Anarchism - Etymology and Terminology

Etymology and Terminology

For more information, see Anarchist terminology.

The term anarchism derives from the ancient Greek ἄναρχος, anarchos, meaning "without rulers", from the prefix ἀν- (an-, "without") + ἀρχός (arkhos, "leader", from ἀρχή arkhē, "authority, sovereignty, realm, magistracy") + -ισμός (-ismos, from the suffix -ιζειν, -izein "-izing"). "Anarchists" was the term adopted by Maximilien de Robespierre to attack those on the left whom he had used for his own ends during the French Revolution but was determined to get rid of, though among these "anarchists" there were few who exhibited the social revolt characteristics of later anarchists. There would be many revolutionaries of the early nineteenth century who contributed to the anarchist doctrines of the next generation, such as William Godwin and Wilhelm Weitling, but they did not use the word "anarchist" or "anarchism" in describing themselves or their beliefs. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was the first political philosopher to call himself an anarchist, making the formal birth of anarchism the mid-nineteenth century. Since the 1890s from France, the term "libertarianism" has often been used as a synonym for anarchism and was used almost exclusively in this sense until the 1950s in the United States; its use as a synonym is still common outside the United States. On the other hand, some use "libertarianism" to refer to individualistic free-market philosophy only, referring to free-market anarchism as "libertarian anarchism".

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