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Anti-authoritarianism is opposition to authoritarianism, which is defined as a "a form of social organisation characterised by submission to authority", "favoring complete obedience or subjection to authority as opposed to individual freedom" and to authoritarian government. Anti-authoritarians usually believe in full equality before the law and strong civil liberties. Sometimes the term is used interchangeably with anarchism, an ideology which entails opposing authority or hierarchical organization in the conduct of human relations, including, but not limited to, the state system.
Views and practice
Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds opinions should be formed on the basis of logic, reason, and empiricism, rather than authority, tradition, or other dogmas. The cognitive application of freethought is known as "freethinking", and practitioners of freethought are known as "freethinkers".
Argument from authority (Latin: argumentum ab auctoritate) is a common form of argument which leads to a logical fallacy when misused. In informal reasoning, the appeal to authority is a form of argument attempting to establish a statistical syllogism. The appeal to authority relies on an argument of the form:
- A is an authority on a particular topic
- A says something about that topic
- A is probably correct
Fallacious examples of using the appeal include any appeal to authority used in the context of logical reasoning, and appealing to the position of an authority or authorities to dismiss evidence, as, while authorities can be correct in judgments related to their area of expertise more often than laypersons, they can still come to the wrong judgments through error, bias, dishonesty, or falling prey to groupthink. Thus, the appeal to authority is not a generally reliable argument for establishing facts. Influential anarchist Mikhail Bakunin thought that "Does it follow that I reject all authority? Far from me such a thought. In the matter of boots, I refer to the authority of the bootmaker; concerning houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of the architect or the engineer. For such or such special knowledge I apply to such or such a savant. But I allow neither the bootmaker nor the architect nor savant to impose his authority upon me. I listen to them freely and with all the respect merited by their intelligence, their character, their knowledge, reserving always my incontestable right of criticism and censure. I do not content myself with consulting a single authority in any special branch; I consult several; I compare their opinions, and choose that which seems to me the soundest. But I recognise no infallible authority, even in special questions; consequently, whatever respect I may have for the honesty and the sincerity of such or such individual, I have no absolute faith in any person." He saw that "Therefore there is no fixed and constant authority, but a continual exchange of mutual, temporary, and, above all, voluntary authority and subbordination. This same reason forbids me, then, to recognise a fixed, constant and universal authority, because there is no universal man, no man capable of grasping in all that wealth of detail, without which the application of science to life is impossible, all the sciences, all the branches of social life."
After World War II there was a strong sense of anti-authoritarianism based on anti-fascism in Europe. This was attributed to the active resistance from occupation and to fears arising from the development of superpowers. Anti-authoritarianism has also been associated with countercultural and bohemian movements. In the 1950s the Beat Generation "were politically radical, and to some degree their anti-authoritarian attitudes were taken up by activists in the 1960s.". The hippie and larger counterculture movements of the 1960s carried out a way of life and activism which was ideally carried through anti-authoritarian and non-violent means; thus it was observed that "The way of the hippie is antithetical to all repressive hierarchical power structures since they are adverse to the hippie goals of peace, love and freedom... Hippies don't impose their beliefs on others. Instead, hippies seek to change the world through reason and by living what they believe." In the 1970s anti-authoritarianism became associated with the punk subculture.
Critical psychologist and book author Bruce E. Levine argues that "many natural anti-authoritarians are now psychopathologized and medicated before they achieve political consciousness of society’s most oppressive authorities. He adds that "There are anti-authoritarians who use psychiatric drugs to help them function, but they often reject psychiatric authorities’ explanations for why they have difficulty functioning. So, for example, they may take Adderall (an amphetamine prescribed for ADHD), but they know that their attentional problem is not a result of a biochemical brain imbalance but rather caused by a boring job."
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- "anti-authoritarian" at dictionary.com
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- "Anarchists do reject the state, as we will see. But to claim that this central aspect of anarchism is definitive is to sell anarchism short."Anarchism and Authority: A Philosophical Introduction to Classical Anarchism by Paul McLaughlin. AshGate. 2007. pg. 28
- "IAF principles". International of Anarchist Federations. Archived from the original on 5 January 2012. "The IAF - IFA fights for : the abolition of all forms of authority whether economical, political, social, religious, cultural or sexual."
- "Authority is defined in terms of the right to exercise social control (as explored in the "sociology of power") and the correlative duty to obey (as explored in the "philosophy of practical reason"). Anarchism is distinguished, philosophically, by its scepticism towards such moral relations-by its questioning of the claims made for such normative power- and, practically, by its challenge to those "authoritative" powers which cannot justify their claims and which are therefore deemed illegitimate or without moral foundation."Anarchism and Authority: A Philosophical Introduction to Classical Anarchism by Paul McLaughlin. AshGate. 2007. pg. 1
- "Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations." Emma Goldman. "What it Really Stands for Anarchy" in Anarchism and Other Essays.
- Individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker defined anarchism as opposition to authority as follows "They found that they must turn either to the right or to the left, — follow either the path of Authority or the path of Liberty. Marx went one way; Warren and Proudhon the other. Thus were born State Socialism and Anarchism ... Authority, takes many shapes, but, broadly speaking, her enemies divide themselves into three classes: first, those who abhor her both as a means and as an end of progress, opposing her openly, avowedly, sincerely, consistently, universally; second, those who profess to believe in her as a means of progress, but who accept her only so far as they think she will subserve their own selfish interests, denying her and her blessings to the rest of the world; third, those who distrust her as a means of progress, believing in her only as an end to be obtained by first trampling upon, violating, and outraging her. These three phases of opposition to Liberty are met in almost every sphere of thought and human activity. Good representatives of the first are seen in the Catholic Church and the Russian autocracy; of the second, in the Protestant Church and the Manchester school of politics and political economy; of the third, in the atheism of Gambetta and the socialism of Karl Marx." Benjamin Tucker. Individual Liberty.
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- Anarchist historian George Woodcock report of Mikhail Bakunin's anti-authoritarianism and shows opposition to both state and non-state forms of authority as follows: "All anarchists deny authority; many of them fight against it." (pg. 9) ... Bakunin did not convert the League's central committee to his full program, but he did persuade them to accept a remarkably radical recommendation to the Berne Congress of September 1868, demanding economic equality and implicitly attacking authority in both Church and State."
- Brown, L. Susan (2002). "Anarchism as a Political Philosophy of Existential Individualism: Implications for Feminism". The Politics of Individualism: Liberalism, Liberal Feminism and Anarchism. Black Rose Books Ltd. Publishing. p. 106.
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- "What is Authority?" by Mikhail Bakunin
- Cox, David (2005). Sign Wars: The Culture Jammers Strike Back!. LedaTape Organisation. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-9807701-5-5. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
- "The American Novel" at PBS website
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- McLaughlin, Paul (2007). Anarchism and Authority. Aldershot: Ashgate. p. 10. ISBN 0-7546-6196-2.
- "Would We Have Drugged Up Einstein? How Anti-Authoritarianism Is Deemed a Mental Health Problem" by Bruce E. Levine