Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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core definition

Anarchy is a perspective that ultimately denies the necessity for leadership and structured government.

explanatory context

Essentially, anarchy implies the removal of all power structures and advocates individual freedom.


Anarchy has been linked with the idea of disorder, chaos and even terror. There are a number of reasons for this. It is presupposed that a system lacking governement and power structures will not be able to exercise restraint over the members and (given a presupposition about) selfishness will ensure arbitrariness and chaos. The link with terror is one that is rooted in the use of terror tactics by anarchists around 1900. ‘Terrorism’ is popularly seen as anarchistic (because of its apparent arbitrariness) despite the fact that few terrorists are at all motivated by anarchistic ideas nor do anarchists undertake terrorist activities.


Anarchist has, in the past, frequently been a term applied by capitalists to workers who organise to secure reasonable wages or work conditions. The ‘robber barons’ and other unscrupulous mine owners and so on in the USA at the turn of the 19th century referred to any organised labour as anarchists.


In the development of scientific knowledge, anarchy, refers to a view that suggests scientific knowledge does not grow in any systematic or ordered way. Indeed, this view suggests that not only do scientific advances occur by accident, that such advances are merely arbitrary, are socially construed and are in no way self-evident or absolute advances in scientific knowledge. For various reasons (political, accidental and social) certain scientific theories become established in the scientific community and take on a credible dimension, which has nothing to do with any contribution to the ‘progress’ of scientific knowledge. A major exponent of this thesis is Paul Feyerabend.

analytical review

Raynet Sociology Glossary (undated) defines anarchistic as:

The position that any organized form of control (usually governmental) is unnecessary and undesirable. With the abolition of the organized forms of control, i.e., the state, it is held that the evils of human life will disappear. This position is derived from the belief that human nature is inherently good. Generally, anarchistic connotes "without rules."

associated issues


related areas

See also




Raynet Sociology Glossary, undated, available at, no longer available 20 December 2016.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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