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Social anarchism is the branch of anarchism that sees individual freedom as interrelated with mutual aid. Social anarchist thought emphasizes community and social equality as complementary to autonomy and personal freedom.
As a label or term, social anarchism is used in contrast to individualist anarchism to describe the theory that places an emphasis on the communitarian and cooperative aspects in anarchist theory. Social anarchism advocates the conversion and use of a portion of present-day and future productive private property to be made into social property that can be used as an alternative to capitalist production and exploitative wage labor.
Social anarchism is considered an umbrella term that mainly refers to the post-capitalist economic models of anarcho-communism, collectivist anarchism and sometimes mutualism. It can also include non-state controlled federated guild socialist, dual power industrial democracy and economic democracy, or federated worker cooperatives and workers' and consumers' councils replacing much of the present state system whilst retaining basic rights. In addition, it includes the trade union approach of anarcho-syndicalism, the social struggle strategies of platformism and specifism and the environmental philosophy of social ecology. As a term, social anarchism overlaps with libertarian socialism and left-libertarianism, emerging in the late 19th century as a distinction from individualist anarchism after anarcho-communism replaced collectivist anarchism as the dominant tendency.
Social anarchism has been described as the collectivist or socialist wing of anarchism as well as representing socialist-aligned forms of anarchism, being contrasted with the liberal-socialist wing represented by individualist anarchism. The very idea of an individualist–socialist divide is also contested as individualist anarchism is largely socialistic and influenced each other.
Other names that have been used to refer to social anarchism or class-struggle anarchism include:
Anarchist socialism, anarcho-socialism and socialist anarchism are terms used to refer to social anarchism, but this is rejected by most anarchists since they generally consider themselves socialists of the libertarian tradition and are seen as unnecessary and confusing when not used as synonymous for libertarian or stateless socialism vis-à-vis authoritarian or state socialism. Anarchism has been historically identified with the socialist and anti-capitalist movement, with the main divide being between anti-market anarchists who support some form of decentralized economic planning and pro-market anarchists who support anti-capitalist market socialism. Those terms are mainly used by anarcho-capitalism theorists and scholars who recognize anarcho-capitalism to differentiate between the two. For similar reasons, anarchists also reject categorizations such as left anarchism and right anarchism (anarcho-capitalism), seeing anarchism as a radical left-wing or far-left ideology.
Anti-capitalism is considered a necessary element of anarchism by most anarchists. Arguing against some anarcho-capitalist theorists and scholars who see individualist anarchism as pro-capitalist, anarchists and scholars have put it in the socialist camp, meaning anti-statist and libertarian socialism. In the United States, social anarchism may refer to Murray Bookchin's circle and its homonymous journal.
Social anarchism sees "individual freedom as conceptually connected with social equality and emphasize community and mutual aid". It sees private property as a source of social inequality. As a term, social anarchism is used to describe tendencies within anarchism that have an emphasis on the communitarian and cooperative aspects of anarchist theory and practice, aiming for the "free association of people living together and cooperating in free communities".
Andrew Morriss writing for The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism argued that "By rejecting any meaningful role for market forces and private property, ... social anarchists leave unresolved the mechanism for coordinating the economic activity necessary to sustain human existence and generally retreat into evocations of the need for community."
The term libertarian as used in the US means something quite different from what it meant historically and still means in the rest of the world. Historically, the libertarian movement has been the anti-statist wing of the socialist movement. Socialist anarchism was libertarian socialism.
The same may be said of anarchism: social anarchism—a nonstate form of socialism—may be distinguished from the nonsocialist, and, in some cases, procapitalist school of individualist anarchism.
catastrophe of capitalism