anarchist images: posters from the labadie collection


What is Anarchism?

Anarchism, then really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. Anarchism stands for social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth, an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations.

Emma Goldman

At its essence, anarchism is a political philosophy which embraces the simple idea of personal autonomy within a functioning, non-hierarchical, caring society. How this autonomy is to be realized has been the anarchists’ greatest stumbling block to obtaining wider acceptance and understanding. The differences of opinions within anarchism concerning its form and its content have also contributed to it being a movement that has long been shrouded in misconception. This misunderstanding largely results from the fact that anarchism allows for myriad interpretations. It is more than a political philosophy, it is a way of life which cannot be held to a single definition, slogan, or party line.

One of the few widely-held tenets of anarchism is the belief that not only is hierarchical authority unnecessary, but it prevents individuals from obtaining their fullest potential. To an anarchist, power is innately corrupting. Whether the power be delegated by the state, church, or patriarchy, most anarchists believe that even the best intentioned authorities inevitably become more concerned with their own power than with serving their constituents. Most hold the notion that human beings are capable of voluntarily cooperating to meet everyone’s needs, without bosses or rulers, and without sacrificing individual liberties.

Many anarchists also maintain that ethics are a personal matter; that they should be based on concern for others and the well-being of society and not on laws imposed by a legal or religious authority. When an authority delegates to itself the right to overrule the most fundamental personal and moral decisions of the individual, anarchists believe that human freedom becomes immeasurably diminished. However, anarchists do not ignore the advantages resulting from organizing, but stress that the purpose of doing so will be better served in a state of freedom.

Anarchism is not a new or isolated philosophy. It is a belief shared by many, regardless of sex, race, religion, or nationality. Anarchism has existed throughout history and has been key to revolutionary movements in all parts of the world, including France, Latin America, Mexico, The Netherlands, Russia, Spain, and the United States. Some examples of movements which have been heavily influenced by anarchist thought are the civil wars in Spain and Russia, the labor and student rebellions witnessed throughout the world, feminism, pacifism, and the municipal and Green movements.

A Few Notes About Posters

The dictionary defines a poster as "a large, usually printed placard, bill, or announcement, often illustrated, that is posted to advertise or publicize something." A second definition describes posters as "tools of commerce through their advertising of goods, services, and entertainment, or as a means of propaganda." Since the development of sophisticated lithographic techniques in the late nineteenth century, poster-making has become an inexpensive and quick means of mass-communication. Through the use of size, bold color, simple messages, and visible and clear forms, posters have the ability to make complex and direct statements. There is an emphasis on content in a poster, as the poster maker is dealing, in a sense, with direct speech. Nowhere is this more evident than in contemporary advertising. However, the advertising artist is not the only creator to master the art of poster design. Poster art has long been a cheap, easy, and sometimes anonymous means of communicating non-mainstream messages and political ideologies. In this exhibit you will see some examples of artists, all of them unknown to us, who have employed various techniques and effects to convey messages of anger and discontent, as well as harmony and cooperation.

The Labadie Collection’s anarchist posters are numerous, represent a variety of anarchist philosophies, and are international in scope. The posters in this exhibit were produced by anarchists and serve to exemplify the variety of opinions, viewpoints and causes which define anarchist movements.

For ease of browsing and downloading time, the exhibit has been organized by broad geographic regions. Please select a link below and enjoy your visit to Anarchist Images: Posters from the Labadie Collection.

Australia || Europe || North America


About This Exhibit


Exhibit Designer: Cameron Trowbridge