The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash between Freedom and Control is Hacking the Real-World and Crashing the System

Privacy and Security and Internet

Article Snapshot


Siva Vaidhyanathan


Basic Books, 2005


The author argues for finding a middle ground that constructs and maintains systems to discourage anarchy and oligarchy.

Policy Relevance

Focused dialogue and deliberation about the ramifications of revolutionary technologies and the behaviors they engender is necessary to prevent the extremes of either anarchy or oligarchy and maintain democracy and stability.

Main Points

  • The twenty-first century has seen decision-making power put into the hands of the global elite, a development that has invited anarchistic repercussions. Technology has provided the tools for anarchists to disseminate information.
  • Oligarchy tends to be aligned with centralized systems of information and anarchy with distributed systems of information.
  • The strong efforts made to control information by those in control often results in a backfire that leads to less control and less desirable conditions.
  • Neither oligarchic control through withholding information, nor complete and irresponsible anarchistic freedoms of information are satisfactory answers. However, information is special because it is the backbone of deliberation and discussion, which are essential to democracy.
  • The main concern for technological sharing of information should be the availability and accessibility of the substance of expression. This fosters public discourse and creativity, which in turn is good for cultural democracy.
  • The challenge in the twenty-first century is formulating guidelines, ethics, and rules to shape information environments that provide both liberal democracy and the stability necessary for commerce.
  • A return to civic republicanism focused on informed deliberation and patience to serve public needs is needed in the areas of technology, information, and communication.


Get The Article

Find the full article online

Search for Full Article