Voluntarism – What is it, Definition and Concept


Voluntarism is the political idea that relationships between human beings and entities (or between individuals and entities) are to be carried out voluntarily in agreements.

That is to say, voluntarism implies that all the relationships between people, organizations and institutions must be voluntary, with no obligation between the parties.

Voluntarism, as an idea, is typical of liberal currents, such as libertarianism or anarcho-capitalism. Although, at its best, it would be associated with the latter. 

Characteristics of Voluntarism

Voluntarism, as a political idea that defends that all relationships between individuals must be voluntary, has a series of characteristics:

  • support the free market: Everyone is free to produce and buy the goods and services you think are necessary.
  • Promote individual rights: By being an individual, the individual has full capacity to enjoy the entire sphere of individual rights. This, as long as they do not negatively affect others.
  • Private property: As long as it has been obtained legitimately, it is of supreme value and cannot be attacked by any can supreme.
  • Elimination of Condition: The State represents everything that does not support voluntarism. It is a forced organization with the capacity to bend anyone. In addition, no one has voted for it; for it to be so, it should be legitimized with votes (on whether it should exist or not) every few years.

 The State, according to voluntarism.

By not considering any coercion or coercion desirable, the only way to Government Desirable comes from the free association between individuals. The State as we know it would not fit here, let alone those systems in which power is exercised despotic and authoritarian manner.

Bearing this in mind, the main justification for forming an apparatus similar to that of a State, always voluntarily, would be to combat crime and provide security to the community. 

This is a central theme in any debate between anarcho-capitalists and other types of liberals: how society should be organized against violence and external aggressions.

Since the State’s nature is imposed and has the monopoly on violence, voluntarism proposes and presupposes a decentralization extreme. This is because, to maintain order in large territories, the state figure is necessary, and this decentralization would allow people to organize themselves in small villages or settlements.

In developing common services, these would only be financed by those who wanted to do or enjoy the service. And the form of financing would be as proportional as possible based on usage, not rent of the individual, as is traditionally the case. Voluntaryism assumes that each person pays for those services they want to enjoy without holding the rest of society responsible.

Collective Volunteerism

We can define collective voluntarism as the idea that it is the mass that has to determine their actions and future. This clashes head-on with the voluntarism described above. It belongs to the ideologies of socialists, communists and interventionists in general.

From this point of view, the actions carried out by organizations and groups are the only legitimized. Thus, when the interests of the mass and the individual confront each other, the will of the former always prevails. We see this, for example, in the appropriation forced, the payment of taxes or some limitations on individual rights.

It should be noted that not all the actions taken by the Government would fall within this voluntarism. This is because the Government makes many decisions based on elites or factual powers.

In Philosophy

In philosophy, voluntarism refers to the fact that it is the human will that moves the world; there are no laws, neither objective nor supreme, that determine the progress and behaviour of humanity. 

Its origin originated in the first Christian thinkers, such as Saint Augustine of Hippo. However, it was later developed by philosophers such as Nietzsche or Schopenhauer.

Marxism and other ideological and thought doctrines reject this conception. For them, the human being is alienated, is not aware or capable of making decisions that affect his life; others make them for him. Throughout humanity, the engine of social change has been the class struggle and permanent conflict between workers and patterns. This idea is a historical law, according to this Marxist view.


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