Why Is It...

that the .1% of the population that are anarcho-socialists and the .1% that are anarcho-capitalists like to battle each other over rights to the word "anarchist," when to the other 99.8% of the population it is a synonym for "kook"? Wouldn't both sides be better off getting a wholly new name?


  1. Professor Callahan, I am in occasional contact with the very man who runs that anarchist site, and he shall just go by the name Iain.

    Iain, an Irish anarchist, comments regularly on some other Blogger.Com blogs, and he regularly insists on the word "propertarian" instead of the American "libertarian".

    I once told him, "Iain, does it really matter what pretentious pseudo-intellectual name you or other people call yourselves?"

    Boy, did that get Iain's attention. After I got scolded for my remark, he concluded with, "Next thing you know, you'll be discussing why black should be called white!"

    Yes. Iain is crazy. He is well educated and scholarly. But he is also crazy.

    I took another chance to bait Iain recently, when I said that Franco (while evil) should not be easily compared to Hitler and Mussolini -0 at least he saved Roman Catholics from anarchist persecution.

    Franco references always work.

    Because not just Iain, but a whole set of anarchist crazies came out of the woodworks, and each wrote 500 word diatribes against me. I was a fascist sympathiser, aaaaaah, I am evil!

    You can imagine I felt smug and delighted.

    But then, one anonymous anarchist told me, "Prateek, I always like your comments, but today I am shocked by what you have said."

    That made me feel bad about baiting these sensitive anarchists, and I won't do it again.

    Still fun though.

  2. Well, it's an old political ideology with a rich cultural heritage, and it feels edgy and radical to say you're an anarchist, so it's no surprise there are people who would wish to establish a monopoly on the use of the word.

    You do have a point, though. Here in Finland there have recently been some bomb threats and other acts of petty violence that local "anarchists" have taken the blame for. I'm a left-libertarian (though with a slight pragmato-statist streak) and I'd like to live in a world with as little coercion and hierarchy as possible, so the word anarchist would seem like a good word to call myself. But then I remember that the rest of the world associates anarchism with petty violence and young ideological assholes with a chip on their shoulder and a hard-on for class warfare, and apparently for a good reason.

  3. "Iain, an Irish anarchist..."

    The worst of the worst!

    Taking the piss out of people occasionally is good for them, I say.

  4. One thing about anarchists and "anarcho-capitalists".

    There are many distinguished socialist thinkers, who had bright ideas and who were always upping their game with new perspectives, until they even came out of socialism and came towards higher and broader levels of thinking. James Burnham comes to mind as an example.

    On the other hand, no anarchist (outside of perhaps Proudhon) is still discussed widely as a brilliant thinker with ideas useful to those outside the narrow spectrum.

    Similarly, a very middle-of-the-road and moderate liberal such as Hayek was always upping his game with new ideas frequently, even into his old age, and commanded the awe of even Social Democrats such as the German Chancellor Schmidt.

    Yet, how many anarcho-capitalists obtain as much respect as Hayek for coming up with seriously innovative ideas that could break through other ideological barriers as Hayek's ideas did?

    It's strange that there is so much novelty and creativity in the "Mainstream" and so much narrowness and rigidity in the "Fringe". One would have thought it's the other way round.


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