Anarchism vs Voluntaryism

Anarchism, when stripped of any economic preference, is the absence of oppressive forms of domination.  In this context, domination would be where a third party wilfully and intentionally controls or otherwise limits someone’s freedom to do as they choose.  In order for everyone to be free, we must each refrain from any notion of oppressing one another, or as Mikhail Bakunin phrased it:

“I am truly free only when all human beings, men and women, are equally free. The freedom of other men, far from negating or limiting my freedom, is, on the contrary, its necessary premise and confirmation.”

The key difference between the political theory of anarchism, and the ideology of voluntaryism, is that anarchism mitigates against structural coercion, whereas voluntaryism enables scope for it.  Examine these two statements:

1. [voluntaryist] We should each, acting individually, refrain from FORCING anything upon anyone else.

2. [anarchist] In order to establish a truly free society, we must each voluntarily choose to eschew the social, political, or economic domination of others, whilst forcibly opposing any such attempts at domination.

Ostensibly both those statements (more or less) seem to align with one another.  One could be forgiven for thinking that they are broadly equivalent.  They aren’t.

Statement 1 only advocates non-aggression.

Statement 2 advocates refraining from ANY APPROACH aimed at acquiring an oppressive form of dominance over others, and also advocates taking a forceful stand against those who seek to establish oppressive dominance… regardless of whether they are attempting to accomplish this via initiation of force or otherwise.

Therein lies the crucial difference.  Anarchists perceive any oppressive form of dominance to be undesirable no matter how it is ushered into existence.  Therefore, in order to maintain stable anarchy people either voluntarily acting individually, or voluntarily choosing to act in unison, would assertively move to crush any attempt to establish a state.  Assertively resisting passive or passive-aggressive initiatives aimed at giving rise to tyranny, is not in or of itself an oppressive act.

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