Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm trying to come up with a word to describe what happens in cartoons (and probably real life) when a traumatic event leads to a group of ordinary people (usually children) to fend for themselves. They then form a new society resembling a dictatorship ruled by bullies.

share|improve this question
    
If you exclude the "traumatic event" part, then "anarchy." –  advs89 Feb 23 '11 at 4:09
    
"Anarchy" is perfect, thanks! Post that as an answer for +25 from me! –  Michael Haren Feb 23 '11 at 4:47
    
I went with it, thanks @advs89: "...the others would just sit and read magazines while the kids they were supposed to be watching fell into anarchy ruled by sugar-crazed, toy hoarding bullies" –  Michael Haren Feb 23 '11 at 5:08
3  
Just to be pedantic, it's not anarchy because there is structure, and the rudiments of self-governance. If in the future you need a less casual word for it, I'd try dictatorship or ochlocracy. –  Jon Purdy Feb 23 '11 at 7:00
1  
I wonder if there are shades of gray with the "disorder" and "unstructured" parts of anarchy. It seems like there can be even a little order or structure, and still exhibit traits characteristic to an anarchy, like confusion, chaos, and (albeit some) much less order than a the previous situation, or the ideal situation. –  xdumaine Feb 23 '11 at 13:18
show 4 more comments

3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

If you exclude the "traumatic event" part, then "anarchy" works.

from dictionary.com,

4 : confusion; chaos; disorder: Intellectual and moral anarchy followed his loss of faith.

share|improve this answer
1  
It's about time you made this an answer. +1 –  bye Feb 23 '11 at 6:52
    
haha, sorry about that –  advs89 Feb 23 '11 at 19:12
add comment

I would call this social atavism in general. The term for the form of government involved (rule by those best at causing fear, pain, injury and death) is despotism.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I'd call it a "Lord of the Flies situation". Lord of the Flies is a novel about some school kids on a field trip that are shipwrecked and wash up on an island with no adults, and form just what you described: a spontaneous, cruel society of neglected people.

I think nearly all somewhat-educated adult English speakers would understand exactly what you're talking about; we all had to read it in high school.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.