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Anti-statism is a term describing opposition to state intervention into personal, social, and economic affairs.[1] Anti-statist views reject the state completely and in some cases rulership in general (e.g., anarchism).

General categoriesEdit

Anti-statists differ greatly according to the beliefs they hold in addition to anti-statism. Thus the categories of anti-statist thought are sometimes classified, at one extreme as collectivist towards the other extreme individualist.

A significant difficulty in determining whether a thinker or philosophy is anti-statist is the problem of defining the state itself. Terminology has changed over time, and past writers often used the word, "state" in a different sense than we use it today. Thus, the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin used the term simply to mean a governing organization. Other writers used the term "state" to mean any law-making or law-enforcement agency. Karl Marx defined the state as the institution used by the ruling class of a country to maintain the conditions of its rule. According to Max Weber, the state is an organization with an effective legal monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force in a particular geographic area.

Henry David Thoreau expressed this evolutionary anti-statist view in his essay Civil Disobedience:

I heartily accept the motto,—"That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe,—"That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men and women are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.[2]

Anti-statist philosophies Edit

Chronology of anti-statist writingEdit

1548 – Étienne de la Boétie, The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude
1793 – William Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice
1825 – Thomas Hodgskin, Labour Defended against the Claims of Capital
1840 – Pierre Joseph Proudhon, [1]
1844 – Max Stirner, The Ego and Its Own
1849 – Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience
1849 – Frédéric Bastiat, The Law
1849 – Gustave de Molinari, The Production of Security
1851 – Herbert Spencer, The Right to Ignore the State
1866 – Michael Bakunin, Revolutionary Catechism
1867 – Lysander Spooner, No Treason
1886 – Benjamin Tucker, [2]
1902 – Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid
1935 – Albert Jay Nock, Our Enemy, the State
1962 – Murray Rothbard, Man, Economy & State
1982 – Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty
1983 – Samuel Edward Konkin III, The New Libertarian Manifesto
1985 – Anthony de Jasay, The State
2001 – Kevin A. Carson, The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand
2001 – Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy:The God That Failed

See alsoEdit


  1. Gallaher, Carolyn. "Anti-statism. Definition: Opposition from Above and Below" in Gallaher, et al. Key Concepts in Political Geography, London: Sage Press, 2009. p. 260
  2. Civil Disobedience. Annotated works of Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau Society.

External linksEdit

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