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Difference between Socialism and Anarchism

Socialism vs Anarchism

Socialism is a form of economy where the public owns and manages the resources of society while anarchism is a political ideology where individuals govern their own selves and freely group themselves to produce social wealth. While socialists and anarchists advocate equality of all individuals in order to achieve the common good of each individual, they differ in their approach in realizing the good of each individual. Those who support socialism claim that the common good can be attained through collective efforts. Anarchists, on the other hand, maintain that individuals must be free to develop their respective full potential and must also be free to have control of their own lives and do whatever they want to do. The freedom and equal opportunity must be enjoyed by all individuals regardless of race or class.

The socialists and anarchists also differ in their views of government. Socialists believe that the use of resources collectively owned by society for production of goods and services must be planned and controlled by a popularly elected council or state. They think that centralized economic planning will lead to optimal results. They also see the government as an instrument of justice for labor or the working class. Anarchists, on the contrary, find no use for a government. They believe that the government impedes growth and is meant to keep things as they are so that they will do everything to make government extinct and be succeeded by a society of free individuals who will govern their own selves and exercise their personal freedom without restraint. To the anarchists, rules imposed by a government transgress the rights of an individual to administer his own life. It causes the individual to be weak. A weak individual, according to anarchists, is vulnerable to oppression. Instead of a central authority espoused by socialists to get organized, anarchists support mutual consent between and among individuals.

In a socialist society, individuals can own properties but limited to properties that are personal in nature. A socialist, for instance, can own a television set but cannot own a factory that produces a television set. Anarchists, in contrast, can own everything they want without limits.

Socialism and anarchism, based on the differences presented above cannot co-exist because of their strategies to attain the common good of man and society. The success of socialism will cause the failure of anarchism and vice-versa.


1. Socialism is more of an economic system promoting collective ownership of properties to produce the goods and services of society while anarchism is more of a political ideology asserting that the freedom of the individual will allow him to attain the most in life.
2. Socialism believes in government while anarchism seeks to abolish government.
3. Socialists are only allowed to own personal properties and not properties utilized for production while anarchists can own anything they want without limits.
4. Socialism and anarchism are opposites and cannot co-exist.

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  1. I disagree with this analysis. In tracing back the traditions of both anarchism and socialism one will find that they have much in common and are not diametrically opposed as you state. Traditionally, both anarchists and socialists oppose capitalism, wage labor, private property, etc. It seems that your analysis only takes into account very recent developments within each respective movement: state socialism (Leninism/Stalinism) and anarcho-capitalism (extreme right-wing American libertarianism). These are not the traditional positions of either of these schools of thought. Many of the socialist predecessors, such as Proudhon, were also anarchist. Today you will even find those who consider themselves “social anarchists,” such as Noam Chomsky.

    • A really, really bad article. I think the author has no idea about the subject. (If he didn’t intentionally distort the truth, of course.) Maybe the article should be replaced by another one written by someone who knows what he writes about.

    • Josh, you literally don’t understand the first thing about any of the concepts you’re trying to pass yourself off as an authority on. Not surprising, considering you cite that disenegenuous, revisionist hack Chomsky.

      Anarchism is the absence of government, Socialism/Communism is the establishment of a centralized, totalitarian government that holds a monopoly over the means of productions, as well as education, media, ETC. They couldn’t be any more diametrically opposed. Period.

      • Depends what your looking at from an Anarchist’s perspective. An anarchist is a person who is opposed to governments, but that is where this article ends being credible. For instance, I personally am an anarcho-communist, and in this political ideology, the idea is not to allow individual rule and ownership but instead there is common ownership of production within the commune, which is essentually socialism except through common rule, not government rule.

        This article suffers from “All x thing is y type of thing”, in this case at least with anarchism it is “all anarchism is Anarcho-Capitalism”. As stated by Josh, Anarcho-Capitalism is a right wing variation of Anarchism, but not only is it a relatively new and small amount of the anarchist population, it is quite frequently ridiculed as not being anarchism by the socialist anarchists (for instance, An Anarchist FAQ was created because of this).

        I am not sure about the socialist side of things, but at least for anarchism, it hasn’t portrayed it as people should.

        • “For instance, I personally am an anarcho-communist”

          And that is where you cease to be credible.

          • Lol. These comments are golden.

            So many socialists and communists want so badly to be also anarchists, but they don’t realize that it just doesn’t work that way.

  2. I agree with the person above.

    ‘Anarchists, in contrast, can own everything they want without limits’ – This is not necessarily true, and different anarchist traditions have different philosophies of property. Many anarchists reject private property.

    Anarchism and socialism are, generally speaking, movements which bifurcated from a larger left movement. Both have largely the same goals and are not direct opposites. The opposite of anarchism and socialism is capitalism. The opposite of anarchism is also totalitarianism. Anarchism is only opposite to authoritarian socialism, but any socialist worth his/her salt is a democratic socialist, i.e. a real one.

    • Absolute bunk. You clearly don’t even understand what any of these concepts even mean.

      • Anarchism is and always has been opposed to private property, meaning that, no, a person cannot own “everything they want without limits”. The limit is what you are personally involved in and/or personally use- things like your home, your vehicle(s), land and buildings and tools you use either alone or cooperatively with others, etc.

        • There is no aversion to private property in Anarchism. That’s absolute bunk. You need a central state and laws to forbid provate property, which goes against the meaning of Anarchism and it’s ACTUAL greek origins.

    • I would say another point there would be that although some anarchists reject property without anyone in a position of power over any one else ie. no government you wouldn’t have a means of preventing others from getting whatever they want so you couldn’t truly be in anarchy without everyone being free to do whatever they please.

  3. There’s literally no excuse for writing a “what is” article about anarchism with less accuracy and nuance than the first two paragraphs of its Wikipedia entry.

    Socialism and anarchism are often interchangeable terms – indeed many anarchists also refer to the ideology as libertarian socialism. The potential differences are in the arenas covered.

    1. Socialism is primarily an economic approach emphasising social equality, but incorporates a variety of political/philosophical ideologies within it from social democratic tendencies, through Leninism to anarchism.

    2. Anarchism is primarily a philosophical approach emphasising free will and the abolition of imposed hierarchy, but incorporates within it a variety of economic/political ideologies from individualism, through mutualism to communism* (which has historically been the dominant strain, stemming from the time of the First International).

    *Key to understanding anarchist-communism in comparison to say, Marxist-communism is that for anarchists, the idea of a “transition” period of state control between capitalism and communism is thought to lead to new forms of tyranny.

    • It’s funny. You dismiss him as having a poor undertsanding of these concepts and compare him to a Wikipedia article, and then proveed to prattle off a complete misunderstanding and deliberate revising of these definitions and concepts so complete seperate from reality you may as well have cut/copied them from Wikipedia.

      Anarchism: The absence of a government or centralized state.

      Capitalism: Free and open exchange of goods or services between two or more parties.

      Socialism/Communism: Monopoly of the means of production by a centralized state.

      C’mon, it’s not difficult.

  4. This article is complete bullshit.

    Josh’s post is right.

  5. I don’t know who made this but it smacks of desperation: most people nowadays are aware that anarchism is the predominant form of revolutionary working class socialism in the 21st Century. Marxism, Leninism and parliamentary representation have been a bit of an unnecessary detour for the working class but I think we’re back on track now.

    • If anything “smacks of desperation”, it’s your weak attempt to conflate a stateless society with the de facto totalitarianism of socialism.

  6. Wow, that’s an extremely ignorant article. Ignorant of both socialism and anarchism. The abolition of private property was one of the main tenets of the thinking of Proudhon who was also the first person to call himself an anarchist. Ever heard the phrase “Property if theft”?

    The end goal of socialists, communists and anarchists is a stateless, classless society with the means of production ‘owned’ collectively. The differences between anarchists and others on the left is a matter of how we are to reach this goal.

    • You’re completely wrong, Welsh Andy, you clearly have no idea what any of these concepts even mean, For starters, Socialism/Communism are all about the establishment of a centralized totalitarian state which owns a monopoly over the means of production, nothing stateless/classless about either. Capitalism, on the other hand, is essential to Anarchism, being that it is the free and open exchange of goods and services between people. You cannot have Anarchism without Capitalism, because the only way to prevent Free Trade is through government force. You have to be a Useful Idiot to not see this.

      PS, Proudhon was a statist fool and his quote about property is amond the dumbest things ever uttered.

      • Capitalism is antithetical to organization and cooperation among the working class, which is the essential idea of Anarchism and the fundamental idea of all flavors of socialism.

        • Absolute crap. Capitalism is not anti-ethical to such, and Anarchism is the exact opposite of the forced collectivization you demand here.

      • man this is a big claim, saying ‘You cannot have Anarchism without Capitalism’. Is capitalism only about free trade between people. If there is only free trade we call it only saying free trade. But if there are; explotation, surplus value or wealth gap between people then we call it capitalism.

    • Proudhon went on to say that, for the working class, property is freedom.

  7. This was helpful to me because if 1. socialism is about economics, and 2. anarchy is about government (or lack thereof) that is an important distinction, again to me, clearly made. With apologies- I did not read the entire article, nor all the responzez. Thanks.

  8. I don’t believe this person knows what anarchism is and what socialism is

    • *doesn’t know what socialism and anarchism is

    • His definition of Socialism is wanting, but his summary of Anarchism is perfectly apt.

      It’s the comments from people like Josh, Rob, Welsh Andy ET AL that are completely off-base.

      • You are a reactionary imbecile, consistently spewing a-contextual and oversimplified vomit. You know almost nothing of anarchist theory beyond what was regurgitated by the likes of Rothbard and his ilk. Anarchism is a far richer ideology than a simple lack of government. It takes very little googling/duckduckgoing, and etc to figure this out. It is a complex and interesting social and political theory that I hate to see butchered by your lack of understanding in the comments. I’m not even an anarchist or a socialist, but it is infuriating to see misinformation actively and carelessly spread.

  9. Terrible article. If you don’t actually know about a subject, just make up whatever you imagine to be true. I guess this is the author’s philosophy. Really, do some research. You have the internet available.

  10. Anarchism is a political philosophy that advocates stateless societies often defined as self-governed voluntary institutions, but that several authors have defined as more specific institutions based on non-hierarchical free associations. Anarchism holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, or harmful.


    Socialism is a social and economic system characterised by social ownership and/or social control of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy, as well as a political theory and movement that aims at the establishment of such a system.

    If you want to simplify this

    Socialism: You have two cows, the “GOVERNMENT” takes one away from you and “GIVES” it to your neighbor.

    Anarchism: You have two cows, if you do not sell the milk at a fair price or give your neighbors all the milk they tell you to for free, they will kill you.

    …and just to throw this out there because someone will mention Russia

    Russian Communism: You have two cows, You take care of them, but the “government” “TAKES” “ALL” of the milk.

    Socialism is a way of governing the economy

    Anarchism is a pipe dream that believes that people can govern themselves without a government of any kind and nothing is against the law, because there are no laws to begin with. That everyone will just act good for goodness sake.

    The part that gives them some resemblance to each other is their aspect of community. They both think that the group should be taken care of the group instead of an outside governing body.
    however, their idea of the government itself and how they go about doing that is completely different.

    They are as different as night and day with only a few things in common. Just as night and day share Dawn and Dusk together.

    • Anarchism assumes that there is not generalized famine, which is a fair assumption in a post-Industrial Revolution world (See: The Conquest of Bread). Therefore if you have two cows and your neighbors have none, they should be okay with that because cows are largely luxury goods anyway (their products are disproportionately land- and labor-intensive and not particularly necessary other than that they taste good) and the local and regional federations should be able to make sure that everyone has enough to be healthy.

      • “Anarchists should be happy with a totalitarian state confiscating their property, because it allows me to delude myself that I’m altruistic.”


    • Let’s step away from labels shall we and define what we personally feel is them most just system. None of the labels have ever nor will ever be perfectly implemented so, to me they are all flawed.

      True capitalism, as proposed, included many aspects of a social responsibility by the owner class. By today’s implementation the social “responsibility” is largely ignored. There is no moral or ethical standards attached to the accumulation of wealth, at least in American capitalism as practiced today. The emphasis is on the bottom line and little else. Greed and power win the day

      True communism, as proposed, called for the ownership and distribution of wealth are to be shared by all. It’s admirable ideals were neither practical nor realistic and proved in practice the opposite of its goals. Greed and power rule. Again!

      We can give examples of all of of the different “isms” until we are blue in the face and not move an inch (mm for most people) towards a better world.

      I will try to illustrate just how flawed our thinking can get with a true story that I personally witnessed.

      At a Thanksgiving dinner, hosted by a couple, one Canadian, one American. A parent of one of the couple is curious about the concept of a co-0p. A parent of the other person in the couple explains:

      During the Great Depression many people, especially farmers could not afford seed and other products needed to make a living. At the same time individual farmers could not get a good price for what they produced. To combat this reality, they formed co-operatives, or co-ops, to gain better buying power and selling power. This was common in both the U.S. and Canada. A simple economic principle says that the more one buys, the cheaper they can barter to purchase said product and the more product one has to sell the better one can barter for a better price. (In most cases, there are no absolutes)

      The co-op make a charter or set of rules the members agree too on how to buy and sell in the best interest of all. We might call this a “constitution”. The people in the co-op elect members of what we might call the “government”. The end result is the people have a greater chance to prosper than they might on an individual basis. For many groups this concept worked and in still do work.

      Some might see this as some type of socialism and accept or reject it only on that basis.

      Back to the story:

      The first parent presents a confused look and asks: “Yes, but who gets rich”!!?

      Some might call that capitalism and accept or reject that purely on that basis

      Before you judge, there were 8 people at the table, 4 Canadians, 3 Americans and 1 Brit! There were 4 entrepreneurs and 4 wage earners. Having been one of the 8, you would be wasting your time trying to guess the political, religious, racial, income tax brackets or “ism” of choice of the group. It was a mix of all of the above.

      My point? There was no consensus, neither is wrong or evil, we in most western countries live along the spectrum of social democracy or mixed economy. For me the question is not so much the “isms” of choice but the end result we wish to accomplish with the choices we make.

  11. reminder: all anarchists are socialists, but not a socialists are anarchists.

    • Remember: Anarchism (stateless society) is completely and inherently contradictory to socialism (forced collectivization under a totalitarian state).

      • ThatSkepticGuy, this article is awful. You’ve exposed yourself as a tool. Socialism and anarchism are not directly related and at the same time perfectly compatible theories. You’re probably an astro-turfing and you have no business criticizing anyone else’s opinions.

        You think you’re an anarchist but what you actually are is jobless FOX News parasite/slave of a centrally planned feudal economy. You’ve mistaken Soviet style corporate/oligarch control of the USA for freedom. But besides that you’re a f’ing genius.

        Anarchy is simply the LACK of hierARCHY, there is no such thing a stateless society. In fact the “state” is the only thing that makes society possible. Your own home is a form of state if it has more than one person living in it. The state is what WE make it. WE have failed. I’m sure YOU blame your politicians for lying to you through their media.

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