Market Anarchism

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"Market Anarchism is the doctrine that the legislative, adjudicative, and protective functions unjustly and inefficiently monopolised by the coercive State should be entirely turned over to the voluntary, consensual forces of market society.

The first explicit defender of Market Anarchism was the 19th-century economist and social theorist Gustave de Molinari. The idea was taken up by the individualist anarchists, particularly those associated with Benjamin Tucker's journal Liberty. More recently, Market Anarchism has been revived by a number of thinkers in the libertarian movement. The terms “anarcho-capitalism” and “voluntary socialism” have both been associated with the Market Anarchist tradition." (


1. Charles Johnson:

"Market anarchists believe in market exchange, not in economic privilege. They believe in free markets, not in capitalism. What makes them anarchists is their belief in a fully free and consensual society — a society in which order is achieved not through legal force or political government, but through free agreements and voluntary cooperation on a basis of equality. What makes them market anarchists is their recognition of free market exchange as a vital medium for peacefully anarchic social order. But the markets they envision are not like the privilege-riddled “markets” we see around us today. Markets laboring under government and capitalism are pervaded by persistent poverty, ecological destruction, radical inequalities of wealth, and concentrated power in the hands of corporations, bosses, and landlords. The consensus view is that exploitation — whether of human beings or of nature — is simply the natural result of markets left unleashed. The consensus view holds that private property, competitive pressure, and the profit motive must — whether for good or for ill — inevitably lead to capitalistic wage-labor, to the concentration of wealth and social power in the hands of a select class, or to business practices based on growth at all costs and the devil take the hindmost.

Market anarchists dissent. They argue that economic privilege is a real and pervasive social problem, but that the problem is not a problem of private property, competition, or profits per se. It is not a problem of the market form but of markets deformed — deformed by the long shadow of historical injustices and the ongoing, continuous exercise of legal privilege on behalf of capital. The market anarchist tradition is radically pro-market and anti-capitalist — reflecting its consistent concern with the deeply political character of corporate power, the dependence of economic elites on the tolerance or active support of the state, the permeable barriers between political and economic elites, and the cultural embeddedness of hierarchies established and maintained by state-perpetrated and state-sanctioned violence.' (

2. A critique of the concept by Derek Ryan Strong:

"Despite accepting the desirability of markets, I do not consider myself a market anarchist. While I do consider myself a mutualist anarchist, I do not overemphasize markets. As a result I have problems with the term "market anarchist," although there is not much philosophical difference between myself and self-proclaimed market anarchists. This is primarily an issue of rhetoric.

Firstly, to identify as market anarchist places undue emphasis on the economic aspects of life at the expense of broader social concerns. I want a market economy (at least partially), but I do not want a market society. Secondly, why should we emphasize market production at the expense of, say, household or peer production? Are these not equally as important and liberating? Thirdly, the term "market" should not be used loosely to mean all voluntary actions. The market connotes exchange and buying and selling specifically. Words (and ideas) have meaning and to envision or encompass all of economic or social life in the term "market" is degrading to actual and potential human existence." (

More Information

Book: Markets Not Capitalism. Charles Johnson and Gary Chartier. Autonomedia, 2011

  1. The Molinari Institute, our parent organization, publishes and links to a large amount of online resources on market anarchism at
  2. Center for a Stateless Society