Talking about anarchism to a MENSA meeting, the speaker tried to make clear what he meant by the term: a movement holding (among other things) that people can perfectly well operate an orderly society without the use of authority. The chair in his closing remarks swept this aside, declaring bluntly that anarchy means chaos.
It came as a shock to hear the chair of a MENSA meeting giving voice to a crude misconception; several years and a good deal of thought went into seeing how much reason he had on his side. Taken in its root meaning and in the sense regularly given it by all except the tiny number of professed anarchists, this word does not indicate absence only of external, authoritarian government, but absence of government full stop. The absence of government in this unqualified sense would, as the chair asserted, bring chaos. The word ‘anarchy’ does mean what he took it to mean.
The anarchist movement proposes to abolish authoritarian government and the use of coercion but it does not intend, by doing this, to lower the level of orderliness. It maintains, on the contrary, that this will produce a more orderly community, that people left to themselves will regulate their own behaviour more closely, and to better effect, than any government can do. We all know, from personal experience, that rule from outside enables us to get away with a great deal; an external government simply cannot watch each of us all the time. But if, following the anarchist prescription, we accept rule from within, we shall never escape inspection.
Anarchists do not in fact seek absence of government full stop, but rather the abolition of external government in order to permit the unhindered operation of internal government, individual self-government. This makes the title chosen for their objective a misnomer; anarchy needs another name. “Autogestion” and “self-management” convey the intended meaning, but they do not readily yield names for the movement and they lack sex-appeal. “Panarchy” seems to do the job better, although even that brings no shiver of delight.
Continue reading Angles on Anarchism by George Walford (1991):
Class Politics; an Exhausted Myth | Anarchy Renamed | Why So Few? | Gnostics as Anarchists of Old | The Two-Sided Anarchist | The Higher the Fewer | The Anarchist Police Force | Even Worse | In the Beginning | The Competitive Co-operators | I. Q. Against Anarchism | Anarchism in Series | Friendly Reason | Anarchist Research | Are They Not Anarchists? | The Trouble With Success | Of Governments and Gardens | The Poll Tax Lesson | Healthy Freedoms | The Conventional Artist | Underground Activity | The Cretan Egoist.