Friday, June 8, 2012

State vs. Government

When I talk about anarchism, I mean it as opposition to the State: that is, the institution which claims sole authority to violence in a geographic territory. Strictly speaking, I do not oppose government. Now, the terms "State" and "government" are generally interchangeable in English, and I usually follow that convention. But the word "government" to me evokes the sense of "maintaining function and control". And it's certainly true that humans want control over their environment, both physical and social (that they can rarely have it is beside the point). The confusion comes in the assumption that a State is required for government, and that any society without a State is without government. Two hundred years of libertarian political theory and a handful of historical examples put the lie to this. Humans are able to govern their affairs quite efficiently without the continual threat of violence. Violence is, of course, a possibility in many everyday situations, but that's certainly no less a fact in a Statist society than in a Stateless one. Simply put, State is not necessarily government, and government is not necessarily State.