The Anarchist Challenge : A Theory Of Society Without Any Established Authority

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What is the anarchist challenge? Anarchism is defined as “a theory of society without any established authority” at any level, a state where man has absolute freedom and his autonomy assured. The anarchist challenge is clearly put by Wolff “The defining mark of the state is authority, the right to rule. The primary obligation of man is autonomy, the refusal to be ruled. It would seem, then, that there can be no resolution of the conflict between the autonomy of the individual and the putative authority of the state. (1970 p10). If man agrees to be part of a state, the anarchist argues that their freedom to be autonomous is undermined. In any form of government, autonomy and authority are simply mismatched. Authority is “the right to command, and correlatively, the right to be obeyed” (Woolfe 1970 p. 4), If we accept the authority of the state, then we are accepting that we do not have rights of freedom and are therefore giving up our independence. The anarchist will not conform to the authority of government nor recognise the state. Can the social contract as devised by either Thomas Hobbes or John Locke provide the answer. I would argue that neither Hobbes nor Locke, provide a complete answer, but Locke is closest. Hobbes advocates a dictator or Leviathan to control the state and ensure laws. Locke recognises that man is entitled to freedom but needs a sovereign power to ensure that there are no violations of man’s property by another. However, he argues that absolute
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