Anti-statism is a term describing opposition to state intervention into personal, social, and economic affairs.[1]:260 Anti-statism means opposition to the state and any form of government, and it differs from anarchism which means the opposition not only to the state but to any form of rulership. From this perspective, some economical and political theories that are clearly against state coercion but favor other types of rulership such as anarcho-capitalism (which says only voluntary and contractual rulerships are legitimate) are better described as forms of anti-statism rather than branches of anarchism.

General categories

Anti-statists differ greatly according to the beliefs they hold in addition to anti-statism.

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

See also


  1. Gallaher, Carolyn; Dahlman, Carl T.; Gilmartin, Mary; Mountz, Alison; Shirlow, Peter (2009). Key Concepts in Political Geography. London: SAGE. p. 392. ISBN 978-1-4129-4672-8. Retrieved July 31, 2014.
  2. Civil Disobedience. Annotated works of Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau Society.
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