It calls for the abolition of the state which it holds to be undesirable, unnecessary and harmful.
It is usually described alongside libertarian Marxism as the libertarian wing (libertarian socialism) of the socialist movement and as having a historical association with anti-capitalism and socialism.
The history of anarchism goes back to prehistory, when some humans lived in anarchistic societies long before the establishment of formal states, realms or empires.
With the rise of organised hierarchical bodies, scepticism toward authority also rose, but it was not until the 19th century that a self-conscious political movement emerged.
During the latter half of the 19th and the first decades of the 20th century, the anarchist movement flourished in most parts of the world and had a significant role in workers' struggles for emancipation.
Anarchists have taken part in several revolutions, most notably in the Spanish Civil War, whose end marked the end of the classical era of anarchism.
In the last decades of the 20th century and into the 21st century, the anarchist movement has been resurgent once more.
There is significant overlap between the two which are merely descriptive.
Revolutionary tactics aim to bring down authority and state, having taken a violent turn in the past.
The etymological origin of anarchism is from the Ancient Greek anarkhia, meaning "without a ruler", composed of the prefix an- (i.e. "without") and the word arkhos (i.e. "leader" or "ruler").
The suffix -ism denotes the ideological current that favours anarchy.
Various factions within the French Revolution labelled their opponents as anarchists, although few such accused shared many views with later anarchists.
Many revolutionaries of the 19th century such as William Godwin (1756–1836) and Wilhelm Weitling (1808–1871) would contribute to the anarchist doctrines of the next generation, but they did not use anarchist or anarchism in describing themselves or their beliefs.
The first political philosopher to call himself an anarchist (French: anarchiste) was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865), marking the formal birth of anarchism in the mid-19th century.
Since the 1890s and beginning in France, libertarianism has often been used as a synonym for anarchism and its use as a synonym is still common outside the United States.
On the other hand, some use libertarianism to refer to individualistic free-market philosophy only, referring to free-market anarchism as libertarian anarchism.
While the term libertarian has been largely synonymous with anarchism, its meaning has more recently diluted with wider adoption from ideologically disparate groups, including both the New Left and libertarian Marxists (who do not associate with authoritarian socialists or a vanguard party) as well as extreme liberals (primarily concerned with civil liberties).
Matthew S. Adams and Carl Levy write that anarchism is used to "describe the anti-authoritarian wing of the socialist movement".
The anarchist is primarily a socialist whose aim is to abolish the exploitation of man by man.
Anarchism is only one of the streams of socialist thought, that stream whose main components are concern for liberty and haste to abolish the State.