Is Anarchism Socialist or Capitalist? Reply

reason.com

A new defense of libertarian anarchism makes the case that the philosophy belongs on the left.

from the April 2013 issue

Anarchy and Legal Order: Law and Politics for a Stateless Society, by Gary Chartier, Cambridge University Press, 416 pages, $115

If a just society is one rooted in peaceful, voluntary cooperation, and the state aggressively precludes and preempts this kind of cooperation, then the just society must be a stateless society. Philosopher and legal scholar Gary Chartier presents this argument on the first page of Anarchy and Legal Order, and the remainder is largely a defense of that bold claim.

In 2011, Chartier published The Conscience of an Anarchist. It was not an academic work, but rather a call to “envisioning a new kind of society and beginning to construct it.” Conscience suffered from the two large stumbling blocks that plague most anarchist manifestos: 1) most people aren’t quite sure what anarchism is, and 2) a not insubstantial percentage of political theory is devoted to justifying the state. And since most people associate anarchism with violent madmen, the justification of the state is usually the given.

The new book, then, is a rigorous, well-argued academic treatment giving a comprehensive, scholarly defense of the idea that the state is not only unnecessary for a just social order but actively interferes with its development. Academic books suffer from their own stumbling blocks, including the sad fact that many people will avoid them on the assumption that they will be obscure or hard to follow. But Chartier’s book is neither. His arguments are laid out with such elegance and precision that any intelligent lay reader should be able to understand them. For most people, the only real challenge will be to their presuppositions and long-held beliefs about the nature of government.

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