Philosophy, politics

The Inevitability of the State-Why Anarchism Doesn’t Work

Anarchists protesting

Anarchists protesting

I confess a certain fondness for anarchism*-each person free to choose their own way-very appealing. And just look at the evil that states have perpetrated down through the centuries, invading, raiding, enslaving, deceiving, murdering, and exploiting. Once again the ID the Devil fallacy comes into play: If we can just pinpoint the source of evil, we can kill it and live happily ever after.

In this case The State is the Devil. In other cases it is Religion, Atheists, Muslims, Minorities, Immigrants, Jews, what have you. To an anarchist, if you think The State is necessary, you are a Statist, something akin to a Satanist in their play book and you are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, having become infatuated with your kidnapper.

Anarchists run into a little trouble when they try to describe how their ideal society will function. A leaderless group is like a decapitated chicken, flopping around in the weeds, soon to be pounced on by any passing predator. Anarchists made their greatest showing during the Spanish civil war. There were a lot of Spanish anarchists and for a while they held certain cities.

When they had to defend themselves from the well-organized fascists, they ran into predictable difficulties, but not from lack of courage! However, they did or did not show up to fight, depending on their own judgment. They did or did not take orders, depending on their own opinions. They lost, of course, after ever so much bloodshed.

I have a bias in favor of things that work. Not only can’t anarchists describe how their ideal society will work, they can’t point to a single anarchist society that has not been over run by a State. Even city-states were over run by larger, more centrally-organized states. There is probably an optimum government size and level of organization for any given area and this may change slightly over time, but no government at all is like hanging a sign on your region: “Come and conquer us.” But we should ask, “Optimum size government for what purpose?” Optimum size to keep its citizens alive, at minimum, and ideally to provide an opportunity for its citizens to thrive.

Has such a state ever existed? Probably not perfectly, but the Scandinavian countries (a friend calls them “those happy cold countries”) seem to have something good going on. Not perfect, but good. Better, at any rate, than countries that fail to keep their citizens alive or proactively set out to kill and exploit people in other countries.

I have noticed that most anarchists are young men. Young men tend to question the powers-that-shouldn’t-be. This is a normal thing, a good thing. Those powers need to constantly be questioned. Most anarchists are intelligent and pro-active and the waste here is that they are pursuing a fantasy when they could actually do a lot of good if they applied their brains and energy to fix the state they live in.

Not by lobbing a bomb at the bourgeoisie or heroically assassinating national leaders but by the long-term, hard, unglamorous work of community organizing to really change things.

Anarchism doesn’t work. Back to the drawing board, ye brave young men.

*anarchism-belief in the abolition of government and the organization of society on a voluntary, cooperative basis without recourse to force or compulsion.

Spanish Civil War-excellent documentary


About Je' Czaja aka Granny Savage

Je' is a writer, artist, and stand up philosopher. She founded and directed two non-profit organizations for disadvantaged children and their families, served as a missionary for three years, is the author of several books and teaches art. Twitter: @jeczaja FB: Amazon Author page:


18 thoughts on “The Inevitability of the State-Why Anarchism Doesn’t Work

  1. I have always found the problem with anarchism is that eventually it is self-defeating from a logical point of view. Those anarchists you mentioned in the Spanish civil war organized defenses, and that organization required leaders which negates their anarchist creed. A good question for the anarchists is, “if government is evil and anarchism ideal, then why do we have governments?”

    Posted by rdxdave | April 27, 2014, 2:58 am
    • I kind of like them for this: We SHOULD be free to make choices and indeed “states” do horrible things. They just take it too far and with too little nuance-very young-male: propaganda of the deed (break s**t) Read recently that anarchist party (Spain?) had so much support they could go to parliament-but how can you if government itself is evil? That’s where they fall apart.

      That, and any more centralized entity will conquer them quickly.

      Posted by Je' Czaja | April 27, 2014, 1:32 pm
      • Nature and evolution don’t have a centralized authority overseeing and organizing them.

        The lack of government doesn’t imply the lack of leadership. For example, Wikipedia doesn’t have government (at least not in the way I use the term) but it does have leadership and governance.

        Posted by Informatino | September 2, 2016, 4:21 pm
      • Wikipedia is propaganda-trust me, they have biased oversight.

        Posted by Je' Czaja | September 2, 2017, 12:27 am
    • “Government” cannot be evil-only individual humans can be evil-and individual anarchists have done evil things. It’s a human problem.

      Posted by Je' Czaja | September 2, 2017, 12:33 am
  2. ‘*anarchism-belief in the abolition of government and the organization of society on a voluntary, cooperative basis without recourse to force or compulsion.”

    Since you reject anarchism you must be pro the use of violence to force all who disagree with you to comply – you are anti “without recourse to force or compulsion”.

    Anarchy does not mean the rejection of leaders or organization or cooperation, according to the very definition you provided. Anarchy is the rejection of rulers, it certainly allows for defence of self and others.

    Posted by Tim Rieker | September 1, 2016, 11:19 pm
  3. “A leaderless group is like a decapitated chicken, flopping around in the weeds, soon to be pounced on by any passing predator.”

    anarchists arent opposed to leaders, theyre opposed to rulers, the difference being an individual consents to follow a leader freely & is free to stop following freely.. whereas a ruler claims a territorial dominion over existing people/property & unowned land & claims anyone under this dominion MUST fund & obey the ruler or be jailed or killed if they resist jail

    almost all states have been over run by other states, that historic forms of anarchism have been over run by states larger & more powerful isnt an argument against anarchism… the question should be all things being equal is an anarchist society or a statist one better able to defend itself & looking at anarchist ireland shows us that anarchism works better as it lasted 1000+ years despite attacks from a far larger british empire

    i also think your article is squarely aimed at communist/socialist anarchists, voluntaryism or anarcho-capitalism is a far more logical & workable solution

    Posted by dbudlov | September 1, 2016, 11:39 pm
  4. Oh, while one can favor things that work, one can also look for ways to improve things. I’ve started thinking that’s why Silicon Valley (and here I use the term loosely as any company engendering a growth mindset) is thriving so much. Sure Yahoo!, Alta Vista, Ask Jeeves, etc worked but Google works better. Sure taxis work but Uber, Lyft, etc work better. Sure hotels work but Airbnb, etc work better. Sure GM, Ford, etc work but Tesla works better. Sure Blockbuster, etc worked but Netflix works better. Sure Borders, etc works but Amazon works better. And so on.

    Posted by Informatino | September 2, 2016, 4:16 pm
  5. This is a presumptive and ill informed article.

    Posted by An Anarchist | November 9, 2016, 2:52 pm
  6. it seems as if the only actual point against anarchism here is that “there arent any other placeswhere its worked”, but there also arent any places where its failed so not a great point

    Posted by Jared | March 25, 2017, 3:53 pm
  7. You honestly think things are going well in socialist Scandinavia?

    Oh, of course. You’re a woman…

    Posted by Matthew Miller | June 30, 2017, 9:31 am


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