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Agorism is a libertarian social philosophy that advocates creating a society in which all relations between people are voluntary exchanges by means of counter-economics, thus engaging with aspects of peaceful revolution. It was first proposed by libertarian philosopher Samuel Edward Konkin III (1947–2004) at two conferences, CounterCon I in October 1974 and CounterCon II in May 1975.

Libertarianism is a collection of political philosophies and movements that uphold liberty as a core principle. Libertarians seek to maximize political freedom and autonomy, emphasizing freedom of choice, voluntary association and individual judgment. Libertarians share a skepticism of authority and state power, but they diverge on the scope of their opposition to existing political and economic systems. Various schools of libertarian thought offer a range of views regarding the legitimate functions of state and private power, often calling for the restriction or dissolution of coercive social institutions.

Social philosophy branch of philosophy

Social philosophy is the study of questions about social behavior and interpretations of society and social institutions in terms of ethical values rather than empirical relations. Social philosophers place new emphasis on understanding the social contexts for political, legal, moral, and cultural questions, and to the development of novel theoretical frameworks, from social ontology to care ethics to cosmopolitan theories of democracy, human rights, gender equity and global justice.

Voluntaryism is a philosophy that holds that all forms of human association should be voluntary, a term coined in this usage by Auberon Herbert in the 19th century, and gaining renewed use since the late 20th century, especially among libertarians. Its principal beliefs stem from the non-aggression principle.



Symbol for agorism, with a^3 standing for "agora, anarchy, action!" A3.JPG
Symbol for agorism, with a^3 standing for "agora, anarchy, action!"

The term was coined by Samuel Edward Konkin III and comes from the classical Greek word ἀγορά (agora) referring to an open place for assembly and market in a πόλις (polis, ancient Greek city states). [1]

Samuel Edward Konkin III, also known as SEK3, was the author of the publication New Libertarian Manifesto and a proponent of a political philosophy which he named agorism.

Ancient Greek Version of the Greek language used from roughly the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE

The Ancient Greek language includes the forms of Greek used in Ancient Greece and the ancient world from around the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE. It is often roughly divided into the Archaic period, Classical period, and Hellenistic period. It is antedated in the second millennium BCE by Mycenaean Greek and succeeded by Medieval Greek.

Agora Central public space in ancient Greek city-states

The agora was a central public space in ancient Greek city-states. The literal meaning of the word is "gathering place" or "assembly". The agora was the center of the athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life in the city. The Ancient Agora of Athens is the best-known example.


According to Konkin, counter-economics and agorism were originally fighting concepts forged in the revolutionary atmosphere of 1972–1973. [2] Konkin credits the Austrian School and particularly Ludwig von Mises as the base of economic thought leading to agorism and counter-economics. [2]

Counter-economics is a term originally used by libertarian activists and theorists Samuel Edward Konkin III and J. Neil Schulman. The former defined it as "the study or practice of all peaceful human action which is forbidden by the State." The term is short for "counter-establishment economics" and may also be referred to as counter-politics. Counter-economics was integrated by Schulman into Konkin's doctrine of agorism.

Austrian School school of economic thought

The Austrian School is a heterodox school of economic thought that is based on methodological individualism—the concept that social phenomena result exclusively from the motivations and actions of individuals.

Ludwig von Mises

Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises was an Austrian School economist, historian, and sociologist. Mises wrote and lectured extensively on behalf of classical liberalism. He is best known for his work on praxeology, a study of human choice and action.

In the 1960–1970s, there was an abundance of political alienation in the United States, particularly for those in favor of libertarian ideologies. Whereas Murray Rothbard chose to create political alliances between the Old Right and the New Left, Robert LeFevre and his West Coast followers pursued a non-participatory form of civil disobedience. [2] Ultimately, LeFevre's anti-collaboration methods lost favor and faded away.

Murray Rothbard American economist of the Austrian School, libertarian political theorist, and historian

Murray Newton Rothbard was an American heterodox economist of the Austrian School, historian, and a political theorist whose writings and personal influence played a seminal role in the development of modern right-libertarianism. Rothbard was the founder and leading theoretician of anarcho-capitalism, a staunch advocate of historical revisionism and a central figure in the 20th-century American libertarian movement. He wrote over twenty books on political theory, revisionist history, economics and other subjects.

Old Right (United States)

The Old Right was an informal designation used for a branch of American conservatism, which never became an organized movement but was most prominent circa 1910–1960. Most members were Republicans, although there was a conservative Democratic element based largely in the Southern United States. They were called the "Old Right" to distinguish them from their New Right successors who came to prominence in the 1950s and '60s. Among the latter were Barry Goldwater, who came to prominence in the 1960s and favored an interventionist foreign policy to battle international communism.

New Left political movement

The New Left was a broad political movement mainly in the 1960s and 1970s consisting of activists in the Western world who campaigned for a broad range of social issues such as civil and political rights, feminism, gay rights, abortion rights, gender roles and drug policy reforms. Some saw the New Left as an oppositional reaction to earlier Marxist and labor union movements for social justice that focused on dialectical materialism and social class, while others who used the term saw the movement as a continuation and revitalization of traditional leftist goals.

After the creation of the Libertarian Party in 1971, the debate shifted from anarchy vs. minarchism to partyarchy vs. agorism. [2]

Libertarian Party (United States) national political party in United States

The Libertarian Party (LP) is a political party in the United States that promotes civil liberties, non-interventionism, laissez-faire capitalism and shrinking the size and scope of government. The party was conceived at meetings in the home of David F. Nolan in Westminster, Colorado in August 1971 and was officially formed on December 11, 1971 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The founding of the party was prompted in part due to concerns about the Nixon administration, the Vietnam War, conscription and the end of the gold standard.


Flag of agorism in which the pattern represents anarchy and the colors represents the grey and black markets Agorism flag.svg
Flag of agorism in which the pattern represents anarchy and the colors represents the grey and black markets

The goal of agorism is the agora. The society of the open marketplace as near to untainted by theft, assault, and fraud as can be humanly attained is as close to a free society as can be achieved. And a free society is the only one in which each and every one of us can satisfy his or her subjective values without crushing others' values by violence and coercion.

Konkin characterized agorism as a form of left-libertarianism (specifically, left-wing market anarchism) [4] [5] and generally that agorism is a strategic branch of market anarchism. [3]

Left-libertarianism political ideology

Left-libertarianism, also known as left-wing libertarianism, names several related yet distinct approaches to political and social theory which stress both individual freedom and social equality. In its classical usage, left-libertarianism is a synonym for anti-authoritarian varieties of left-wing politics such as libertarian socialism which includes anarchism and libertarian Marxism, among others. Left-libertarianism can also refer to political positions associated with academic philosophers Hillel Steiner, Philippe Van Parijs and Peter Vallentyne that combine self-ownership with an egalitarian approach to natural resources.

Left-wing market anarchism, also known as free-market anti-capitalism and free-market socialism, is a form of individualist anarchism and libertarian socialism associated with contemporary scholars such as Kevin Carson, Roderick T. Long, Charles W. Johnson, Brad Spangler, Sheldon Richman, Chris Matthew Sciabarra and Gary Chartier, who stress the value of radically free markets, termed freed markets to distinguish them from the common conception which these libertarians believe to be riddled with statist and capitalist privileges. Referred to as left-wing market anarchists or market-oriented left-libertarians, proponents of this approach strongly affirm the classical liberal ideas of self-ownership and free markets while maintaining that taken to their logical conclusions these ideas support anti-capitalist, anti-corporatist, anti-hierarchical and pro-labor positions in economics; anti-imperialism in foreign policy; and thoroughly radical views regarding cultural issues such as gender, sexuality and race.

Free-market anarchism, or market anarchism, includes several branches of anarchism that advocate an economic system based on voluntary, free-market interactions without the involvement of the state. A branch of market anarchism is left-wing market anarchism, including modern mutualists such as Kevin Carson and Gary Chartier, who consider themselves anti-capitalists and identify as part of the socialist movement.


The concept of counter-economics is the most critical element of agorism. It can be described as such:

The Counter-Economy is the sum of all non-aggressive Human Action which is forbidden by the State. Counter-economics is the study of the Counter-Economy and its practices. The Counter-Economy includes the free market, the Black Market, the "underground economy," all acts of civil and social disobedience, all acts of forbidden association (sexual, racial, cross-religious), and anything else the State, at any place or time, chooses to prohibit, control, regulate, tax, or tariff. The Counter-Economy excludes all State-approved action (the "White Market") and the Red Market (violence and theft not approved by the State). [6]

Profitable civil disobedience

Agorism believes gradual withdrawal of state support through what Konkin described as "Profitable Civil Disobedience." [2] Starving the state of its revenue and purpose by transferring these responsibilities over to decentralized institutions is the most feasible way to achieve free markets according to agorism:

Rather than slowly amass votes until some critical mass would allow state retreat (if the new statists did not change sides to protect their new vested interests), one could commit civil disobedience profitably, dodging taxes and regulations, having lower costs and (potentially) greater efficiency than one's statist competitors – if any. [2]

Opposition to political parties

Agorism does not support political engagement in the form of political party promotion as a means to transition to a free-market anarchism. The methods of the Libertarian Party are not compatible with agorist principles. Konkin referred to these attempts to fight for free markets through state approved channels of operation as "partyarchy":

Partyarchy, the anti-concept of pursuing libertarian ends through statist means, especially political parties. [7]

Voluntary association

As with voluntaryists, agorists typically oppose electoral voting and political reform and instead they stress the importance of alternative strategies outside political systems to achieve a free society. Agorists claim that such a society could be freed more readily by employing methods such as education, direct action, alternative currencies, entrepreneurship, self sufficiency, civil disobedience and counter-economics. [7]

Konkin's class theory

Konkin developed a class theory which includes entrepreneurs, non-statist capitalists and statist capitalist:

EntrepreneurNon-statist capitalistStatist capitalist
Innovator, risk-taker, producer
The strength of a freed market
Holders of capital
Not necessarily ideologically aware
"Relatively drone-like non-innovators"
The primary beneficiaries of government controls
"The main Evil in the political realm"

Konkin claimed that while agorists see these three classes differently, anarcho-capitalists tend to conflate the first and second types while "Marxoids and cruder collectivists" conflate all three. [4]

Concept of property

The agorists prefer the term "free market" to "capitalism," mostly because it bears no ties to the implications the latter term has in history. The term "capitalism" originally referred to mercantilism, the use of public chartering and corporations to let the political class dominate and plunder important industries. It was first used by Louis Blanc in Organisation du Travail (1851), later (1961) by Pierre Proudhon, an individualist anarchist, and (notably, making it popular, 1867) by Karl Marx in a more specific sense to refer to control of industry by the political class. It only later came to be conflated with actual free markets. The favoritism of the government towards determined corporations is seen by agorists as the characteristic that renders much more illegitimate the intervention of the state in various sectors. State-imposed restrictions in favor of certain companies, according to agorists, distort the market, thus making the aforementioned businesses less responsible and less capable. The agorists claim that the debts of businesses cannot be cleared through a government's decree, and that every manager has to be responsible for every act taken.

Konkin opposed the concept of intellectual property and wrote in an article entitled "Copywrongs" in support of such a thesis. [8] Successively, J. Neil Schulman criticized this thesis in "Informational Property: Logorights". [9] Whereas Konkin was opposed to the laws of the state in the cases of patents and copyright, seen as creators of monopolies and distortion, Schulman agreed with Konkin that the state could not be a foundation for any class of rightful property yet sought to demonstrate that exclusive ownership rights could apply to what he ultimately termed "Media Carried Property"—created objects that exist independent of the subjective human mind yet are not themselves made of atoms or molecules. [10]


Konkin's treatise New Libertarian Manifesto was published in 1980. [7] Previously, the philosophy had been presented in J. Neil Schulman's science fiction novel Alongside Night in 1979. Ayn Rand's example, presenting her ideas in the form of a work of fiction in Atlas Shrugged , had inspired Schulman to do likewise. Konkin's afterword to the novel, "How Far Alongside Night?", credited Schulman with integrating the "science of counter-economics" with Konkin's basic economic philosophy. [11]

Other media

J. Neil Schulman adapted Alongside Night as a feature film released in 2014 [12] as J. Neil Schulman's Alongside Night The Graphic Novel [13] and as an unabridged audiobook. [14]

See also

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  1. Gordon, David (1 April 2011). "Sam Konkin and Libertarian Theory". .
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Konkin III, Samuel Edward. "Last Whole Introduction to Agorism" (PDF). Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  3. 1 2 Konkin III, Samuel Edward. An Agorist Primer (PDF).
  4. 1 2 "Smashing the State for Fun and Profit Since 1969: An Interview With the Libertarian Icon Samuel Edward Konkin III (a.k.a. SEK3)".
  5. D'Amato , David S. (27 November 2018). "Black-Market Activism: Samuel Edward Konkin III and Agorism".
  6. "Counter-Economics: what it is, how it works" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 March 2009.
  7. 1 2 3 Konkin III, Samuel Edward (1980). "New Libertarian Manifesto" (PDF).
  8. Konkin III, Samuel Edward. Copywrongs. Archived 13 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  9. Shulman, J. Neil. Informational Property: Logorights.
  10. Shulman, J. Neil. "Human Property".
  11. Afterword by Samuel Edward Konkin III in Alongside Night (1999). pp. 271–290. ISBN   1-58445-120-3, ISBN   978-1-58445-120-4
  12. "Alongside Night".
  13. "J. Neil Schulman's Alongside Night – The Graphic Novel".
  14. "Alongside Night – The Movie Edition".