Anti-statism is any approach to social, economic or political philosophy that rejects statism. An anti-statist is one who opposes intervention by the state into personal, social and economic affairs. In anarchism, this is characterized by a complete rejection of all involuntary hierarchical rulership.
Anti-statism is present in a variety of greatly differing positions and encompasses an array of diametric concepts and practices. Anti-statists differ greatly according to the beliefs they hold in addition to anti-statism as significant difficulty in determining whether a thinker or philosophy is anti-statist is the problem of defining the state itself.
Terminology has changed over time and past writers often used the word state in a different sense than we use it today. Anarchist Mikhail Bakunin used the term simply to mean a governing organization while other writers used the term state to mean any lawmaking or law enforcement agency. Revolutionary socialist Karl Marx defined the state as the institution used by the ruling class of a country to maintain the conditions of its rule. According to liberal Max Weber, the state is an organization with an effective legal monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force in a particular geographic area.
Anti-statism is a common element in anarchist and libertarian political philosophy. Anarchism is defined by its principle aim of abolishing the state and its institutions. According to anarchist doctrine, the state is a tool of domination and coercion that is illegitimate regardless of political tendencies. On the other hand, libertarianism seeks to maximize liberty and political freedom as its core principles. This may include either a complete or partial opposition to state power, with the goal of abolishing or restricting the state.
Communist approaches to anti-statism centre on the relationship between political rule and class struggle. Karl Marx defined the state as the institution used by the ruling class of a country to maintain the conditions of its rule. To this extent, the ultimate goal of communist society was theorized as both stateless and classless.
Political movements may adopt anti-statist principles for other reasons such as aesthetic, ideological or religious beliefs, or as a result of social or political marginalization. Examples of this may include resistance movements under military occupation or a conflicting regime.
In egoist philosophy, self-interest is held as the grounding principle of human action, morality or both. Max Stirner proposes that most commonly accepted social institutions such as the notion of state, morality and property rights are mere illusions or ghosts in the mind. In this way, noncompliance to government authority is always justified.