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Anarchist law is a body of norms regarding behavior and decision-making operative within in an anarchist community. The term is used in a series of ongoing debates within the various branches of anarchist theory regarding if and how norms of individual and/or collective behavior and decision-making should be created and enforced. Although many anarchists would consider "anarchist law" simply synonymous with natural law, others contend law in anarchy would have additional, unique elements. Over the course of the last two hundred years as anarchism has grown and evolved to include diverse strains, there have been different conceptions of "anarchist law" produced and discussed, or used in practice by anarchist networks such as Peoples' Global Action or Indymedia.
The most fundamental maxim of many anarchist tendencies is that no individual has the right to coerce another individual, and that everyone has the right to defend themselves against coercion (the non-aggression principle or zero aggression principle). Systems typically considered coercive include the state, capitalism, and institutional oppression. This basic principle, like mutual aid, is foundational to much of anarchist law, and indeed much of anarchist theory. Peter Kropotkin, a prominent anarcho-communist, stated it was "best summed up by the maxim 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'" In short, anarchist philosophy includes the "ethic of reciprocity," but typically condones violence intended to retaliate against or dismantle systems of oppression (with the exception of anarcho-pacifism, some Christian anarchism and other nonviolent/pacifistic movements.)
Free association (also called voluntary association) also implies the right of individuals to form those exact social contracts. This freedom to not associate means if the terms of a social contract become unacceptable to an individual member or sub-group(s) within a society, the discontented have the right to secede from the contract. They may also form new associations with others that more closely fit their needs.
The principle of mutual aid, originally identified by Peter Kropotkin as arising from natural law, is that since evolution occurs in groups – not individuals – it is evolutionarily advantageous for members of a community to assist each other. The anarchist approach to building power – and structuring power relationships – is derived from this evolutionary and biological imperative. In a nutshell the argument is that since individuals require the assistance of groups to self-actualize, individuals have a strong self-interest in the good of the community to which they belong. It follows that (freely associating) collectives of individuals working for mutual improvement and mutual goals must form the basis of any anarchist society, thus providing the sociological and economic imperative for the creation of social contracts capable of binding these self-selecting groups together.
In a pre-revolutionary situation, the principle of "mutual aid" is the moral imperative that drives efforts by contemporary anarchists to provide material aid to victims of natural disasters; those that are homeless or poor, and others who have been left without access to food or clean drinking water, or other basic necessities.
Enforceability is one of the most controversial areas of anarchist law. Early writers such as Proudhon argued that it was legitimate for working-class people to self-organize against criminals who prey on the weak, a process which would unequivocally entail some degree of coercion.
Common techniques for decision-making, including decisions about the de facto laws themselves, among non-hierarchical societies include various forms of formal consensus, supermajority voting, "consensus minus one" and direct democracy. Anthropologist David Graeber argues that any community that lacks a centralized mechanism of force (a state) will naturally gravitate toward some form of consensus decision-making.
See also: List of anarchist communities
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