The philosophical core of anarchism was thus a skepticism of the ostensibly self-evident concepts that held sway over people. It was the conviction that big ideas could enslave, whether they be duty, rights or God; your home, your fatherland or your church.
Anarchism emerged as a response to the rapid growth of the modern state, and, more particularly, to the growth of one of the nineteenth century's biggest ideas: the police.
When the British Parliament created the Metropolitan Police in 1829, it invented a form of state power that was diffused throughout the city. Ten years later, Parliament empowered the police to arrest loiterers, "riotous" drunkards and anyone committing misdemeanor whose name and residence couldn't be verified. The act banned cockfighting and shooting firearms within three hundred yards of homes. It banned driving "furiously," wantonly ringing doorbells and flying annoying kites.
It banned the sale and distribution of "profane, indecent, or obscene" books, and the laws would only get stronger over time.
By 1878, the British government had passed more than one hundred laws expanding police powers, and Britain set the example for police expansion all around the world.
For people suspicious of authority, the multiplying laws were self-perpetuating: more ordinances created more criminals and, thus, the need for more police officers and an ever-exploding government. The professionalize of law enforcement made patrolmen seem like foot soldiers in an increasingly centralized apparatus staffed with detectives, jailers and bureaucrats who thought of state power as job security.
To artists like Joyce, who considered free expression sacrosanct, censorship epitomized the tyranny of state power, for the state not only banned obscenity, it decided what obscenity was. Unlike firearms or kites, the violation was arbitrary--the law hemmed the government in with limits of the government's choosing -- and that fact censors acted as if indecency were self-evident only made the arbitrariness more blatant. To publish a gratuitously obscene text -- to deny "obscenity" as a legitimate category altogether -- was away to expose and reject the arbitrary basis of all state power. It was a form of literary anarchy.
The MOST DANGEROUS BOOK: The Battle for James Joyce Ulysses
(The Penguin Press: 2014)