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Anti-statism is any approach to social, economic or political philosophy that rejects statism. An anti-statist is one who opposes intervention by the state into personal, social and economic affairs.[1] In anarchism, this is characterized by a complete rejection of all involuntary hierarchical rulership.[2]


Anti-statism is present in a variety of greatly differing positions and encompasses an array of diametric concepts and practices. Anti-statists differ greatly according to the beliefs they hold in addition to anti-statism as 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. Anarchist Mikhail Bakunin used the term simply to mean a governing organization while other writers used the term state to mean any lawmaking or law enforcement agency. Revolutionary socialist 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 liberal Max Weber, the state is an organization with an effective legal monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force in a particular geographic area.[3][4] Anarcho-capitalist Murray Rothbard views the power of the state as unjustified, arguing that it restricts individual rights and prosperity, and creates social and economic problems.[5]



Besides Cynicism (contemporary) and Nihilism, there are:

Political theories[edit]

Anti-statism is a common element in anarchist and libertarian political philosophy. Anarchism is defined by its principal aim of abolishing the state and its institutions.[10] According to anarchist doctrine, the state is a tool of domination and coercion that is illegitimate regardless of political tendencies. On the other hand, libertarianism seeks to maximize liberty and political freedom as its core principles.[7]: 16  This may include either a complete or partial opposition to state power, with the goal of abolishing or restricting the state.[7]

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.
— Henry David Thoreau, Resistance to Civil Government[11]

Communist approaches to anti-statism centre on the relationship between political rule and class struggle. Karl Marx defined the state as the institution used by the ruling class of a country to maintain the conditions of its rule. To this extent, the ultimate goal of communist society was theorized as both stateless and classless.

Political movements may adopt anti-statist principles for other reasons such as aesthetic, ideological or religious beliefs, or as a result of social or political marginalization. Examples of this may include resistance movements under military occupation or a conflicting regime.


In egoist philosophy, self-interest is held as the grounding principle of human action, morality or both. Max Stirner proposes that most commonly accepted social institutions such as the notion of state, morality and property rights are mere illusions or ghosts in the mind. In this way, noncompliance to government authority is always justified.


Anarcho-capitalism opposes the state, instead favoring private institutions, such as markets.[12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gallaher, Carolyn; Dahlman, Carl T.; Gilmartin, Mary; Mountz, Alison; Shirlow, Peter (2009). Key Concepts in Political Geography. London: SAGE. pp. 260, 392. ISBN 978-1-4129-4672-8. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
  2. ^ Craig, Edward, ed. (31 March 2005). "Anarchism". The Shorter Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. ISBN 978-0-415-32495-3.
  3. ^ Barrow, Clyde W. (2002). "The Miliband-Poulantzas Debate: An Intellectual History". In Aronowitz, Stanley; Bratsis, Peter (eds.). Paradigm Lost: State Theory Reconsidered. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 978-0-8166-3293-0.
  4. ^ Cudworth, Erika (2007). The Modern State: Theories and Ideologies. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0-7486-2176-7.
  5. ^ Costa, Daniel (2022-10-21). "Anarcho-capitalism". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2022-10-25.
  6. ^ Cockburn, Cynthia (2012). Antimilitarism: Political and Gender Dynamics of Peace Movements. London: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 2. ISBN 978-0230359758.
  7. ^ a b c Woodcock, George (2004) [1962]. Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press. ISBN 9781551116297.
  8. ^ a b Ostergaard, Geoffrey. Resisting the Nation State: The Pacifist and Anarchist Tradition. Peace Pledge. Archived from the original on 2011-05-14. Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  9. ^ Martin, Rex (January 1970). "Civil Disobedience". Ethics. 80 (2): 123–139. doi:10.1086/291760. S2CID 222437515.
  10. ^ Carter, April (1971). The Political Theory of Anarchism. Routledge. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-415-55593-7.
  11. ^ Thoreau, Henry David (1849). Resistance to Civil Government.
  12. ^ Morriss, Andrew P. (2008-08-15). "Anarcho-Capitalism". Retrieved 2022-08-21. Although most anarchists oppose all large institutions, public or private, anarcho-capitalists oppose the state, but not private actors with significant market power.
  13. ^ Geloso, Vincent; Leeson, Peter T. (2020). "Are Anarcho-Capitalists Insane? Medieval Icelandic Conflict Institutions in Comparative Perspective". Revue d'économie politique. 130 (6): 957–974. doi:10.3917/redp.306.0115. ISSN 0373-2630. S2CID 235008718. Anarcho-capitalism is a variety of libertarianism according to which all government institutions can and should be replaced by private ones.