The purpose is the analysis of
the anarchist ideas in Fight Club, through the view of Andrew Heywood.
I will start by first
characterizing anarchism in the view of Andrew Heywood, and then selecting a
few passages from Fight Club, and making an analysis of how the ideas can be
applied to the text.
Andrew Heywood starts his
analysis of the term anarchism by
going back to its origin as “without rule” in Greek. Although initially used in
a negative sense, referring to a disintegrating society, or being understood as
“chaos and disorder”, it was later associated with a more positive meaning,
starting with Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. He was the first to declare himself an
anarchist, in “What is Property?”, where “the word was clearly associated with
a positive and systematic set of political ideas”.
The term started being properly
used with the introduction of the anarchist principles, by William Godwin, in
the “Enquiry Concerning Political Justice”, even though Godwin “never described
himself as an anarchist”. Later, anarchism became part of the socialist
movement; there was also an association with the Marxists – however, it did not
last because of the disagreement of the two.
With the help of syndicalism,
anarchism became “a genuine mass movement in the early twentieth century” in Europe
and even in Latin America. But it did not
attain greater power or success than that, as it was undermined by “the spread
of authoritarianism and political repression”.
The goal of anarchism – a society
without a state – is regarded as unrealistic, improbable, even “a utopian
dream”, due to the fact that any form of political influence and power is
dismissed as corrupt.
The fundamental characteristics
of the anarchist movement are the opposition and the rebellion against the
state, the institutions of law and government.
In its pursuit for a stateless
society, anarchism finds itself to be a paradoxical term, referring, both to
the disobedience against power, and, at the same time, focusing on the moral
aspect of the human beings, freedom and autonomy of the individual (Heywood
Moreover, Heywood argues that
anarchism represents an overlapping of the “rival ideologies” of liberalism and
socialism, both ultimately opposing the state; these are all characterized by
principles, out of which the most important are anti-statism, natural order,
anti-clericalsim, and economic freedom.
The state is perceived as an
oppressive force that puts a limitation to the life of the individual,
offending his freedom, subjecting him to inequality and slavery, depraving him
of rights, of property. The anarchists have a “highly optimistic if not utopian
view of the human potential”, regarding human beings as either good or bad,
depending on their social, political, or economic background. But they are
easily corruptible and susceptible to demoralization if exposed to any type of
power coming from the state, which is considered a pure form of evil (Heywood
Regarding the principle of
natural order, anarchists believe in a kindness that exceeds everything, in the
inclination of individuals towards a rational and moral life, and in the
“perfectibility” of each, through volition and education. Jean-Jacques
Rousseau’s idea expressed in the following words – “Man was born free, yet
everywhere he is in chains” – is adopted by anarchists, who argue that the
social order should “arise naturally and spontaneously”, with no requirement of
law, order, power or authority. However, a slight paradox also lies in this
view of human nature – the individual has a rather complex nature, with two
extremes; based on this, one could be “selfish and competitive as well as
sociable and cooperative” (Heywood 156-157).
It is not only the state that
anarchists rebel against, they also deny the power and authority of the Church.
God represents the supreme being, who has control over everything and stands
for the ultimate authority. So, the abolition of the state should go hand in
hand with the abolition of the church, in order to obtain the desired freedom
for both the individuals, and the society as a whole (Heywood 157).
Anarchists are also “interested
in challenging the structures of social and economic life”. Political power is
seen as an integral part of wealth. Class terms are what define capitalism –
there is a ruling class, which dominates over the masses. This leads to the identification
of three major groups in a society – a majority who are exploited; a minority
who are taken advantage of, but who also abuse others; and a small part, called
“the supreme governing state”, that is simply represented by “exploiters and
oppressors”. Moreover, two opposite anarchist traditions are distinguished