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Anarchism as a philosophy lends itself to many ideas. There is no one way to be an anarchist. Classical anarchist traditions include mutualism, which is situated at the nexus of individual and collectivist thought; More recent, more post-modern schools of thought, including anarcha-feminism, Black anarchism, and queer anarchism, have found firm footing in today’s anarchist communities. This question tries to discover the central theme among all forms of anarchism. Questions that appear in the CAT VARC section require heavy-duty critical thinking to crack them open. The best way to master the art of critical thinking is by Reading a variety of High-Quality stuff. Read tons of articles from Bharath's Curated Reading List during your CAT Preparation to give your VARC score the wings of fire.

The passage below is accompanied by a set of questions. Choose the best answer to each question.

The word ‘anarchy’ comes from the Greek anarkhia, meaning contrary to authority or without a ruler, and was used in a derogatory sense until 1840, when it was adopted by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon to describe his political and social ideology. Proudhon argued that organization without government was both possible and desirable. In the evolution of political ideas, anarchism can be seen as an ultimate projection of both liberalism and socialism, and the differing strands of anarchist thought can be related to their emphasis on one or the other of these. 

Historically, anarchism arose not only as an explanation of the gulf between the rich and the poor in any community, and of the reason why the poor have been obliged to fight for their share of a common inheritance, but as a radical answer to the question ‘What went wrong?’ that followed the ultimate outcome of the French Revolution. It had ended not only with a reign of terror and the emergence of a newly rich ruling caste, but with a new adored emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, strutting through his conquered territories.

The anarchists and their precursors were unique on the political Left in affirming that workers and peasants, grasping the chance that arose to bring an end to centuries of exploitation and tyranny, were inevitably betrayed by the new class of politicians, whose first priority was to re-establish a centralized state power. After every revolutionary uprising, usually won at a heavy cost for ordinary populations, the new rulers had no hesitation in applying violence and terror, a secret police, and a professional army to maintain their control.

For anarchists the state itself is the enemy, and they have applied the same interpretation to the outcome of every revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries. This is not merely because every state keeps a watchful and sometimes punitive eye on its dissidents, but because every state protects the privileges of the powerful.

The mainstream of anarchist propaganda for more than a century has been anarchist-communism, which argues that property in land, natural resources, and the means of production should be held in mutual control by local communities, federating for innumerable joint purposes with other communes. It differs from state socialism in opposing the concept of any central authority. Some anarchists prefer to distinguish between anarchist-communism and collectivist anarchism in order to stress the obviously desirable freedom of an individual or family to possess the resources needed for living, while not implying the right to own the resources needed by others. . . . 

There are, unsurprisingly, several traditions of individualist anarchism, one of them deriving from the ‘conscious egoism’ of the German writer Max Stirner (1806–56), and another from a remarkable series of 19th-century American figures who argued that in protecting our own autonomy and associating with others for common advantages, we are promoting the good of all. These thinkers differed from free-market liberals in their absolute mistrust of American capitalism, and in their emphasis on mutualism. 

Question 3 : According to the passage, what is the one idea that is common to all forms of anarchism?

  1. There is no idea common to all forms of anarchism; that is why it is anarchic.
  2. They all focus on the primacy of the power of the individual.
  3. They all derive from the work of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.
  4. They are all opposed to the centralisation of power in the state.

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Explanatory Answer

The passage clearly states that “for anarchists the state itself is the enemy and they have applied the same interpretation to the outcome of every revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries.”.

Note that option B is incorrect because it talks of the ‘primacy’ of the individual while anarchism puts emphasis on mutualism.

The question is "According to the passage, what is the one idea that is common to all forms of anarchism?"

Hence, the answer is, "They are all opposed to the centralisation of power in the state."

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