What's in a word?

Just a little word-nerd history and etymology discussion that popped up again so I felt like I should put it down "on paper". 

"Libertarian" and "anarchist". What do these words mean? 

 Much will be said by those of the "libertarian socialist" persuasion that "originally, you know, Libertarian meant anarchists like US". They will refer to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon as the "first anarchist". Now I guess you can call yourself whatever you want, I'm just saying the term "anarchy" has a specific dictionary meaning, translating literally as "without rulers": 

(Webster's) History and Etymology for anarchy: from Medieval Latin anarchia, borrowed from Greek anarchía "lack of a leader, lawlessness," from ánarchos "without a head or chief, leaderless" (from an- an- + -archos, derivative of archós "leader, chief")

I'm not sure anyone disputes this, but for whatever reason "libsocs" and "ancoms" like to lay claim to the title of "real" anarchists. Again, call yourself what you want, but ducks quack and walk a certain way. "Ancaps" in my view are much more logically consistent in this sense, since they hold voluntary association as a core belief, and the communist "type" of anarchy more or less requires a group effort or it falls apart. Let history be the judge. 

 On to the term "libertarian" First, the word: 

(1789): an advocate of the doctrine of free will 

From the wiki: "The first recorded use of the term libertarian was in 1789, when William Belsham wrote about libertarianism in the context of metaphysics.[32] As early as 1796, libertarian came to mean an advocate or defender of liberty, especially in the political and social spheres, when the London Packet printed on 12 February the following: "Lately marched out of the Prison at Bristol, 450 of the French Libertarians..." "...The use of the term libertarian to describe a new set of political positions has been traced to the French cognate libertaire, coined in a letter French libertarian communist Joseph Déjacque wrote to mutualist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in 1857." (note the circular word origin they did there) 

 So, here's the admission Proudhon gets the term later on, and more or less co-opts it. Libsocs don't get to say "See?!?! it's OURS" when I point out the *current* common understanding of "libertarian" is the 20th Century (mostly American) movement and eventually political party. This "modern" version of "libertarian" is much closer to the original dictionary sense. 


As it should be.


Popular Posts