagree with some of the positions of the dots.

political chart anarchism

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    Why Nazis are shown less authoritarian than fascists?
    – Anixx
    Aug 23, 2017 at 15:36
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    How can you be both anarchist and nationalist? o_O
    – endolith
    Sep 3, 2017 at 14:02
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    @endolith: Sane people can't, of course. A nation presupposes borders (after all, nationalists are anything but globalists), and borders require a government to enforce those borders. But romantic nationalism draws its roots not from such practical matters as borders, but from an ideal - typically an idea that the nation coincides with it s people, and that those people share a common opinion. And in that fictional world, as all people in the nation share the same ideas, you don't need a government => anarchy works by virtue of a unanimous people.
    – MSalters
    Sep 4, 2017 at 14:17
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    I'm super late to the party, but "Left anarchists don't believe in economic freedom." isn't quite exact. I believe its rather that anarchists understand that economic freedom can (and often does) trample over more fundamental freedoms.
    – JS Lavertu
    Dec 4, 2018 at 21:01
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    The zero point on both axes is pretty tendentious. I wouldn't pay much attention to whether a particular point is on one side or the other. Its the relative positions that are more meaningful. There is also the problem alluded to by @JSLavertu that one person's freedom to hire and fire workers is another person's infringement on rights of free speech, free association etc. Sep 11, 2023 at 16:02
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First of all, left and right are arbitrary definitions. You have to remember that it originated in the physical position within a parliament. Nevertheless in each country at any moment, a left-to-right scale is established to separate liberal-oriented from conservative-oriented. Whatever that means in the given country.

But politics isn't one-dimensional and the extreme cases break that model even more.

But just to focus more on them, while the more centred right often promote a minimal state for a maximum freedom for companies and economy. However when travelling towards the extreme, you find more conservative, who also like the state to have a minimum influence on the economy, but often like the state to protect the people (police, army, justice, etc.) as well as promote certain values (family, tradition, etc.). And if you get much more on the extreme, you get to fascists states. Which would be hard to argue that they promote a minimal central government.

Anarchists is to some extend the communism without representation. They don't believe in economic liberalism. And like to have a control of the economy by the government. With the exception that the government is composed of all the citizens. So as a more extreme case of communism, it is usually placed on the left.

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There is government, and there are companies. Especially big companies. Big companies have power to suppress the citizens. The bigger the company, and the weaker the government, the more the big companies can suppress the citizens.

Anarchy is against suppressing citizens. Not as their main statement, but they are against government mostly as the citizen suppressor, so they will also be against big companies suppressing people. Right-wing politics is often against big government with the express purpose to give more control to companies, and less oversight.

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https://www.politicalcompass.org/analysis2

Here is a nice explanation. There is a quiz if you want to take also.

In short it displays anarchism (lower end) and authoritarianism (higher end) as the extremes of another (vertical) axis as a social measure while left-right is the horizontal axis which is an economic measure.

My analysis is: Anarchism is about self-governance, having as little hierarchy as possible. As you go to the left, the means of production are distrubuted more equally; and as you go to the right, individuals and corporations own more of the means of production and accumulate capital.

On the upper left you have an authoritarian state, distributing the means of production to the people as equally as possible; on the lower left you have the collectives, getting together voluntarily utilizing their local means of production and sharing the products; on the lower right you have anarchocapitalists, with no state, tax or public service, everything operated by private companies in a completely free and global market; and finally on the top right you both have powerful state and corporations (pretty much all the countries).

But after all, these terms change meanings through history and different cultures. I personally think that under unrestrained capitalism the accumulation of wealth both creates monopolies and more importantly political influence. So that influences state interference and civil liberties also. It also aspires for infinite growth which leads to the depletion of natural resources which is another diminishing fact for the quality of living for the people. At that point it favors conservatism rather than progressive scientific thinking. I do believe under collective anarchism, since it's localized, it is quite difficult to create global catastrophes, and I think this is why in today's world, the terms anarchism and capitalism seems as opposite.

Sorry for the biased analysis.

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Historically speaking there have been some far right anarchist groups. Perhaps most notably the Christian anarchists, although it's easy to argue degrees of left or right in each of individual movements in the category.

Basically the Christian anarchists' stand is/was that their should be no authority other than God's...

There are also National-Anarchists, who seem to support racial and ethnic separation, while also opposing Marxism, capitalism, and government control.

With these examples​ in mind I would like to suggest that "anarchism" is a fairly broad political ideology, meaning that anarchists desire to abolish the state and government control, but reasons for this desire vary wildly between individual anarchists and movements.

Taking that conclusion a step further... It becomes fairly easy to see why there are so many distinct anarchist movements and why unity between movements has proved difficult.

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    I have to point out an error in your answer, based on (I assume) a generalisation from (modern, American) "Christian politics". I could be wrong myself, but I've never (until now) come across any description of Christian Anarchism as being right-of-centre, let alone far-right. Notwithstanding the problems with a left-right dichotomy (as explored elegantly and comprehensively in answers to this question) the general Christian Anarchist tendencies to pacifism, vegetarianism etc. tend to place them, culturally, in a fairly left-wing context.
    – owjburnham
    Jul 27, 2017 at 16:35
  • I guess it depends on what those 'Christian anarchists' do with their belief that the only authority should be God. If they just leave that as a personal belief and guideline for individuals, then they are just anarchists who are Christian and they would still be on the extreme left. If they instead use that belief to create some kind of theocratic social hierarchy that enforces their interpretation of God's authority onto everyone then that wouldn't be anarchist at all and would be on the right. Oct 8, 2023 at 17:05
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Your assumption is incorrect.

enter image description here

A chart like this gives only a partial view, since of course there are more than presidents involved in budgets. Still, it should be clear that both parties are good at spending money, which is one of the hallmarks of "big government". Many conceptions of anarchism (especially "right-wing" anarchism) would place expenditures closer to $0 billions (though many expenditures might merely be shifted to independent organizations)

"Big government" can also be interpreted in the sense of individual freedoms or the degree of violence associated with the state, but this is prone to interpretation. Issues such as abortion/animal rights can be framed in very different terms depending on one's position, and the attempt to set up an "autonomous zone" in a few blocks of Seattle led within weeks to what looked much like a case of anarchist police brutality against people they allegedly suspected to have stolen a car.

Little in politics nowadays resembles how it is advertised.

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As pointed out by other answers here, both right-wingers and people on the left who are on the libertarian part of the scale tend to support freedom from big government and authority. The concept of the night-watchman state (a state that does not have a monopoly on violence and meets the minimum requirement set by John Locke in his book Two Treatises of Government to be considered a government) is supported by both left-wing anarchists and right-wing libertarianism. Right-libertarian Anthony Gregory supports the night-watchman state in his essay The Minarchist's Dilemma in the journal Strike the Root: A Journal of Liberty., but so does syndicalist left-libertarian Noam Chomsky. So this concept of minimal state interference is shared by both sides of the horizontal portion of the political scale (the left-right portion of the political chart).

Political Compass Chart

Also, as pointed out, those on the authoritarian side (both left-wing and right-wing) support having the state intervene & control other people's lives. You have right-wing dictatorships like clerical dictatorships in authoritarian regimes such as the Islamic Republic of Iran. Then there are left-wing authoritarian regimes like Maoist China and Cambodia under Pol Pot. The thing with left-wing and right-wing are very general terms with various loose meanings. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica Dictionary, the definition of right wing is "part of a political group that consists of people who support conservative or traditional ideas and policies" and left wing is "part of a political group that consists of people who support liberal or socialist ideas and policies". As you can see, these are very general descriptions that you can fit a variety of libertarian and authoritarian ideas under.

Because of the vague definition, whether an anarchist ideology is left-wing or right-wing can be a matter of perspective, like with Christian Anarchism. Many Christian anarchists see themselves as left-wing and denounce the state, potentially endorse socialism/liberalism, and see their ideas as non-traditional believing Christian history has had most Christians controlling people's lives before recent history. However, there are right-wing Christian anarchists since they may endorse a more traditionalist view of Christianity with bringing back old traditions and believing that they are simply returning to Christianity's roots by becoming anarchists since some historians like Peter Marshall believe Christianity was more anarchist in nature before organized religious institutions took control. Marshall even explains this view in his book Religious Anarchism: New Perspectives.

The original message of the great religious teachers to live a simple life, to share the wealth of the earth, to treat each other with love and respect, to tolerate others and to live in peace invariably gets lost as worldly institutions take over. Religious leaders, like their political counterparts, accrue power to themselves, draw up dogmas, and wage war on dissenters in their own ranks and the followers of other religions. They seek protection from temporal rulers, bestowing on them in return a supernatural legitimacy and magical aura. They weave webs of mystery and mystification around naked power; they join the sword with the cross and the crescent. As a result, in nearly all cases organized religions have lost the peaceful and tolerant message of their founding fathers, whether it be Buddha, Jesus or Mohammed. - Religious Anarchism: New Perspectives, Peter Marshall

On top of this, there is mutualism: the first form of modern anarchism that predates Marxism and modern communism. It is considered to be one of the earliest versions of libertarian socialism, but even some anarcho-capitalists like Susan Love Brown have endorsed mutualism since it allows people to own property, but only if the property is personally used or occupied by the owner (it also replaces private banks with credit unions, which is ok for those who are ok with having some property and have no interest in starting a private financial institution).

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  • Calling Mohammed peaceful seems like a stretch, IMO, given all the military conquests he and his followers did.
    – nick012000
    Aug 9, 2022 at 23:08
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It is not politically to the right or left, as the right and left both believe in a government with laws and structure, the question is just how much involvement they should have, and what they should be involved in. The definition of 'politics' is:

the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.

Anarchy is fundamentally opposed to this, as they believe there should be no government or authority.

I believe anarchy is viewed as far-left as in socially left (changing social norms as opposed to sticking with the old ones).

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The general problem is that the U.S. seems to have adopted a political jargon that shares a lot of the terminology used in political science around the world, but applies some "american exceptionalism" towards it's meaning so that in the end they sometimes fit, sometimes don't, but usually serve to confuse the heck out of anybody who is accustomed to how words work. And I don't just mean elsewhere, it also seems to confuse Americans themselves too.

But enough of a rant, let's get to what these words actually mean (afaik; and to countries other than the U.S. as no such tag is applied to this question).

Now the origin of the left-right distinction is usually the National Assembly of France following the revolution. In it people with similar opinions took places next to each other (presumably to coordinate their proposals better) and so "left wing" and "right wing" literally referred to people on the left or right side of that room.

From there you had abstractions and categorizations. So people gathered the positions that were common on the left and the right side and constructed various spectra where mutually exclusive positions were on the borders and where political parties, ideologies and actors were placed on that spectrum. Idk republican vs monarchist, freedom vs authority, egalitarian vs elitist, international vs national, cooperative vs competitive and so on.

So one that is as far as I know used in social science today is one of social hierarchies, so something of a variant of egalitarian vs elitist. Where right wingers believe in some sort of natural hierarchy where people have their place and are supposed to stay there so that things are nice and ordered, while left wingers are in favor of egalitarian structures where people have equal agency and where the vivid discourse is not seen as chaos but rather as freedom.

So if you are familiar with that god awful political compass, this would be roughly the diagonal from bottom left to top right, while the top left and bottom right sector would make no sense and you'd rather take the projection to the diagonal by the coordinate that is most extreme. So if they are peak authoritarian they are top right no matter where they are placed on that poorly defined economic axis and if they are far right on that economic axis they are also top right. Because all that talk about freedom is moot if you are in favor of a Social Darwininism that orders society along a hierarchy, where some rule the others. Doesn't matter whether that's based on money, race, sex, ethnicity, religion, ... or whatever other excuse you feature in order to mistreat your fellow people.

Now Anarchism is the believe that people can get away fairly well without leaders and ought to rather organize themselves. So they are really anti-authority. No god, no state, no slave, no master might be a popular shorthand.

So if you don't want to rule and not being ruled the result is logically something egalitarian without social hierarchies. Hence Anarchism (ideologically) is always bottom left. Now I write ideologically, because obviously just because people see themselves as proponents of something doesn't mean they actually end up like that. Like lots of "liberals" (in favor of individual liberty) also were slave owners and colonialists, so much for the liberty of the individual under their boots...

But at least in theory Anarchism is supposed to be a the most egalitarian as anything else would mean that someone is ruling the rest. Now there are different schools of anarchism that vary on their focus on the individual or the organization of society. So is society a cooperative community or rather a "union of egoists" that has no purpose in itself, but is mutually beneficial to it's members.

Though both of these classical anarchists would still be on the furthest left. And economically Anarchism would be socialist.

The general idea being that economic disparity is the OG of political power control and coercion so even the right and centrist anarchist came up with slogans like "what is property? PROPERTY IS THEFT!". And so people should either be able to live self-sufficient or if they form collectives should be equal share and stakeholders.

So from the conception of classical anarchism, the U.S. libertarianism or Anarcho-Capitalism would not be a school of Anarchism. And if you read their Wikiarticles that disagreement is mutual. Neither claims the other is in any way shape or form related. (Same for other combinations of anarchism of right wing ideologies, at least to my knowledge there is not one with a consistent definition that isn't doing one part of it's description massively wrong and mostly it's the anarchist part.)

They operate on fundamentally different principles and just because the Libertarian/AnCap faction stole the terminology does not mean that they refer to the same things when using them. And yeah they stole these terms, they were centuries late to the game (originated in the 60s/70s), had their origins in Old-Right conservativism and even admitted their pleasure of co-opting left wing terminology.

One gratifying aspect of our rise to some prominence is that, for the first time in my memory, we, ‘our side,’ had captured a crucial word from the enemy . . . ‘Libertarians’ . . . had long been simply a polite word for left-wing anarchists, that is for anti-private property anarchists, either of the communist or syndicalist variety. But now we had taken it over...” ― Murray N. Rothbard, The Betrayal Of The American Right

So yeah if you refer to them then that would be a right wing ideology. Though again not because of their stance on "big government" but rather because they praise property to an extend where it allows enslavement, exploitation and basically results in tyranny and a neo-feudalism. Like seriously they place no restrictions on the haves and provide no protection for the have nots and no reasonable means for to bridge that gap. And no that individual transition between classes is not impossible does not mean that you're not living in a caste system. That is as far away from the idea of no one should be coerced or coerce others as can be. Their anarchy refers to non-regulation of the market not to the freedom of the individual.

Also what does "small government" actually mean. Like a state that is reduced to military and police to uphold a status quo that is fundamentally unequal and unfree for a majority of people is NOT the least amount of government interference.

Again they only focus on the market not on the people, which makes these claims nothing but absurd.

And apparently to avoid the fitting label of right wing and to unjustly dress themselves in nicer language they basically turn the political spectrum by 180 and pretend the left right spectrum goes, with respect to the political compass from the top left to the bottom right. So from most state controlled economy to most market controlled economy. That the economy is controlled nonetheless and that the individuals are still by and large unfree is completely ignored by that picture.

Further using left and right to refer to the overton window rather than an abstraction which actually spans a full spectra isn't helping in analysis either, but that's unfortunately not a U.S. specific problem but something done by many countries on a regular basis.

That should give an overview over what these terms mean an how to apply them in your particular example whatever your definition of the terms should be.

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  • So U.S. Libertarians do not identify as anarchists or support anarchism. They call their "small government" beliefs "Minarchism." Basically American Libertarians favor some amount of government... but not the amount we have today. What parts of government are not needed is still very much a debate among libertarians... but the consensus is that the many powers of the feds should be stripped and given to the states or the local governments.
    – hszmv
    Jun 16, 2023 at 15:03
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    @hszmv Difficult. What people identify as is purely their business, who is anybody else to tell you who you are. However with respect to given definition AnCaps don't make any sense and U.S. Libertarians are not Libertarians. Though given how the U.S. labels capitalism and freedom as positive and on the same plane, it's possible, especially for young people to genuinely hold both believes, though that cognitive dissonance is bound to resolve in one direction. Either it's accepted that inequality is a source of power or it is accepted that securing inequality requires some sort of coercion.
    – haxor789
    Jun 17, 2023 at 10:42
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    @hszmv And with respect to the Libertarian party. From what I've seen it's founders are pretty AnCap and their ideology is drenched in Austrian School of Economics. Though the base apparently realized the contradiction better than their thought leaders and so Minarchism rather than Economic anomie is pushed. As a consequence they use some radical and grandstanding language for something that is essentially yet another party pushing market economics that's only gradually different from the rest. Also minarchist means nothing, any political faction can claim only to use "necessary" force
    – haxor789
    Jun 17, 2023 at 10:51
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Not everyone who is called an anarchist, or who names himself an anarchist, is against all government in principle.

For instance, people who wanted to overthrow the Tsar were called anarchists in order to smear them as being against all government, with the implication that they wanted the resulting chaos to consume society. In point of fact, these "anarchists" simply wanted to replace one system of government with another (which they did).

There are others who style themselves as anarchists, but their level of activity seems to correlate with the political leanings of whoever they are targeting.

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The biggest lie, the left has been promoting is that Nazism and Fascism are left wing. The further left one goes we move into totalitarianism with 100% government. Quite the contrary though when we move further right. We are somehow supposed to believe that somewhere at the extreme left, total freedom arises from complete control by government and likewise total control by government happens within total freedom - anarchy.

Anarchy is, always has been and always will be 100% right wing, in fact extreme right wing.

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    I think you meant that the lie is those are "right wing". Those are in fact left-wing, if we go with the definition of left/right as more/less centralized government power.
    – user15103
    Jul 27, 2018 at 13:37
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    This is objectively false and only vaguely makes sense if you ignore the fact that politics aren't one dimentional.
    – JS Lavertu
    Sep 18, 2020 at 15:26
  • You are badly confused. The left-right spectrum has next to nothing to do with the size/power/role of government in society. Nazism and Fascism are very right wing because they seek to strengthen social hierarchy with a favored in-group and dominating -- even conquering + liquidating -- all others as disfavored out-groups. The totalitarian-anarchist spectrum is all about the size/power/role of government and is almost entirely orthogonal to the left-right spectrum. Oct 8, 2023 at 16:46

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