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+4 votes
by (6.1k points)

3 Answers

+4 votes
From a short historical perspective in the US (dating from the mid-80s), the term "anti-authoritarian" has been at various times -- depending on who was using it as a self-description -- a synonym for anarchist and at others a euphemism for maoist. Starting in the mid-90s it became almost exclusively the latter. "Anti-authoritarian" is not used by people who are afraid of the A word. It is now almost always used by people who reject the A word.

While it might be understandable that many anarchists would be uncomfortable with certain tendencies that exist within anarchism, merely using a vague euphemism does nothing to challenge them or explain why they need challenging. It's more honest to say "but I'm not that kind of anarchist" than to try to deflect attention from your actual perspectives.
by (550 points)
Mao was an anti-authoritarian? Isn't that ironic in an Alanis Morissette sense of the term?
+1 vote
I don't think it is. In addition to the things that Lawrence has already put forward (that modern users of the term tend to not be anarchists, and often, authoritarian), it is sometimes used to talk about projects that are not exclusively Anarchist, but are organized along anarchist lines.

This is sometimes because people are afraid to use the a word, but sometimes it reflects a project in which some participants don't feel an affinity towards anarchism. In my own life I have used it to refer to things that are not explicitly Anarchist, but are anarchist, when talking to people who don't already understand the differentiation and I don't have the time or energy to explain that there are black flag waving Anarchists, and that there are also lots of things organized in ana anarchist fashion that would not call themselves such. It is not a case of my not being out as an anarchist, but rather a shorthand.

This does admittedly present a problem when Maoists, progressives, Trots and the like are also using the term, which is why I try to both be explicit about my own politics and to take the time to explain the difference between big- and little-a words.
by (22.1k points)
–2 votes
The word "anarchy" is a word most people relate to the condition of chaos, lawlessness, and instability.  Of course that could be an example of anarchy but it also could be very systematic and functional society that operates laterally and without the necessity of money.

Anti-authoritarian perhaps gives a clearer picture of what anarchy really refers to.  Add anti-capitalism and you are darn close by my understanding.  If more people thought of anarchy in those terms more people could connect more with anarchy.

(Edited to remove reference to the song "Imagine")
by (2.0k points)
edited by