If ‘anarchy’ is organization without authority, then the physical world exists almost exclusively in anarchy. In fact, as anthropologist Pierre Clastres argues, societies without a state aren’t evolutionarily ‘behind the times’ but constitute well-functioning human orders that anticipate the state and intentionally ward it off.[i] But, while some self-identified anarchists choose to be rocked to sleep to lullabies of primitive dreamtime, this project is something altogether different. Anarchism, as opposed to anarchy, is understood here as a conjunctural practice carefully constructed to intervene within problematics both historically and materially singular. Anarchy existed first as a nightmare to transcendent authority – first to the Priest and then to the King – whose paranoia began to secrete its own atheism, and only later was it taken up and given a material existence. Just as communism was the specter haunting Europe in the midst of an industrial revolution, as parts of the world now slip into post-industrial decay, anarchism extends as a figure of chaos hiding in the shadows of all ‘society.’
If statecraft is capture, then anarchism is a mode of politics uniquely attentive to contemporary governance. Especially because of its attentiveness to power and recuperation, anarchism(s) provide a limit-based challenge to many foundational concepts of political theory. As a form of thought, anarchism problematizes reducing politics to the state form. As a practice, anarchism provides concrete strategies to materially challenge governance. And in the realm of social movements, anarchism provides both critique of traditional left activism and examples of alternative forms of movement.
[i] Intentionality here is in the Foucaultian sense of a ‘strategy without a strategist.’