Encyclopédie Anarchiste: Anarchy & Hierarchy

anarchyThe following definitions of “anarchy/anarchist” and “hierarchy,”  originally published in the 1930s, are taken from Sebastien Faure’s Encylopédie anarchiste. Faure was an advocate of “anarchist synthesis,” which sought to combine the best elements of anarchist communism, anarcho-syndicalism and individualist anarchism. The article on “anarchist synthesis” in the Enclyopédie anarchiste was written by Faure’s collaborator, the Russian anarchist, Voline, and is reprinted in Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Volume One: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE-1939).


There is not, and there cannot be, a libertarian Creed or Catechism.

That which exists and constitutes what one might call the anarchist doctrine is a cluster of general principles, fundamental conceptions and practical applications regarding which a consensus has been established among individuals whose thought is inimical to Authority and who struggle, collectively or in isolation, against all disciplines and constraints, whether political, economic, intellectual or moral.

At the same time, there may be – and indeed there are – many varieties of anarchist, yet all have a common characteristic that separates them from the rest of humankind. This uniting point is the negation of the principle of Authority in social organizations and the hatred of all constraints that originate in institutions founded on this principle.

Thus, whoever denies Authority and fights against it is an anarchist.


HIERARCHY, noun. (from the Greek hieros, sacred, and arche, command). The order and subordination of sundry ecclesiastical, civil or military authorities.

Hierarchy lies at the root of the whole authority principle. Starting off with the leader and ending with the henchman, through a whole scale of different executive agents; conjuring up a multitude of gradations which, as one rises through them, confers an ever greater measure of authority; splitting the authority of the State to infinity and bestowing a greater power of resistance upon it by virtue of its multiplicity and variety; organizing within the State a graduated scale of sinecures, benefices and privileges; the essence, in fact, of theories of government.

The yearning for prominence, the lust to command and to rule is, sad to say, a passion that still drives quite a few people. The moment an authoritarian regime is established on the ruins of its predecessor, its first care is to shower its supporters with honours, income and positions of command.

One who today is an ordinary citizen dreams of becoming a town councillor; another dreams of a generalship; still another, no more than a workingman, is gnawed by an ambition to become a supervisor or foreman.

Every authoritarian faction — even the so-called workers’ parties — cultivate this hierarchical mind-set. For it is only by planting ambition in men’s hearts that rulers or would-be rulers can pull the wool over their eyes and turn them into playthings.

Anarchists are opposed to all hierarchy, be it moral or material. They counter with respect for the freedom and absolute autonomy of the individual.

And if they think in terms of a Social Context of the future, it is an environment wherein every human being will have rights equal to those of his contemporaries.

We must banish the sentiment of hierarchy from men’s minds and replace it with love of anarchy.

Published on October 31, 2009 at 9:00 am  Comments (6)  

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  1. […] essay on Mary Wollstonecraft was by far the most popular posting. The second most popular was the Encyclopedie Anarchiste definitions of anarchy and hierarchy. Glad to see that people are interested in this material. Hopefully Volume […]

  2. You should change the background color of this blog to white, this is too dark, makes it unappealing, although this blog seems very interesting.

    • The black background is to go with the general black and red colour scheme, the traditional colours of the anarcho-syndicalists. What do other people think? If I switch to a white background, what would be a good colour to go with that?

      • Sir, with all due respect, i really think the background ought to be something clear, and i think white is a good choice. I did not know that the anarcho-syndicalists’ traditional colors are black and red, but if I’m not mistaken, i don’t see any red here, i see orange. The orange is fine, and it could be nice with white.
        You see, i’ve recently become interested in anarchist thought, and i would like to see it spreading more, especially in my part of the world (the Middle East, Egypt to be specific). I believe it may be an ideal solution to our long term concerns. I am not a big fan of the concept of democracy, and it is showing its limits in Europe and the U.S’s democracy is a very doubtful one…
        My problem with anarchy is that the term has often times a negative connotation in people’s minds, I’m sure you’re aware of that, people confuse it with “chaos”. And here in the Arab world, there is no fair translation of the word as far as i know which does not rhyme with chaos. That misunderstanding of the term is also present in Europe and “the West”, and i think that the color black only reinforces that misunderstanding, because it associates with some kind of an obscure force, rebellion, and defiance, and this is not necessarily my understanding of the concept so far. My proposition to make the background white was therefore simply an idea to better market the ideal and get over that misconception that people have of Anarchy. Also, i would be very interested to know if there is a translation of the word in Arabic that does not associate with chaos and if not then we should definitely come up with one!

        Thank you for your patience.

  3. Anarchy great to those states that are authoritarian. Hierrachy of individuals in power potrays unjust policies by these officials against their citizens.

    • If you mean anarchy is the alternative to authoritarian states, I couldn’t agree more.

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