For a while, I’ve wanted to write a short introduction to anarchism for folks who have no background in the subject. It is inevitable that there will be some people who will disagree with my representation of anarchism in the series. I’m still learning about it, and in any case, I could never do justice to the complexity of anarchism.
So rather than attempting any kind of authoritative definition of anarchism–which would really be contrary to the spirit of the thing–I wanted instead to dispel some of the myths that I had to unlearn in order to grasp what anarchism is about. In each part of the series, I used something unrelated to anarchism to elucidate some aspect of anarchism.
Lesson 1: Anarchy does not mean chaos. Anarchy does mean the absence of hierarchy.
In the minds of most people, “anarchy” has come to mean a state of social chaos. But anarchy is not chaos. Anarchy is simply the absence of social hierarchy.[FN 5] It is the absence of domination of some people by other people. This includes all forms of hierarchy, including authoritarianism, classism (which capitalism is a form of), racism, sexism, hetero- and cis-normativity, and even anthropocentrism. Anarchism recognizes the interconnectedness of all of these forms of oppression and, thus, how opposition to these different forms of hierarchy must also be connected.[FN 6]
Contrary to what some people may believe, there are ways to order society that don’t involve hierarchy. In its essence, anarchy is simply pure democracy. It means letting people make decisions for themselves in community with others, without abdicating power or responsibility to a group of elites. This necessarily requires keeping things small, because the bigger things get, the more people are involved, the harder it is to maintain real democracy. …