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Title: Panarchy  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: FOCJ, Paul Émile de Puydt, Ecological threshold, Collaborative innovation network, Politics/Topics
Collection: Anarchist Theory, Forms of Government, Political Science Theories, Systems Theory
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Panarchy is a conceptual term first coined by the Belgian philosopher, economist, and botanist Paul Emile de Puydt in 1860, referring to a specific form of governance (-archy) that would encompass (pan-) all others.[1] The Oxford English Dictionary lists the noun as "chiefly poetic" with the meaning "a universal realm," citing an 1848 attestation by Philip James Bailey, "the starry panarchy of space". The adjective panarchic "all-ruling" has earlier attestations.[2] In the twentieth century the term was re-coined separately by scholars in international relations to describe the notion of global governance and then by systems theorists to describe non-hierarchical organizing theories.


  • Freely choosing government 1
  • Global Society 2
  • Systems theory 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Freely choosing government

In his 1860 article "Panarchy" de Puydt, who also expressed support for laissez-faire economics, applied the concept to the individual's right to choose any form of government without being forced to move from their current locale. This is sometimes described as "extra-territorial" (or "exterritorial") since governments often would serve non-contiguous parcels of land. De Puydt wrote:

The truth is that there is not enough of the right kind of freedom, the fundamental freedom to choose to be free or not to be free, according to one's preference....Thus I demand, for each and every member of human society, freedom of association according to inclination and of activity according to aptitude. In other words, the absolute right to choose the political surroundings in which to live, and to ask for nothing else.
— [1]

De Puydt described how such a system would be administered:

In each community a new office is opened, a "Bureau of Political Membership". This office would send every responsible citizen a declaration form to fill in, just as for the income tax or dog registration: Question: What form of government would you desire? Quite freely you would answer, monarchy, or democracy, or any other... and once registered, unless you withdrew your declaration, respecting the legal forms and delays, you would thereby become either a royal subject or citizen of the republic. Thereafter you are in no way involved with anyone else's government—no more than a Prussian subject is with Belgian authorities.
— [1]

De Puydt’s definition of panarchy was expanded into a political philosophy of panarchism. It has been espoused by anarchist or libertarian-leaning individuals, including especially Max Nettlau[3] and John Zube.[4][5]

Le Grand E. Day and others have used the phrase "multigovernment" to describe a similar system.[6] Another similar idea is Functional Overlapping Competing Jurisdictions (FOCJ) promoted by Swiss economists Bruno Frey and Reiner Eichenberger.

Global Society

James P. Sewell and Mark B. Salter in their 1995 article "Panarchy and Other Norms for Global Governance” define panarchy as “an inclusive, universal system of governance in which all may participate meaningfully." They romanticize the term by mentioning the “playful Greek god Pan of sylvan and pastoral tranquillity, overseer of forests, shepherd of shepherds and their flocks. It thus connotes an archetypal steward of biospheric well-being."[7]

David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla, in their work on Netwar, which they describe as an emergent form of low intensity conflict, crime, and activism, that: "The design is a heterarchy, but also what might be termed a 'panarchy.'"[8]

Paul B. Hartzog writes in "Panarchy: Governance in the Network Age": “Panarchy is a transdisciplinary investigation into the political and cultural philosophy of ‘network culture.’ The primary fields of relevance for panarchy are world politics (international relations), political philosophy/theory, and information technology. Panarchy also draws on insights from information/communications theory, economics, sociology, networks, and complex systems."[9]

In Paul B. Hartzog's work, the term "panarchy" emerges at the intersection of three core concepts: 1) ecology and complex systems, 2) technology, and 3) politics. The "pan" of ecological thinking draws on the Greek-god Pan as a symbol for wild and unpredictable nature. The "pan" of technology refers to the Personal Area Network (a personal area network is the interconnection of information technology devices within the range of an individual person) that merges human beings into an interconnected global social web. The "pan" of politics refers to the "inside/outside" distinction, and how, in an era of global challenges and global governance, the frame-of-reference for a global social has no outside.

Systems theory

Systems theory is an interdisciplinary field of science which studies the nature and processes of complex systems of the physical and social sciences, as well as in information technology. Lance Gunderson and C. S. Holling, in their book Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Systems of Humans and Nature also simultaneously coined the term, saying:

The term [panarchy] was coined as an antithesis to the word hierarchy (literally, sacred rules). Our view is that panarchy is a framework of nature's rules, hinted at by the name of the Greek god of nature, Pan.
— [10]

The publisher describes the book’s theory thusly:

Panarchy, a term devised to describe evolving hierarchical systems with multiple interrelated elements, offers an important new framework for understanding and resolving this dilemma. Panarchy is the structure in which systems, including those of nature (e.g., forests) and of humans (e.g., capitalism), as well as combined human-natural systems (e.g., institutions that govern natural resource use such as the Forest Service), are interlinked in continual adaptive cycles of growth, accumulation, restructuring, and renewal.
— [11]

In Panarchy Gunderson and Holling write:

The cross-scale, interdisciplinary, and dynamic nature of the theory has led us to coin the term panarchy for it. Its essential focus is to rationalize the interplay between change and persistence, between the predictable and unpredictable.
— [12]

See also


  1. ^ a b c P. E. de Puydt, Panarchy, first published in French in the Revue Trimestrielle, Bruxelles, July 1860.
  2. ^ Ben Jonson, The Alchemist II.v.15: Ars sacra, Or chrysopoeia, or spagyrica, Or the pamphysic, or panarchic knowledge [viz., alchemy ]
  3. ^ Max Nettlau, Panarchy, A Forgotten Idea of 1860, 1909.
  4. ^ Ehrlich, Howard J. 1996. Reinventing Anarchy, Again. AK Press. p. 131
  5. ^ John Zube, The Gospel of Panarchy, 1986.
  6. ^ Le Grand E. Day, The Theory of Multigovernment, 1969-1977.
  7. ^ Etymology of Panarchy on P2pFoundation.Net quoting from James P. Sewell and Mark B. Salter, "Panarchy and Other Norms for Global Governance: Boutros-Ghali, Rosenau, and Beyond", Global Governance, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 373-382, 1995.
  8. ^ Ronfeldt and Arquilla, In Athena’s Camp: Preparing for Conflict in the Information Age, Rand Institute, p.280, 1997.
  9. ^ Paul B. Hartzog, "Panarchy: Governance in the Network Age", Master's Essay, University of Utah at
  10. ^ Lance Gunderson and C. S. Holling, Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Systems of Humans and Nature, Island Press, p.21, 2001.
  11. ^ .Panarchy:Understanding Transformations in Systems of Humans and NatureIsland Press Bookstore description of Gunderson and Holling's
  12. ^ Gunderson and Holling, Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Systems of Humans and Nature, Chapter 1, p.5, reproduced at

External links

  • – Original usage
  • – Modern usage, writings and discussion
  • – A manifesto to help organisations operate as a values-driven panarchy
  • Gunderson and Holling's discussion of the word "panarchy" on the Resilience Alliance website
  • Nicholas M. Gotts, Resilience, Panarchy, and Analysis, 2007. Compares panarchy to World-systems theory.
  • The Panarchy Mansion at Dartmouth College – Panarchy, a Dartmouth College undergraduate student group founded on Panarchist theory
  • Panarchy at
  • Michael Rozeff - "Why I Am a Panarchist" or Michael Rozeff - "Why I Am a Panarchist"
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