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The latter is now used to denote those opportunist consumers who are, according to The Sun, "anarchists", despite not having the slightest idea of who Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was. He was the first self-declared anarchist, who in 1840, in What Is Property, defined anarchy as "the absence of a master, of a sovereign". Later, in The General Idea Of The Revolution (1851), he urged a "society without authority".
"I am not an agent of discord. Man's government of his fellow man, no matter the name under which it lurks, is oppression: society's highest perfection lies in the marriage of order and anarchy." Similarly, Mikhail Bakunin answered the criticism that getting rid of leaders would result in the law of the jungle: "Do you want to make it impossible for anyone to oppress his fellow man? Then make sure that no one shall possess power."
I have sympathies with the hooded kids on the streets of our cities, if only because they're among the most neglected, ridiculed and dismissed people in Britain. I don't sympathise when they're breaking into my house. I don't sympathise when they're setting fire to local shops, when they're mugging and intimidating.
But when I see the TV shots of them in Manchester city centre, breaking into the Arndale Centre – a truly Debordian Palace of Consumerism – stealing shoes and tracksuits, I find it hard to be overly critical. These are kids brought up in an age of buy and sell. Labels, logos, status, advertising. This is the world we've given them; a world they're throwing back at us.
Anarchy is not disorder. Anarchy is a state that is arrived at through the philosophy of anarchism. Mutual aid. Without rulers. Living together. Working things out together. David Cameron returned from his holiday in Italy this week and stood outside Downing Street, declaring to the media that the rioting was "criminality, pure and simple". More lazy semantics, more meaningless shorthand. "Criminal" isn't an explanation, it's a word that begs an explanation. Yes, they committed a crime. What was the crime? What was the reason for the crime?