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Individualist anarchism

Individualist anarchism also first appeared in the 19th century and is located on the libertarian right of the political spectrum since it takes classical liberalism to an extreme end point.

One strand of individualist anarchism emerged in the USA, represented by Josiah Warren (1798-1874), Henry Thoreau (1817-62) and Benjamin Tucker (1854-1939). These individualist anarchists view society as simply a loose grouping of separate autonomous rational individuals. To protect this personal autonomy, the state (because it has the power to impose taxes, conscription and laws) has to be abolished. Freed from such restrictions, individuals will behave rationally, working together voluntarily where necessary to settle disagreements through reason rather than conflict. Such an approach would establish natural order and a stable harmonious society.

The other more assertive and egotistical strand of individualist anarchism emerged in 19th century Europe and is best represented by Max Stirner (1806-56) and his concept of egoism. According to Stirner, humans are driven by egoism because they are self-interested, lack morality and want total personal autonomy. Consequently, individuals should act as they see fit without any restrictions being imposed on them. Nihilists, such as Sergei Nechaev (1847-82), are the most extreme egoists and push this stark individualism to its limit by arguing that humans are cut off from both morality and society. Egoism and nihilism represent a romanticised form of individualism based on will, emotion and the expression of unique individuality.

The most recent manifestation of individualist anarchism, anarcho-capitalism, appeared in the USA in the 1970s and 1980s, due to growing criticism in the west of government regulation of capitalism and a revival of interest in free market economics. Anarcho-capitalism has been championed by US economists Murray Rothbard (1926-95) and David Friedman (1945-) and calls for a stateless society with a completely unregulated free market capitalist economy.

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