[ dictionary: glossary ]


anarchy: A theoretical social state in which there is no governing person or body of persons, but each individual has absolute liberty (without implication of disorder).



     1. a. Absence of government; a state of lawlessness due to the absence or inefficiency of the supreme power; political disorder.
   1539 TAVERNER Erasm. Prov. (1552) 43 This unleful lyberty or lycence of the multytude is called an Anarchie. 1605 BACON Adv. Learn. II. xxiii. 36 (1873) 241 Pompey..made it his cast the state into an absolute anarchy and confusion. 1664 H. MORE Myst. Iniq. 219 A Polity without an Head..would not be a Polity, but Anarchy.
1796 BURKE Corr. IV. 389 Except in cases of direct war, whenever government abandons law, it proclaims anarchy.
1840 CARLYLE Heroes (1858) 277 Without sovereigns, true sovereigns, temporal and spiritual, I see nothing possible but an anarchy; the hatefullest of things.
1878 LECKY Eng. in 18th C. I. i. 12 William threatened at once to retire to Holland and leave the country to anarchy.


     1 b. A theoretical social state in which there is no governing person or body of persons, but each individual has absolute liberty (without implication of disorder).
  1850 Eclectic Rev. XCI. 167 Confessions of an Anarchist... Proudhon proceeds..that ‘all men are equal and free. Society is, therefore, by nature and destination, autonomic..there is no government’... We see nothing a-head that warrants us in supposing that man is about to be regenerated; and, for the present, must pronounce anarchy to be a delightful dream!
1884 RAE Contemp. Socialism vii. 281 This idea of a ‘genial anarchy’..has always been the favourite social remedy of the Russian revolutionary party. 1889 W. DONISTHORPE Individualism 282 Scientific anarchy is..the end towards which society is moving. 1892 Daily News 27 Apr. 5/8 Anarchy means the placing in common of all this world's riches to allow each to consume according to his needs. Anarchy is a great family where each will be protected by all and will take whatever he requires.


    2. transf. Absence or non-recognition of authority and order in any sphere.    a. gen.
  1667 MILTON P.L. x. 283 The waste Wide Anarchie of Chaos. 1821 BYRON Sardan. I. ii. (1868) 356 The satraps uncontroll'd, the gods unworshipped, And all things in the anarchy of sloth. 1831 BREWSTER Newton (1855) II. xix. 205 Some of the provincial mints were in a state of anarchy. 1959 Daily Tel. 23 Feb. 10/5 The spirit of anarchy today current in the visual arts. Ibid., A form of emotional anarchy even more destructive of talent than the slovenly disregard of technique.

     2 b. Non-recognition of moral law; moral disorder.
  1656 COWLEY Chronicle ix, Thousand worse Passions then possest The Inter-regnum of my Breast. Bless me from such an Anarchy! 1713 STEELE Englishm. No. 7. 44 The Licentious are in a State of barbarous Anarchy. 1875 HAMERTON Intell. Life VI. ii. 203 A moral anarchy difficult to conceive.

     2 c. Unsettledness or conflict of opinion.
  a1661 FULLER in Webster, There being anarchy, as I may term it, in authors and their reckoning of years. 1719 YOUNG Revenge IV. i, No more I'll bear this battle of the mind, This inward anarchy. 1754 CHESTERFIELD in Boswell Johnson (1816) I. 237 Our language is, at present, in a state of anarchy. 1842 W. GROVE Corr. Phys. Forces 3 An anarchy of thought,{em}a perpetuity of mental revolutions.




[1] Oxford English Dictionary