Social anarchism is the branch of anarchism that sees individual freedom as interrelated with mutual aid.[1][2][3][4][5][6] Social anarchist thought emphasizes community and social equality as complementary to autonomy and personal freedom.[3]

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.[7] 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.[8]

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[9] and left-libertarianism,[10][11] emerging in the late 19th century as a distinction from individualist anarchism after anarcho-communism replaced collectivist anarchism as the dominant tendency.[12]

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.[13][14][15][16] The very idea of an individualist–socialist divide is also contested as individualist anarchism is largely socialistic and influenced each other.[17][15]


Other names that have been used to refer to social anarchism[18] 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.[40][41][42][43] 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.[9][44][45] For similar reasons, anarchists also reject categorizations such as left anarchism[46] and right anarchism (anarcho-capitalism),[26] seeing anarchism as a radical left-wing or far-left ideology.[47][48][49]

Anti-capitalism is considered a necessary element of anarchism by most anarchists.[50][51] 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.[52][53][14][15][16] In the United States, social anarchism may refer to Murray Bookchin's circle and its homonymous journal.[10][54]

Social anarchism sees "individual freedom as conceptually connected with social equality and emphasize community and mutual aid".[3] It sees private property as a source of social inequality.[8] 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".[7]


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."[55]

See also


  1. ^ Baldelli, Giovanni (1971). Social Anarchism. Aldine Atherton. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  2. ^ Bookchin, Murray (1995). "Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm". The Anarchist Library. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Suissa, Judith (2001). "Anarchism, Utopias and Philosophy of Education". Journal of Philosophy of Education 35 (4). pp. 627–646. doi:10.1111/1467-9752.00249.
  4. ^ McKay, Iain (18 June 2009). "An Anarchist FAQ". Stirling: AK Press.
  5. ^ Ehrlich, Howard J. (2013). "The Best of Social Anarchism" Archived 31 March 2019 at the Wayback Machine. See Sharp Press. Retrieved 31 March 2019. See also his Social Anarchism journal.
  6. ^ Owens, Connor (25 February 2016). "Why "Social" Anarchism?". The Anarchist Library. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  7. ^ a b Dolgoff, Sam (1986). "Misconceptions of Anarchism". Fragments: A Memoir. Cambridge: Refract Publications. pp. 187–191. ISBN 0-946222-04-5 – via Spunk Library.
  8. ^ a b Ostergaard, Geoffrey (1991) [1983]. "Anarchism". In Bottomore, Tom (ed.). A Dictionary of Marxist Thought (2 ed.). Blackwell Publishing. pp. 21–23.
  9. ^ a b c d Ostergaard, Geoffrey (2008). "Anarchism". The Blackwell Dictionary of Modern Social Thought. Blackwell Publishing. p. 14.
  10. ^ a b c Bookchin, Murray (1995). Social Anarchism Or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm. AK Press.
  11. ^ a b c "Anarchism". In Gaus, Gerald F.; D'Agostino, Fred, eds. (2012). The Routledge Companion to Social and Political Philosophy. p. 227. "The term 'left-libertarianism' has at least three meanings. In its oldest sense, it is a synonym either for anarchism in general or social anarchism in particular. Later it became a term for the left or Konkinite wing of the free-market libertarian movement, and has since come to cover a range of pro-market but anti-capitalist positions, mostly individualist anarchist, including agorism and mutualism, often with an implication of sympathies (such as for radical feminism or the labor movement) not usually shared by anarcho-capitalists. In a third sense it has recently come to be applied to a position combining individual self-ownership with an egalitarian approach to natural resources; most proponents of this position are not anarchists".
  12. ^ "An Anarchist FAQ" by various authors. "No, far from it. Most anarchists in the late nineteenth century recognised communist-anarchism as a genuine form of anarchism and it quickly replaced collectivist anarchism as the dominant tendency. So few anarchists found the individualist solution to the social question or the attempts of some of them to excommunicate social anarchism from the movement convincing".
  13. ^ Boyd, Tony; Harrison, Kevin, eds. (2003). "Marxism and Anarchism". Understanding Political Ideas and Movements. Manchester University Press. p. 251. ISBN 978-0719061516.
  14. ^ a b McKay, Iain, ed. (2012). "Section G – Is Individualist Anarchism Capitalistic?". An Anarchist FAQ. Vol. II. Stirling: AK Press. ISBN 978-1849351225.
  15. ^ a b c Franks 2013, pp. 385–404.
  16. ^ a b Carson, Kevin (2017). "Anarchism and Markets". In Jun, Nathan J. (2017). Brill's Companion to Anarchism and Philosophy. Brill. p. 81. ISBN 978-9004356894.
  17. ^ McKay, Iain, ed. (2012). An Anarchist FAQ. Vol. I/II. Stirling: AK Press. ISBN 978-1849351225.
  18. ^ Busky, Donald F. (2000). Democratic Socialism: A Global Survey. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 2.
  19. ^ Davidson, John Morrison (1896). Anarchist Socialism vs. State Socialism at the London International Labour Congress (1896). W. Reeves.
  20. ^ Poland, Jefferson; Sloan, Sam, ed. (1968). Sex Marchers. p. 57.
  21. ^ Nash, Ronald H. (1980). Freedom, Justice, and the State. University Press of America. p. 23.
  22. ^ McNally, David (1993). Against the Market: Political Economy, Market Socialism and the Marxist Critique. "'Proudhon did Enormous Mischief': Marx's Critique of the First Market Socialists". Verso Books.
  23. ^ Morris, Christopher W. (1998). An Essay on the Modern State. Cambridge University Press. p. 74.
  24. ^ Bose, Atindranath (1967). A History of Anarchism. Calcutta: World Press.
  25. ^ Paul, Ellen Frankel; Miller, Fred Dycus; Paul, Jeffrey (1993). Liberalism and the Economic Order. Cambridge University Press. p. 115.
  26. ^ a b Heider, Ulrike (1994). Anarchism: Left, Right and Green. San Francisco: City Lights Books.
  27. ^ Thagard, Paul (2002). Coherence in Thought and Action. MIT Press. p. 153.
  28. ^ Chomsky, Noam (2003). Chomsky on Democracy & Education. Routledge. p. 398.
  29. ^ Chomsky, Noam; Otero, Carlos Peregrín (2004). Language and Politics. AK Press. p. 153.
  30. ^ Nettlau, Max (1996). A Short History of Anarchism. London: Freedom Press. p. 162. ISBN 978-0-900384-89-9. OCLC 37529250.
  31. ^ Ward, Colin (2004). Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 62. "For a century, anarchists have used the word 'libertarian' as a synonym for 'anarchist', both as a noun and an adjective. The celebrated anarchist journal Le Libertaire was founded in 1896. However, much more recently the word has been appropriated by various American free-market philosophers [...]."
  32. ^ Chomsky, Noam (23 February 2002). "The Week Online Interviews Chomsky". Z Magazine. Z Communications. Archived from the original on 13 January 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2011. 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.
  33. ^ Diemer, Ulli (1997). "What Is Libertarian Socialism?". The Anarchist Library. Retrieved 4 August 2019.
  34. ^ Adams, Ian (2001). Political Ideology Today. Manchester University Press. p. 120.
  35. ^ Outhwaite, William (2003). The Blackwell Dictionary of Modern Social Thought. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 13.
  36. ^ Chomsky, Noam; Otero, Carlos Peregrín (2004). Language and Politics. AK Press. p. 739.
  37. ^ Gale, Cengage Learning (2015). A Study Guide for Political Theories for Students: Anarchism. Farmigton Hill, MN: Gale.
  38. ^ Bakunin, Mikhail. Stateless Socialism: Anarchism. In Maximoff, G. P. (1953). The Political Philosophy of Bakunin. New York: The Free Press.
  39. ^ Carlson, Jennifer D. (2012). "Libertarianism". In Miller, Wilburn R., ed. The Social History of Crime and Punishment in America. London: Sage Publications. p. 1006. ISBN 1412988764. "There exist three major camps in libertarian thought: right-libertarianism, socialist libertarianism, and left-libertarianism; the extent to which these represent distinct ideologies as opposed to variations on a theme is contested by scholars. [...] [S]ocialist libertarians view any concentration of power into the hands of a few (whether politically or economically) as antithetical to freedom and thus advocate for the simultaneous abolition of both government and capitalism".
  40. ^ Iverson, Stan. (1968). "Sex and Anarcho-socialism". Sex Marchers. p. 57. "Libertarian Socialism, or if you please, anarcho-socialism [...]".
  41. ^ Walford, George (1979). Ideologies and Their Functions: A Study in Systematic Ideology. pp. 139–145.
  42. ^ McNally, David (1993). "'Proudhon did Enormous Mischief': Marx's Critique of the First Market Socialists". Against the Market: Political Economy, Market Socialism and the Marxist Critique. Verso.
  43. ^ Sturgis, Amy H. (2003). Presidents from Hayes Through McKinley: Debating the Issues in Pro and Con Primary Documents. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 106. "Composed of many differing strains of thought (such as mutualism, anarcho-individualism, anarcho-socialism, and anarcho-communism), anarchism revolves around the concept of noncoercion and the belief that force is illegitimate and unethical".
  44. ^ Busky, Donald F. (2000). Democratic Socialism: A Global Survey. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 2. ISBN 978-0275968861. 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.
  45. ^ Bylund, Per (19 March 2019). "The Trouble With Socialist Anarchism". Mises Institute. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  46. ^ Thagard, Paul. 2002. Coherence in Thought and Action. MIT Press. p. 153.
  47. ^ Brooks, Frank H. (1994). The Individualist Anarchists: An Anthology of Liberty (1881–1908). Transaction Publishers. p. xi. ISBN 978-1-56000-132-4.
  48. ^ Kahn, Joseph (5 August 2000). "Anarchism, the Creed That Won't Stay Dead; The Spread of World Capitalism Resurrects a Long-Dormant Movement". The New York Times.
  49. ^ Moynihan, Colin (16 April 2007). "Book Fair Unites Anarchists. In Spirit, Anyway". The New York Times.
  50. ^ Chomsky, Noam (1991). "On Capitalism". Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 26 November 2013. catastrophe of capitalism
  51. ^ Anarchist FAQ collective. "Is "anarcho-capitalism" a form of capitalism?". Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  52. ^ Martin, James J. (1953). Men Against the State: the State the Expositors of Individualist Anarchism. Dekalb, Illinois: The Adrian Allen Associates.
  53. ^ Tucker, Benjamin (1970). Liberty. Greenwood Reprint Corporation. 7–8. p. 26. "Liberty has always insisted that Individualism and Socialism are not antithetical terms; that, on the contrary, the most ... not of Socialist Anarchism against Individualist Anarchism, but of Communist Socialism against Individualist Socialism."
  54. ^ Ehrlich, Howard J. (2013). "The Best of Social Anarchism" Archived 31 March 2019 at the Wayback Machine. See Sharp Press. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  55. ^ Morriss, Andrew (2008). "Anarcho-Capitalism". In Hamowy, Ronald (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE; Cato Institute. pp. 13–14. doi:10.4135/9781412965811.n8. ISBN 978-1-4129-6580-4. OCLC 750831024.