The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Anarchy (New Latin anarchia) is a term that has a number of different but related usages. Specific meanings include

  1. Absence of any form of political authority and/or social hierarchy
  2. Political disorder and confusion
  3. Absence of any cohesive principle, such as a common standard or purpose.
  4. "The Anarchy" is the name given a period of civil war and unsettled government in England during the reign of King Stephen of England.
  5. Specific publications titled "Anarchy" See #Publications.

In the first meaning of "absence of political authority", an anarchy can refer to a theoretical or actual society based on the principles of one or more strains of the political theory anarchism, which advocates that all forms of government and hierarchical authority be abolished.



According to the 2003 CIA World factbook, there is one nation in the world today in a state of anarchy, namely Somalia. This is given that the Somali civil government has collapsed and rule in parts of the country is by mob and warlords, who often clash with bloody results. There are a few others (Afghanistan, Albania, Burundi, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Rwanda) in which government is described as "emerging" or "transitional", and which were in anomie in the near past. The Solomon Islands is described as tending towards anomie because "violence, corruption and crime have undermined stability and civil society".

When used in the sense, of political disorder and confusion, anarchy generally references a situation in which several governments or political authorities are competing for control of a given set of resources, geopolitical boundaries, and/or peoples. This seems to be the most common modern usage of the word, despite the fact that such a situation, involving as it does multiple competing authorities, might more accurately be called a polyarchy. This causes consternation from time to time for those who espouse anarchy as a viable form of social organization; it is a constant barrier to clear communication between such people and those who are familiar with real world anarchy.


The word anarchy comes from the Greek word αναρχία (anarchia), which means "without a leader" (an- meaning "without", arch- meaning "rule" or "ruler", and -ia corresponding to the English suffix "-y " in "monarchy"). It originated from the word anarchos which means either "without head or chief" or "without beginning" (Liddell & Scott's Greek-English Lexicon). Anarchos was a description often applied to God - to be "uncaused" was considered divine. A King might be called the archegos (αρχηγός, from arche + ago, "to lead") or just the archon (άρχων, from arche + on, "being") or the archos (αρχός, from arche + -os, masculine ending) which mean "ruler." Athenian democracy was not considered anarchia because, like modern England, Athens had Kings. In fact there were nine archontes led by an archon (Liddell & Scott). These "rulers" served mainly religious and magisterial purposes, but their existence precluded the Athenians from calling their government anarchia. Instead of calling themselves anarchos, the Athenians described their situation as eleutheros ("free").


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Last updated: 05-07-2005 05:19:43
Last updated: 05-07-2005 18:09:53