Let us suppose there existed a society that was governed not by people but rather by a comprehensive set of rules, and whereby each person voluntarily followed those rules, and executed punishment on themselves in accordance with those rules if they violated them. What word would describe this form of government?

(We can assume that there are never reasons to change the rules, that each rule is able to be perfectly interpreted by every member, and that those who originally wrote the rules no longer exist.)

  • It sounds kind of like a Collective, in which the government is created and maintained by all individuals equally.
    – Phoenix
    Aug 29, 2011 at 17:31
  • Otherwise, I suppose it would be a "Rule by Rules" or a "Rule by Law". Legisocracy I suppose, for a made up word. Doesn't quite cleanly match the description though, probably wouldn't find a single word, made up or otherwise, that would, so it would have to be qualified. Such as Voluntary Legisocracy. Or maybe Obligarchy or Obligacracy for another made up word: "Rule by Obligations"
    – Phoenix
    Aug 29, 2011 at 17:41
  • This description sounds to me like the ideal of Communism (though in practice it is obviously never realized).
    – Jez
    Aug 30, 2011 at 9:25
  • @Jez My understanding is that the ideal communism is much more economy focused than legally focused. I could be mistaken.
    – corsiKa
    Aug 30, 2011 at 15:45
  • Sounds like a cult to me. Jan 18, 2018 at 2:14

7 Answers 7


The word I think you're looking for may be utopia:

Utopia |yo͞oˈtōpēə|(also utopia )
noun an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. The word was first used in the book Utopia (1516) by Sir Thomas More. The opposite of dystopia. ORIGIN based on Greek ou ‘not’ + topos ‘place.’

Note that such a place, as the Greek derivation shows, does not exist.

Of course, you might mean pantisocracy:

Pantisocracy |ˌpantiˈsäkrəsē|
a form of utopian social organization in which all are equal in social position and responsibility.

But that also points to utopia.

  • I don't like either of these words for the concept. Utopia could just as legitimately apply to a society with no rules but where no-one could harm anyone else. Pantisocracy doesn't seem to fit; I'd think it matches direct democracy or anarchy more closely than anything else.
    – jprete
    Aug 29, 2011 at 22:39
  • Pantisocracy is the exact word I was looking for. In anarchy you have no laws, which is not the case. In a democracy the people rule, which again is not the case.
    – corsiKa
    Aug 30, 2011 at 15:46
  • Can't agree with Utopia. The word basically just means "a really nice place", and doesn't imply anything about where authority comes from. In Plato's version, there was a three-class society with a ruling caste. In Sir Thomas Moore's version, they had frigging slaves.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 30, 2011 at 18:31
  • @T.E.D. You should take another look at the origin of the word.
    – Robusto
    Aug 30, 2011 at 18:56
  • @Robusto 初夢 - Wikipedia says: The word comes from the Greek: οὐ ("not") and τόπος ("place"). The English homophone eutopia, derived from the Greek εὖ ("good" or "well") and τόπος ("place"), signifies a double meaning: "good place" and "no place".
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 30, 2011 at 20:05

This is a matter of great debate, actually.

Anarchists hold that they represent the ideal you are speaking of. Lots of people oppose them, however, saying that anarchists represent chaos and a breakdown of order. There has never been an agreement on one side or the other about who is right and who is wrong.

"Arch-" is something above, an authoritative body of imposition.

"An-arch" is the absence of an authority enforcing laws; the word itself does not imply a lack of order, so much as a lack of authority. It has been interpreted by some, however, to imply a full lack of order, or complete chaos.

"-cracy" is a pluralistic form of "archy", so "democracy", "plutocracy", etc, all indicate forms of pluralistic authority.

Anarchists assert that they are pursuing a practical utopia; people who support authority dispute that.


Anarchy, whereby in a perfect society there exists no organized governing body. Individuals and groups voluntarily agree to live together according to a set of principles or guidelines.

  • As @Kyle says, people do tend to make strong value judgements about whether "anarchy" is a good or bad thing. I imagine you chose to conflate it with a "perfect society" because that makes it easier to assume a common set of principles without an actual "governing body", although we often use "anarchy" to mean "no rules". But I think the key is "no government", so I'm upvoting this one. It's probably the best OP will get, to describe what looks to me more like the cultural organisation of insects than homo sap. Aug 29, 2011 at 17:17

This would be called an "autonomy".

  • 3
    Autonomy usually means each person decides for himself, whch isn't the same thing as everybody perfectly implementing one common set of rules. Aug 29, 2011 at 16:33
  • @Monica: Well, each person is voluntarily following the rules. Aug 29, 2011 at 16:52
  • Shiny and New, I guess it's a question of what's central in this fictional world, the governing rules or that everybody follows them voluntarily. I was focusing on the rules and not the people; maybe that's not what OP meant. Aug 29, 2011 at 16:55
  • No, not at all. "Auto" = "self", "nomos" = "rules". "Autonomy", in a universal, philosophical sense, means everyone sets their own rules, according to how they see fit. The Nomos still exists, but it is entirely personal and unregulated by Archons, or -Cratses (craxis?). Aug 29, 2011 at 16:55
  • "Autonomous" is the word... Usually it applies to a state where it would have full authority to self govern.. For e.g: Soviet system of autonomy
    – SandBox
    Aug 29, 2011 at 22:12

I don't think there is an existing word for what you describe, so you're going to have to coin a word or apply a similar word from another domain. Here is a suggestion for the latter:

Software, which has no mind of its own, executes instructions based on a set of rules and, modulo errors in the code or system faults like running out of memory, executes them perfectly. The design of this kind of execution path is called an algorithm. So perhaps government based on uniform application of rules, with no enforcing authority, is algorithmic?

  • I suppose if we consider the government as the compiled version as opposed to what we have now, which is some moral and legislative inputs and a compiler called the judicial system (with the legislative branch being the compiler engineers and the executive branch being the managers), that's reasonable. I would prefer a noun as opposed to an adjective... Algoricracy?
    – corsiKa
    Aug 29, 2011 at 22:40
  • @glowcoder, you might be better off with {some word meaning "rules"}cracy rather than that. I tried to come up with something but was not successful. Aug 29, 2011 at 23:04

Every advanced society I know of spends considerable effort creating and administering laws. This is most of what elected representatives in democracies do, and all of what the legal systems do.

In order for OP's society to exist at all, it would be essential for all citizens to think in almost exactly the same way. Otherwise, they'd have no chance of actually knowing OP's "comprehensive set of rules", let alone being capable of applying them to every real-world situation where a transgression might have occurred, and deciding on appropriate "punishments" for themselves.

I therefore suggest it would be a monoculture, where every citizen is identical. Personally, I think living in such a society would be about as interesting as actually being a yeast cell.


Any society that aspires to Rule of Law would share these features.

The differences come in when somebody has to come up with the laws, and some others have to enforce them (lest people just start ignoring the personally inconvienent ones), and disgreements over what the laws are and how they are to be applied are have to be decided. This is where you get differences between Republics, Democracies, Oligarchies, Theocracies, etc.

A society where nobody is really in charge of maintaining (creating, deleting, modifying) laws, and nobody is in charge of adjudicating disputes, and it is up to individuals to decide if they want to follow the laws or not, is called anarchy.

  • No, an anarchy is a lack of a set of laws, where each person decides (in theory based on their own moral conscience) how to behave. In this case there is a defined set of laws that is perfectly understood by all people.
    – corsiKa
    Aug 30, 2011 at 18:14
  • Off topic for English, but I can't let this go without noting that actual "Anarchy" is just a theoretical concept. What actually happens when you have no source of legal authority in society is that people start to take it upon themselves to create one. Often multiple competing ones with an nasty ensuing pseudo-Darwinian struggle for survival. For an example of this in action, look at Somalia.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 30, 2011 at 18:15
  • @glowcoder - I would argue that is is the same thing. If there is no coordinating authority for everyone's differing views for what the rules are (and they will differ. People aren't robots.), and no authority ensuring uniform application, then effectively what you have is as many different systems of law as you have people.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 30, 2011 at 18:18
  • I can see your point of view. Your notion of theoretical verses practical is very important. In fact, the word I sought is to describe another theoretical form of government. Before I had posted, I had considered Utopia but considered that to be a place rather than a form of government. And the entire premise of the question relies on a perfect and voluntary following of the law.
    – corsiKa
    Aug 30, 2011 at 18:21
  • As a side note, I find it a travesty that the article on "Rule of Law" starts with "no man is above the law" in its opening line, and yet has no mention of Sir Edward Coke. Stupid Wikipedia...
    – corsiKa
    Aug 30, 2011 at 18:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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