How does the doctrine(s) of anarchism address the following issue:

If there's no government, no army, no central police, who will stop local charismatic leaders from taking over the power and creating their own (dictatorship) government?

We observe that dozens of times wherever the central government collapsed or was ineffective: Sicily (famous Mafia), Somali, Islamic State, warlords in Kongo and West Africa...

I'm not asking about speculations, how could that work, but how the ideologists of the anarchism address that issue in their political doctrine(s).

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    You may get a better answer if you specify what school of anarchism you're interested in knowing about. I don't know enough about other schools to say for sure, but I doubt the anarcho-capitalists and, e.g., anarcho-socialists agree on this. – Tyler Feb 21 '15 at 5:18
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    Not at all an answer, but if you'd like two examples of leaders doing the exact opposite of your examples, refusing to use/abuse the state apparatus: archive.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard107.html. In short, Pennsylvania spent 14 years in a relatively anarchistic state during the colonial period. – Tyler Feb 22 '15 at 6:54
  • A power vacuum cannot exist, there will always be a government of one sort or another. The only real argument is the nature of that government. – user1450877 Feb 22 '15 at 23:04
  • Relevant: youtube.com/watch?v=NbNFJK1ZpVg – Chloe Feb 23 '15 at 6:02

From the historical-materialist perspective, states are tools of class rule. What will prevent the emergence of states is the dissolution of class in full communism. Without a differential form of productive relationship, classes necessarily cannot form, and any hierarchical relationship amongst people in full communism would necessarily not be a state.

Further: the equalitarian basis of a universal productive relationship (that all people relate to making useful things in an identical way), precludes the kind of intense social differentiation that creates states when men on horses start to murder people to impose property relations.

This is of course a theoretical account, though the categories in use seem relatively secure. Practical accounts vary between capture of the revolution by a nomenklatura (1919), and progress towards smaller states through the implementation of anarchist principles of self-governance (1956's workers councils).

This account is not necessarily incompatible with the non historical materialist account, but they exist as separate tendencies within the literature.

  • Of course, when you don't have class competition over the means of production, you start class-competing over sexual partners. So that may throw a wrench in that theory. – user4012 Mar 3 '15 at 14:08
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    A gender structured class system would only really arise if reproduction or sexual expression involved treating human beings as property or factors of production. I'm not sure that small group or individual preference in sexuality, outside of treating people as property, would result in significant social differentiation like "class." I guess that I'm an optimist about how "shallow" gender is as a system of oppression, based on the social changes wrought by moving female workers' wages from 10% to 70% in 50 years. – Samuel Russell Mar 3 '15 at 22:04

The ancap answer from Robert Murphy.

Summarized, the argument is that anarchy can't guarantee that society won't devolve into civil war between warlords. A society of warlike people will behave as warlike people with or without government. Likewise for peaceful people. The argument is that government never helps. Government only centralizes and empowers the warlike people to reach new heights of destruction. (E.g. $.5M cruise missiles would be very rarely used in an anarchistic civil war.)

It occurs to me that this seems to be only tangentially related. To clarify, the equivalence between the establishment of a new government and civil war relies on the assumption that some people would resist the new coercive government. (It wouldn't be coercive if they wanted it and it wouldn't be government if it weren't coercive.) If literally everyone wants it, it's not coercive and not government. Thus the first step to founding a government in anarchy is to start and win the civil war.


From the non-historical materialist perspective of class struggle anarchisms, states tend to be bureaucratic monopolies on force, including soft force. These apparatus form from social differentiation over socially productive property, and from the hierarchical and absolutist tendencies of ways of relating to people based on power.

It is hypothesised that in anarchist social relations, being identical with the conception of "full communism" that both the solution to limited control over socially productive property being universal social access, combined with the revolutionary struggle to remove hierarchical and power relations, will have eliminated the pre-conditions for power.

This is again an account in terms of theory. In terms of practice James C. Scott's book The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia Yale may help. Communities have become ungoverned and maintained their ungovernability over long periods of time in resistance of armed bureaucratic states. I'm sure that other anarchist comrades would immediately want to start inspecting the local politics of these communities critically for hierarchical power relations.

This account is not necessarily incompatible with the historical materialist account, but they exist as separate tendencies within the literature.


People Wouldn't Want To

One of the first modern anarchists was William Godwin. His writing was largely a response to Edmund Burke (who in turn was writing as a response to the French Revolution). In An Enquiry Concerning Justice Godwin describes his idea of the transition to anarchism and how the society manages itself.

Godwin's argument is fundamentally utilitarian. The government is necessary now because it is a tool to repress the public who otherwise would stage a violent revolution. In a stateless society, Godwin expects liberty (as well as economic and social progress) to be significant greater, so no reasonable person would want to establish a state.

A contemporary analogy might be, "How would the people in a modern capitalism resist the move to reinstate feudalism? They wouldn't ever need to."

  • Re "the move to reinstate feudalism ... wouldn't ever need to": not unless sort of Neo-Feudalism somehow devolved... – agc Nov 25 '17 at 12:49

To prevent this, if you want to be a member member of anarcho-capitalist society you should be obligged to sign a contract, which will state that you won't make an attempt to create a government. Something similar to agreement for participating in Free State Project project.

Sign me up as a Participant: I hereby state my solemn intent to move to the state of New Hampshire. Once there, I will exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of government is the protection of individuals’ rights to life, liberty, and property

Free State Project is minarchistic, thus it's not consistent from an-cap point of view and it is open for interpretations. But, it shows how to deal with a problem.

I believe anacho-capitalists will create similar project with less subjective and more restrictive requirements.

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    who will enforce this contract ? – user1450877 Feb 22 '15 at 23:04
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    @user1450877 Wesson and Smith. – Chloe Feb 23 '15 at 6:06
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    If you're oblidged to sign a contract that is further enforced, how does it differ from actual government? – Danubian Sailor Feb 23 '15 at 7:17
  • @РСТȢѸФХѾЦЧШЩЪЫЬѢѤЮѦѪѨѬѠѺѮѰѲѴ actual government did not sign any contract; especially a contract, which would ban itself. – doc Feb 23 '15 at 12:42
  • @user1450877 as on free market - there are endless possibilities. It may be up to jurisdiction or private military, Last resort is to resign and found new jurisdiction. – doc Feb 23 '15 at 13:26

People absolute will create a government, however the nature of that government may not be similar to current incarnations. It might take the form of corporate rules, terms & conditions, or the form of a commune, or the form of a gang leader. It depends on the culture of the people. In the 17th century, a majority of people believed a monarch was necessary, and so they pledged allegiance to a monarch. In the 20th century, people rejected monarchs, seeing them as unnecessary, and demanded democracies. Even independent territories like Alaska, Hawaii, and Arizona chose to join a democracy. In the future as governments go bankrupt (Greece, Venezuela), or lose control of their lands (Mexico, Iraq, Syria), people may demand a different form of government, or none at all. Those who try to forcibly impose a new government may be met with lethal force by the entire population.

I predict in poor countries that cannot afford security, gang members and warlords will rise to power, and use their force to extort protection money from the population. Assuming they do not have the population's cooperation or willing allegiance, they are likely to be limited in size by approximately the area that IS, Afghanistan warlords, or Mexican cartels control.

In rich countries with a tradition of private property rights and peaceful conflict resolution however, they will hire security to protect their life and property ($200/yr). These security agencies will no doubt gain a bit of power and set guidelines and rules for their customers to live by. They won't obtain a monopoly however, as the efficiency of security is inversely proportional to the area patrolled. So the nature of government may indeed change.

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