Anarchy Is Chaos

Evey: All this riot and uproar, V... is this Anarchy? Is this the Land of Do-As-You-Please?
V: No. This is only the land of take-what-you-want. Anarchy means 'without leaders', not 'without order'. With anarchy comes an age of ordnung, of true order, which is to say voluntary order... this age of ordnung will begin when the mad and incoherent cycle of verwirrung that these bulletins reveal has run its course... This is not anarchy, Evey. This is chaos.

A virtually ubiquitous trope, both in fiction and Real Life, is the misconception that anarchists have no beliefs, that anarchy is chaos. While anarchy and chaos are not mutually exclusive (chaos is anarchic, although it often devolves into despotism, but anarchy is not necessarily chaotic) such an un-mindset is properly called nihilism, the belief in nothing. However, the actual definition of Anarchism is the belief that rulership should not exist (as indicated in its Greek roots, an- [no] -arkhos [ruler]). There is much division on the extent and nature of rulership, and what it means. Regardless of this division, in fiction, Anarchists (of any stripe) are often accused of favoring a Hobbesian-style war of all against all.

This trope can be used as an anti-anarchism propaganda tool when played together with Chaos Is Evil.

This trope is rare/more likely to be averted in Spanish works since a substantial minority of the population formed a highly regarded anarchist system during the Spanish Civil War. Some of them are still living and anarchist organizations are slightly more mainstream than in most countries. They are still a political minority, though.

In Real Life, this trope is usually averted. Some proponents of anarchy are actually quite high on the "idealistic" side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism; they genuinely believe that humans are good, and so a society with no form of higher authority or official rules will become utopia, as all people will be able to communicate with and understand each other as individuals and will choose to be good. Most other anarchists are more cynical, and believe that anarchy is desirable because Humans Are Flawed - giving them power, these anarchists contend, simply makes matters more chaotic, and will inevitably lead to power abuse. This was the position of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (the first person to declare himself an anarchist, incidentally), who penned the phrase "Anarchy Is Order." This is, by the way, the meaning of the circle A symbol you may have seen graffiti'd here and there (it's actually an "A" inside an "O"). More information can be found in our Useful Notes on anarchism.

In short, the anarchist who promotes anarchy while actually believing that this will result in the natural savage instincts of humanity leading to a society where the weak are fodder for the strong, and yet continues to do so because they believe that either they will be among the "strong", or else such a dire scenario is still better than the existent system, or that the sooner humanity goes extinct the better off it will be — is pretty much a creation of media. Basically, a person who actually thinks anarchy will lead to chaos will probably not become an anarchist in the first place (unless that person is a Misanthrope Supreme).


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  • There's a pizza commercial for one of those "already prepared ready-to-go" pizzas where a guy walks in and asks for a pepperoni pizza and the girl behind the counter turns around, grabs one, and hands it to him. He says something like "No ordering? No waiting? There's no rules!" and begins taking his clothes off. A voice in the background yells "Put your shirt back on!", which he does, still yelling excitedly, ''There's one rule!"

  • Averted in Psycho-Pass: in Episode 19, Professor Saiga asks Kougami what the definition of anarchy is, and Kougami replies that it is a denial of governing and authority but is intrinsically different from confusion and disorder. He then reaches the logical conclusion that this means that Makishima cannot, by definition, be an anarchist because even though his desire to overthrow the Sibyl System is genuine, he is bent on causing violence and death wherever he goes and revels in it.

    Comic Books 
  • As pointed out in the page quote, V for Vendetta is actually a subversion or inversion, pointing out that "mindless chaos" and "anarchy as a social system" are not, in fact, the same thing. Unfortunately, the peoples' reactions at the end of the comic (and those of many readers as well) demonstrate that not everyone realizes this.
  • Averted with the DC Comics character Anarky, who in one storyline is horrified to the point he gives up his plan when he is presented with reasonable evidence that anarchy will lead to chaos and will ultimately resurrect the very governments he is trying to oppose.
  • Carnage is described as an anarchist due to his love of chaos, but he's more of a psychopathic nihilist.
  • The Invisibles is devoted to averting this trope.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The Man Who Was Thursday: The anarchist organization in the book takes this position. It's pointed out that there's a difference between the revolutionary who throws a bomb to kill a king, and the "anarchist" who throws a bomb to kill anybody. However, all of them turned out not to be anarchists in the end.
  • As far back as the Book of Judges in The Bible, we have this quote: "In those days Israel had no king. Everyone did as he pleased."
  • The Larry Niven story Cloak of Anarchy posits "anarchy parks" with just one rule: no violence (making them the anarcho-pacifist sort of anarchy). Any time a fight starts (or looks like it might start), floating robots stun all participants, who are then separated. They wake up a few hours later, and it's mentioned that the threat of losing part of your holiday is enough to keep most people in line. Then someone figures out how to make the robots break down, so "just one rule" (anarcho-pacifism) becomes "no rules", which pretty much fits the "chaos" definition. It's not pretty.
  • The science fiction novella Anarchaos by Donald E. Westlake plays this trope utterly straight, as the title would imply. He posits a world entirely colonized by anarchists, which breaks down within a single generation into, well, chaos (in the story the world is named Anarchaos by the anarchists themselves, which seems unlikely). Overall it comes off as Westlake having a dislike of anarchism that he's trying to get out with an Author Tract, but despite that it's a good story.
  • Averted or even inverted in The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. Much of the plot revolves around Shevek (the main character) fleeing his anarchist people because they've become too unchaotic, with an unofficial government firmly in charge.
  • Averted in Eric Frank Russell's short story "...And Then There Were None". In it, an anarchic-libertarian community of Gands (they derive their name from Mahatma Gandhi) is pretty orderly, and also utterly pacifistic-they employ passive resistance when the Earth military tries to coerce them.
  • Also averted or inverted in The Illuminatus! Trilogy.
  • In The Pride Of Parahumans, Vesta was intended as a peaceful anarchy after independence, but things broke down as the life support infrastructure began to fail and homicide rates skyrocketed until the Protectors' Guilds restored order. Making it more like feudalism.
  • Averted in S. Andrew Swann's Hostile Takeover (Swann) trilogy, set on Bakunin, a world of anarcho-socialists (although the hero is more of an anarcho-capitalist) under threat by the imperialistic Confederation.

    Live Action Television 
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation had the episode "Legacy" featuring the planet Turkana IV, which was the home of a failed Federation colony that had descended into civil war and then lawlessness of the kind generally associated with anarchy. This being Tasha Yar's home world, from which she'd escaped as a teenager, her sister Ishara Yar helped the crew of the Enterprise retrieve two Federation officers whose escape pod had crashed in the ruins of the colony. While things were no longer so chaotic as Tasha had previously described them, Ishara's explanation for this was that the failing government had adopted the two largest political factions known as the Alliance and the Coalition as its emergency police forces, which backfired spectacularly, leaving them fighting over power. From a certain point of view, their violent lives in these two factions' underground strongholds were a slight improvement over the utter lawlessness that prevailed in Tasha's time, when rape gangs roamed the ruins of the city preying on any victims they could find.

  • The narrator of the Sex Pistols' most famous hit, "Anarchy in the U.K.", appears to hold no political affiliations, and desires nothing more than a chance to channel his baseless anger into mindless violence.
    I am an anarchist
    Don't know what I want
    But I know how to get it
    I wanna destroy passersby
    Is this the M.P.L.A?
    Or is this the U.D.A.?
    Or is this the I.R.A.?
    I thought it was the U.K.!
  • Usually averted by actual anarchist musicians, including Dead Kennedys, Wolves in the Throne Room, Skagos, Panopticon, Motörhead, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. (See Political Ideologies for a more complete list).

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Anarchy Championship Wrestling is an army of talent and gifted artists working together to create art out of chaos and passion.


    Video Games 
  • Elite features star systems with different government classifications, one of which is Anarchy. Anarchic systems tend to be the most infested with Space Pirates out of all of them.
  • As hinted at in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and elaborated on in the short story Rightful King, ultimately Raul Menendez is an Anarchist in the traditional sense of the word; he's against both big government and big capitalism, with the motto of "less power, less problems". Ironically being a wealthy man himself he is part of the so called 1% that the 99% seeks to overthrow, a good deal of his plan being funded by drug money. If the man does want change, It's certainly not change we can believe in.
  • Averted in Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall. The game is set in the Flux State — an anarchic future Berlin. Although the city has been divided into numerous Kieze that are local communes at best and many people live in SINless poverty with an uncertain future, there's no complete breakdown of law and order with gangs of criminals ruling the streets. The game takes time to explore several facets of anarchist philosophy, and Monica or an overly altruistic player may even be criticized by Lucky Strike for making everyone dependent on you and thus becoming a 'ruler' to your Kiez.
  • Subverted in Fallout: New Vegas. Vault 21 was designed to have no authority figure, with the rules being that everything was decided through a gambling session. This Vault was actually one of the few that was opened up near-completely unscathed. Provided that having part of your home filled with concrete doesn't really count as a major problem.
  • Inverted and subverted in Tales of Vesperia- abandoning the Empire and joining or forming a guild are presented with all the trappings of anarchy (everyone lives according to their own laws, don't have to join a guild if they want to make their own one-man guild, don't have to appoint a leader, and the only "authority" had is presented as people following directions out of admiration or respect rather than because they are an authority figure. The Five "Master" Guilds are just be the five largest or most productive guilds and have no authority over other guilds, and even the Don doesn't seem to have any official authority- he's someone everyone respects and obeys out of that, but it's also stated that he's just another guild member if not one with a lot of supporters), but the Guilds are the Order to the Empire's Chaos. The guilds are also constantly presented as being in the right.
  • The Data Angels of Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri have all the trappings of an anarchist society, and while the decentralised society isn't constantly fighting itself, it does take a hefty penalty to Police so if things start going wrong, it's much harder to keep the people in control.

  • In the webcomic series S.S.D.D, the part of the timeline set in the future features (among other super-governments) the Anarchist Collective, which sort of goes back and forth. Officially, there are only two laws, "do not profit at the expense of another anarchist" (which can be interpreted to cover anything from scams to murder), and "there are no other laws". The officials in charge are referred to as "Advisers" who don't put out laws so much as "suggestions"; you can technically break them without any sort of official penalty, but since the only difference between local police, angry crowd and lynch mob is how organized they are... the Collective does have a rather intimidating military, not to mention a secret weapon, though.
    • There's also a reference to "true anarchists" who live in the wasteland between cities, taking potshots at passing vehicles.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • When Anarky appeared in Beware the Batman, the nuanced, sophisticated, complex philosophy of the comic book character was discarded in favor of a particularly fatuous version of Anarchy Is Chaos.
  • Played with in The Legend of Korra. The villain Zaheer believes in a philosophy that is like anarchism. He sees that people will never be truly free until all governments have been brought down. When confronted with the fact that this would lead to chaos, he is okay with that since he sees the natural order as disorder. He goes back and forth between having a good point about what bad leaders (like the thoroughly horrible Earth Queen, the incompetent President Raiko, and Fire Lord Ozai and his predecessors) have caused and basically saying "yes, it would be total chaos, and that would rock!" In the end, while not one tear was shed when he airbended the oxygen away from the Earth Queen, suffocating her to death, the extensive riots and looting that grip Ba Sing Se immediately after her assassination prove that, yes, eliminating a leader like that will indeed plunge a kingdom into chaos. The subsequent Book shows a brutal dictator acting to repair the damage caused, making Zaheer feel incredibly guilty about what he'd done.
  • in Adventure Time the brief moment when the goblins don't have a King turns into this.

Alternative Title(s): Anarchy