To What Extent Is Anarchism a Single Doctrine?

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To what extent is Anarchism a single doctrine? (45 marks) Anarchism can be viewed as a single doctrine on the basis that all anarchists are coherent in their attitude to the state. However, there are incoherent ideas about what an anti-statist society will consist of, seen through the views of collectivist anarchists which is arguably socialism taken to its extreme and to individualist anarchism which has been described as liberalism taken to its extreme. Anarchists all agree on the anti-statist principles. Sebastian Faure described anarchism as a ‘negation of the principle of authority’. All anarchists believe that the state is oppressive and removes freedom. Malatesta described its role as ‘always that of oppressing and exploiting the masses’. Anarchists agree that the state is exploitative, seeing tax as ‘legalised theft’. The state is corrupt and corrupting. Bakunin believed ‘there is nothing more dangerous for a man’s morality than the habit of commanding’. The state is also destructive. It encourages individuals to fight on their behalf, at the expense of others. As Randolph Bourne put it, ‘war is the health of the state’. Emma Goldman saw the state through the symbols of ‘the gun and the handcuff’. The state robs life, liberty and property. Another area of coherence is seen through anti-clericalism. As anarchists see authority as unnecessary and undesirable, religion too (with the exception of some more spiritual beliefs such as millenarianism, Taoism and Buddhism) is opposed to. Through these beliefs anarchism can be seen as a single doctrine, as their views on authority have coherency. However, the beliefs of individualist anarchists and collectivist anarchists differ significantly, to the extent that they are sometimes viewed as separate doctrines. Individualist anarchists are seen to possess extreme liberal beliefs – Godwin seen as a classical
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