I've read a lot about anarchism but I failed to understand how the rules are enforced. Since anarchism refuses any form of vertical power, there is no police in anarchy, but there may be free associations. I suppose that every agreement is taken just by who accepts it, so the rules may be different for every free association. But in case there is some quarrel, how it is managed?

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    Maybe quarrel is the exact word. When two people argue in the society may end up having a lawsuit, the question is what happens in anarchy. Mar 3, 2014 at 18:26
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    In an Anarchy there are no rules... so no need to enforce them. You can solve your quarrel any way you choose. Mar 3, 2014 at 22:41
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    @Chad Don't be ridiculous. See, for example, syndicalism and platformism. Mar 5, 2014 at 22:05
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    I am also interested in other forms of anarchy. I would know if it's possible to have an anarchist system that is also able to enforce rules and to guarantee a form of justice. Mar 5, 2014 at 22:19
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    @Chad I'm sorry, but there are other valid, accepted, and scholarly meanings out there than the one you potentially possess. Mar 6, 2014 at 6:03

7 Answers 7


When having discussions on Anarchist/Anarcho-capitalist forums, I've come across this issue a couple times.

The most common theory, is that the people with a dispute will go to a third party(an arbitrator), who will resolve the dispute for them. If one party decides not to follow the Arbitrator's decision, than the community would consider that person to be a dishonest person, and just not do business with them. In short, they would ostracize that person.

In the case of a particularly troublesome person who is a danger to others, they would use force(violence), or they would hire a mercenary to use force on their behalf.

Arbitrators would be reliant upon reputation, so if an arbitrator was known to make biased or unfair decisions, than the idea is that people with disputes would decide not to use that particular arbitrator.

If you want to learn more, you can read the works of Murray Rothbard. I personally have barely read any of his works, but Anarcho-capitalists seem to worship him.

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    And before anyone starts posting comments about why this won't work, let me say that I don't think that it would work either. I'm just relaying to you what other people have said. Mar 11, 2014 at 21:24
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    This is a reasonably good summary of anarcho-capitalist PDAs, though in reality it's likely that many or most people would have some sort of prearranged arbitrator. The same service you're paying to protect your home has an interest in policing your conflicts, so they might have a big role in arbitration, maybe a streamlined procedure with other defense agencies. In practice I imagine it would not look terribly different from life today.
    – NL7
    Apr 14, 2014 at 22:17
  • The only difference is that in anarchy you can choose arbitrator. Free enterprise always works better than state controlled monopoly. People in North Korea would say that agriculture must be controlled by the state. Private farming can not work.
    – mip
    Feb 20, 2015 at 22:57
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    @doc that's not fully correct. Both you and the person you have a dispute with have to agree on an arbitrator. You can't just choose which ever arbitrator that you want if your opponent is set against it. Feb 20, 2015 at 23:03
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    @doc and they're not forced to make a deal with you, which kinda sucks if they caused actual damages that you need them to recompensate you for. Feb 20, 2015 at 23:22

In an Anarchy, quarreling parties would be unrestricted to come to a lawful agreement. If examples where no strong central government are taken into account (Libya, central Africa, Afghanistan) what would most likely happen is that gangs (basically warlords) would form, and they would use force to get what they want. Individual citizens would ask the gang they live under, or would have to take care of the problem themselves however they chose.

This is exactly why Anarchy is a horrible system of government.

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    Technically is not a system of government, it's his fake absence. "Fake" because a government would form anyway (like you pointed out), so anarchy doesn't really exist.
    – o0'.
    Mar 11, 2014 at 22:55
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    I agree with Lohoris, Anarchy cannot exist in the real world. A power vacuum will always be filled. Apr 29, 2014 at 13:33
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    This is not true. Most anarchists advocate some form of direct democracy : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_democracy Sep 3, 2014 at 16:57
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    @ErwanLegrand That is, by definition, not anarchy. In fact the reason that the founders of the United States did not consider a direct democracy is that they worried that a majority of voters could more easily oppress the minority.
    – kleineg
    Sep 3, 2014 at 18:45
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    "Anarchist schools of thought can differ fundamentally, supporting anything from extreme individualism to complete collectivism." : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchist_schools_of_thought Sep 4, 2014 at 9:47

I often like to point to the workers councils of Hungary in October–December 1956 as a "pre-figurative" form of life without a state. Two examples of internal quarrels: many managers were instantly sacked by workers councils. Some of the replacement managers were subsequently sacked either by a council executive or by a workers council in general assembly. Additionally, council delegates to the Central Workers Council of Greater Budapest were recalled on a number of occasions for failing to meet the demands of their delegating council.

Additionally the CWCGB sought assistance from the Lawyer's council for the development of a constitution.

Generally, these social forms have sat like the British parliament has at times, as a simultaneous executive legislature and judiciary. The idea of "permanent executive session" for workers councils has been a commonplace in the history of these short lived institutions.

Sources: Any thing written by, or edited by, Bill Lomax, such as his sourcebook in English on the Hungarian councils.

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    I do not think that late 1956 Hungary actually counts as anarchy. There was no official government in place but there were an organized councils as you stated that organized and ran a de facto government which grew into the formal governement. In a state of anarchy there is no government, or rules or regulators. I would say look at central africa (somalia/sudan/chad/congo) for better examples of situations close to Anarchy Mar 4, 2014 at 20:46
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    I dispute your definition of anarchy and government, and supplied a sufficient and widely recognised definition and theoretical basis in my answer. Mar 4, 2014 at 21:17
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    I think a better source would be a link and maybe a quote from a specific source rather than saying go look up this author/editor and find it yourself. Mar 5, 2014 at 18:22

Conflicts that are not peacefully resolved by their participants can be escalated to private defense agencies.

The theory is, because violence is expensive, PDAs will tend to negotiate and thus avoid violence in most cases.

Unlike with governments, individuals would be free to pick one or multiple PDAs without having to physically move. That includes being free to not pick any, and just protect themselves.


There is a particular way of dealing with quarrels that is implemented by an anarchist community called the Federation of Neighborhood Councils-El Alto. They have groups of volunteers known as assemblies that act as mediators that work to handle minor disputes with neighbors and help to set up court appointments if the dispute requires courtroom action. They are basically used for smaller civil cases and small criminal cases. As I explained before, anarchists like anarcho-syndicalist Noam Chomsky support a 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. So, there is still a government and volunteers that act similar to the police force in non-anarchist societies, but they simply do not have a monopoly on violence and a vertical hierarchy that gives them powers that put them legally above the average person.


Anarchy itself means absence of any government. So, it's like jungle rule there , do whatever you want to do. The stronger subdues the weaker , doesn't matter he is right or wrong.

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    Jungle is much better organized than a state. Take a look at harmony of the jungle and compare it with a destruction and chaos made by various goverments. Compare plenty of food in a jungle with starvation and food waste caused by governments. There's no such disproportion in power as it is with goverment and its citizens, so what about subduction to goverment? In fact "do whatever you want to do" motto sticks to goverments, eventually democratic majorities. Where's the place for weak in democracy?
    – mip
    Jul 10, 2015 at 13:48

It is my opinion, that anarchy has been falsely related to politics when in fact it had an origin that is primarily concerned with equality and more importantly justice. Anarchists encourage preparation and education against authority; anticipating conflict.
So I could rephrase your question as 'How are quarrels managed according to true justice?'

In the western world's justice and political system, you can buy yourself out of prison and you can pay for legal (and martial) defence by an attorney (or an army). This is unacceptable for the anarchist. An educated anarchist society would have no room for this sort of injustice. It would ideally have disagreeing parties form councils for conflict resolution, instead of punishment. Moderating and minimizing hyperbole and polemic for the sake of swaying a jury and "winning a case", rather encouraging agreement between the disagreeing parties and recognition of the other's needs.

This is not a trivial endeavour and can't be done quickly. It requires an understanding of the cognitive nature and how human interests function. We all learn at different paste: We process data and thereby learn information by responding differently to different methods. We talk the other people, when we need their help understanding something. This results in the exchange of ideas.

As anarchists we are fully aware that rushing justice is an insult to attaining true justice. Equality is more concerned with broadening our conscience and helping others do the same than with punishment. As anarchists we confront abuse by any means necessary, and by accepting the consequences. Violent behaviour such as punishment solves nothing.

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    This answer is a mess of misspelled words, incomplete sentences, and undefined pronouns. You also haven't actually told us how disputes are handled in anarchism. Apr 14, 2014 at 20:45
  • @SamIam: I fixed the grammar and spelling for you and everybody else. I tried as well as I could to preserve what the OP intended to say and left my own point of view out, but I had to change some phrases to convey what I think the OP wanted to convey. I hope you can parse it better now.
    – bitmask
    Dec 29, 2014 at 20:59

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