Common Myths About Anarchism:
Anarchists advocate complete chaos
This is a complete myth with no basis in reality. Anarchists do not advocate chaos and anarchy does not mean chaos. Similar slander used to be said about the ideas of democracy and republics. In places where a Monarchy was thought necessary the idea of elected governments was often equated with complete chaos. This association is the result of slander by the powerful (the state, corporations, etc.) that control the media and is, unfortunately, not a surprise. Since anarchists seek to overthrow them it is not surprising that they would slander anarchism with all sorts of absurd nonsense.
Anarchists believe in mindless violence
Another common stereotype is that of the mad bomb-throwing anarchist who advocates carnage and destruction for the sake of it. This too is a myth. Anarchists do not normally go around throwing bombs at everyone nor do we consider beating up old ladies a virtue. It is true that there have been anarchists who have used violence to advance their cause but this is true of every political philosophy. Republicans and democrats have used much more violence throughout history then anarchists, yet they are never demonized as crazed bomb throwers. Indeed, the state is not only inherently violent but the most violent organization in human history. It uses violence on a systemic level (in the form of police & militaries) and is responsible for numerous genocides. The state is vastly more violent than the most violent of anarchists.
Anarchists, by definition, are opposed to organization
The vast majority of anarchists are not opposed to organization. What anarchists are opposed to is hierarchical organization — organizations in which one group of people tells the other members what to do. Instead anarchists advocate organization without authority, where all members have an equal say in group decisions.
What Anarchism Really Stands For
Anarchy comes from the Greek and literally means “no rulers.” Anarchists are anti-authoritarians who seek to abolish domination. It is important to differentiate between different two types of authority: legitimate (or rational) authority and illegitimate (or irrational) authority. In other words, there’s a difference between being an authority and having authority. Being an authority means that a person is recognized as competent for any particular task based on her or his knowledge and individual skills. It is socially acknowledged expertise. Legitimate authorities are experts who are particularly knowledgeable, skillful or wise in any particular area. It may be in our best interests to follow their recommendations, but they have no power to force us to do so, nor should they. Legitimate authority is this kind of authority, the authority of an expert.
Having authority is a social relationship based on status and power derived from a hierarchical position within a group. It means dividing society/the group into the order givers and the order takers. The order givers, the authorities, tell the order takers what to do and they must obey. This is illegitimate authority. A boss, for example, is an illegitimate authority because employees must obey his orders. When something is described as “authoritarian” it usually means that it uses illegitimate authority.
Hierarchy is essentially institutionalized authority. It is a pyramidally structured organization consisting of a series of grades, ranks or offices of increasing power, prestige, and/or remuneration. Those with lower ranks must obey those with higher ranks. Hierarchies maintain control by coercion — the threat of negative sanctions (physical, economic, social, etc.) against those who don’t obey. Hierarchical organizations are, by definition, organizations that are run by elites. Those on the top, the elite, have more power then those on the bottom. Hierarchical authority is the authority that is inherent in any hierarchy. This is the same thing as illegitimate (or irrational) authority — that is, relations of command and obedience. Another name for this is domination.