Unplanned anarchism as a response to the anarchism planned in the governance


  • Paul Tiensuu University of Helsinki




In contemporary politics, participatory governance is justified as a way of decentralising power. As it weakens the state’s control and decentralises its power, it is a way of governing that embraces a certain anarchism but in a coordinated manner. However, it appears to empower the individuals and societies that already have considerable economic and societal power in the political society at large.( e.g. Kohler-Koch & Quittkat 2013) With regard to planning, the participatory planning processes that emphasise individualistic channels of participation may end up only engaging the strongest individual stakeholders particularly in the well off neighbourhoods. Focusing on the individual participation it may even weaken the neighbourhoods’ use of hierarchical and centralising coordination agencies, such as community associations, important for the more vulnerable communities. Thus it may contribute to the trend of regional inequality, and increase the vulnerability of the vulnerable communities. (Guilluy 2014)

The participatory governance’s tendency to individualism in participation thus does not necessarily engage the majority population, while the weakening of state-centric representative government weakens the institution of majority representation. One response to this may be the different populist movements that aim to return to the representative democracy, undoing participatory and technocratic ways of government (e.g. Hopkin & Blyth 2019). But another would be the unplanned anarchic takeovers that reject both the state and the individual driven ways of planning. Such “anarcho-communitarian” tendencies may often be seen to be at play in the populist-like, identitarian movements, if they do not aim at higher level representative democratic goals. These would mainly be the types of group-identity communitarian segregationists, which however usually do aim at state-like communities that simply undo the individual liberties and are in this sense hard line communitarian and not at all anarchist (Lukes 1995). More to the point are the movements that remain strongly anarchic in that they (1) do not align in representative politics, (2) do not create static hierarchic organisation, and (3) do not aim at state-like power, but act against it, while also (4) want to act and be heard as a collective, a community, however disparate, and not as individuals. These could be strongly localised movements, a prime example of which is the separated anarchist enclave of ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes in Bretagne (Verdier 2021), or collecting more disparate members over a larger region, such as the gilet jaunes movement, in spite of its mobilisation in political purposes by different parties.

In this presentation I will first shortly present the fragmentation problem of the combination of centralising planning and decentralising processes. Drawing from Jacques Rancière's ideas on unplanned politics rising from the people directly, I will then analyse the difference of the populist and anarcho-communitarian solutions, and finally consider whether the anarcho-communitarianist movements, in theory and in light of the recent examples, could have a capacity of collecting the disparate voices of the vulnerable communities in the fragmented states.


Kohler-Koch, Beate & Christine Quittkat (eds.) (2013) De-Mystification of Participatory Democracy: EU Governance and Civil Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Guilluy, Christophe (2014) La France périphérique. Comment on a sacrifié les classes populaires Paris: Flammarion.

Hopkin Jonathan and Mark Blyth (2019) ‘The Global Economics of European Populism: Growth Regimes and Party System Change in Europe’ (The Government and Opposition/Leonard Schapiro Lecture 2017), 54 Government and Opposition 2, pp. 193–225

Lukes, Steven (1995) ‘L’attachement social et ses mythes : sur la querrelle entre libéralisme et communautarisme', Le Banquet 7, revue-lebanquet.com?page_id=177.

Verdier, Margot (2021) Le commun de l’autonomie. Une sociologie anarchiste de la zad de Notre-Dame-des-Landes. Vulaines-sur-Seine: Éditions du Croquant.