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Is the State Necessary?

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Societies like the Tiv, Zuni or Dobu do not have a centralized decision-making apparatus claiming authority over a given territorial area. Thus the state may be desirable, but it is not, strictly speaking, necessary. However, it is difficult to imagine a modern industrial society functioning without some such mechanism; difficult but not impossible especially for anarchists.

First it is necessary to clarify the term ‘Anarchism’. The first definition represents the colloquial definition of anarchism – supported by few, or no, political theorists. It is more correctly a definition of ‘anarchy’ rather than ‘anarchism’.

Most anarchists argue that our present wasteful urban industrialized lifestyle should be replaced by a more ascetic and healthy one. Kropotkin argued that five hours labour a week from everyone could give a middle-class lifestyle for all. Autonomous communes and voluntary literary, educational, artistic and sporting associations would freely exchange goods and services on a non-profit basis.


ANARCHISM Absence of government; a state of lawlessness due to the absence or inefficiency of supreme power; political disorder. (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary)
The Philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by man-made law; the theory that all forms of government rest on violence and are therefore wrong and harmful, as well as unnecessary. (Goldman, 1915)
A doctrine which poses a criticism of existing society, a view of a desirable future society; and a means of passing from one to the other. (Woodcock, 1975)


A crucial problem for anarchists is how to make the transition to the new state. Most anarchists believe that people should simply stop doing things in the usual way and start a new lifestyle immediately. As Howard Zim writes: “The anarchist sees revolutionary change as something immediate, something we must do now, where we live, where we work. It means starting this moment to do away with authoritarian relationships – between men and women, between children and parents, between one kind of worker and another kind. Such revolutionary spirit cannot be crushed like an armed uprising”. A minority of anarchists believe that the state machinery needs to be smashed by armed uprising, or have terrorist violence.

Anarchism as a political movement has had only a small direct practical influence. The most influential anarchist groupings existed in 1930s Spain. Anarchist thinking influenced Gandhi and the Indian Independence movement, the student movements of the 1960s and many other left-wing protest movements, and contemporary feminist and ecological groups.

1 Give Ukrainian equivalents for the following words and expressions.

Decision-making apparatus, anarchist, colloquial, to clarify, wasteful, voluntary, immediate.


2 Translate words and word combinations from Ukrainian into English and use them in your own sentences.

Бажаний, теоретик, помірний, повстання.

3 Complete the sentences.

1. The first definition ...

2. However, it is difficult ...

3. Anarchism as a political movement ...

4. Autonomous communes ...

5. A minority of anarchists ...

4 Comprehension questions.

1. What definitions of the term ‘anarchism’ do you know?

2. How do anarchists see present-day society?

3. What methods of changing modern way of life do anarchists suggest?

4. Does revolutionary approach have many supporters among anarchists?

5. What influence did anarchism as political movement have?

6. Which definitions of anarchism given in the table do you agree with?


5 Say if the following statements are true according to the text.

1. Anarchists believe that state is not important.

2. ‘Anarchy’ is the same as ‘anarchism’.

3. Most anarchists support urban industrialized lifestyle.

4. Most anarchists know how to make transition to new society.

5. Many anarchists do not support armed uprising and terrorism because they can be easily crushed.

6. Gandhi and the Indian Independence movement were influenced by anarchist thinking.


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