1530s, "absence of government," from French anarchie or directly from Medieval Latin anarchia, from Greek anarkhia "lack of a leader, the state of people without a government" (in Athens, used of the Year of Thirty Tyrants, 404 B.C., when there was no archon), abstract noun from anarkhos "rulerless," from an- "without" (see an- (1)) + arkhos "leader" (see archon).
From 1660s as "confusion or absence of authority in general;" by 1850 in reference to the social theory advocating "order without power," with associations and co-operatives taking the place of direct government, as formulated in the 1830s by French political philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865).
Either the State for ever, crushing individual and local life, taking over in all fields of human activity, bringing with it its wars and its domestic struggles for power, its palace revolutions which only replace one tyrant by another, and inevitably at the end of this development there is ... death! Or the destruction of States, and new life starting again in thousands of centers on the principle of the lively initiative of the individual and groups and that of free agreement. The choice lies with you! [Prince Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921), "The State: Its Historic Role," 1896]