These are some comments I recently posted in a social media forum concerning the basics of anarchist theory, and why it is important and helpful.
From my readings of the classical anarchist theorists, I don’t know that any of them literally believed in a society with no social organization of any kind. The closest to that might be Max Stirner, but his views are more in the realm of abstract philosophical and ethical considerations that politics. As the critics of anarchism will point out, most serious anarchists advocate some alternative form of social organizations like municipal socialism, syndicalism, kibbutz-like communes, villages, guilds, cooperatives, etc. Even the anarcho-capitalists more or less favor abolishing the public state in favor of private governments with territorial sovereignty defined on the basis of Lockean property theory.
I think one of the most important aspects of anarchist theory is its demystification of the notion of the sanctity of the law or the benevolence of the state. Much of mainstream conservative and liberal philosophy alike postulates that law is somehow sacred and must be upheld no matter what, whereas as Proudhon noted the law is more often a weapon by which the ruling class works to subjugate its subordinates. The criticism of law that you find in classical liberal-libertarians like Bastiat that recognizes that the law is often just as much on the side of private interests and mere power holders as it is on the side of the common good is also important. A good example of why these ideas are important is the criticism of Vietnam War draft resisters for “breaking the law.” The reality of the Vietnam draft is that it was about enslaving young people and sending them off to be slaughtered in a war of imperialist aggression so that the United States could gain control of the former French colonies in Indochina (the domino theory be damned). So “breaking the law” was the only sensible thing to do if you were subject to the Vietnam draft.
The so-called “war on drugs” is another example. Not to get too lefty here, but the war on drugs really is an example of a situation where you have a dominant culture whose drugs of choice are alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, ritalin, prozac, etc, etc, etc, etc that is in control of the state and is waging war on subcultures (mostly young people, racial minorities, and alternative lifestyles) whose drugs of choice are marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD, MDMA, etc, etc, etc, etc. As Vincent Bugliosi once said, the war on drugs is premised on the idea that if your drug of choice differs from that of the cultural majority, then you are a criminal.
The general anarchist view is that the state is basically “the mafia with a flag.” It exists to control territory, protect the ruling class, monopolize resources, exploit subjects, and expand its own power. At any one time, the state will normally be aligned with the economic elites and holders of wealth, property, and capital. Yeah, there will be conflict between the state and capital at times, just as there will be conflict among different factions of the state and different factions of capital. But the general principal is solid. The state will also be aligned with the dominant in-groups in the society. For example, when leftists say that historic American society was a hegemony of “white, male, Christian, hetero, yadda, yadda, yadda” they’re mostly correct. The problem is that they haven’t modified their theory to reflect the shifting social, demographic, and political realities of the past half a century. The law will reflect the interests of the dominant class, social groups, and those who control the state at any particular time. The state will then have an ideology that conveys an aura of legitimacy (“democratic multiculturalism,” “workers state,” “divine order,” “glory of the fatherland” etc). This ideology will then be disseminated through the cultural and educational institutions in society. All of this is Anarchism 101. I would personally add to it the insights of elite theory (Pareto, Michels, Mosca, Mills, Domhoff, etc), the managerial revolution/new class (Diljas, Burnham, Orwell, Nomad, Dennis) and the insights of social psychology concerning the relationship of the individual to the group and authority (Milgram, Zimbardo, Asch, Meerloo, Koestler, “third wave,” “Stockholm syndrome,” etc).
As ridiculous as many self-proclaimed anarchists are, this general set of analysis holds up pretty well.
Theoretically, I don’t think you really need to be either a philosophical leftist (Locke, Rousseau, Marx) or a philosophical conservative (Hobbes, Burke, Schmitt) to be an anarchist. You can be either one and still hold to the general critique of the state and social hierarchies that I described above. I know of anarchists on both sides of that debate, and you see variation even among classical anarchists. Proudhon qualifies as a “conservative” in many ways. So does Malatesta. Stirner and Landauer to some degree. Bakunin is a mixed bag. Kropotkin I agree is more of a utopian. So are most of the anarcho-communists.