So that's...interesting. Anarcho-monarchism isn't a political position I've heard expressed before...it strikes me that it explains a lot about the way the "good" cultures in Middle-earth function. They're like expanded versions of tribal cultures, with no formal leadership appearing necessary. A bunch of elves hang out with Elrond because he's just super competent and good at leading. The hobbits' "mayor" seems to have about as much civic power as Prom Queen.Many people know of Tolkienâ€™s various influences, but itâ€™s not often discussed how his anarcho-monarchist political leanings touched on his work.
From a letter to Christopher in 1943:
Tolkien detested government, the state, and industrialized bureaucracies. His ideal world was, we can gather, something like the Shire under Aragorn â€” sure, thereâ€™s a king, but heâ€™s far off and doesnâ€™t do anything to affect you, and the people are roughly self-governed and self-policed.My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) â€“ or to â€˜unconstitutionalâ€™ Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate realm of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate! If we could get back to personal names, it would do a lot of good. Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so as to refer to people.
He even says as much, regarding monarchy:
There should be a king, but he shouldnâ€™t do anything. The best king is the one who doesnâ€™t want it, and who whiled away his time doing unimportant and non-tyrannical things.And the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity. And at least it is done only to a small group of men who know who their master is. The mediÃ¦vals were only too right in taking nolo efiscopari as the best reason a man could give to others for making him a bishop. Give me a king whose chief interest in life is stamps, railways, or race-horses; and who has the power to sack his Vizier (or whatever you care to call him) if he does not like the cut of his trousers. And so on down the line.
This is the bit that surprised me the most. He openly says that the â€˜one bright spotâ€™ in a world under the specter of facism and Stalinism is the growing habit of men blowing up factories and power-stations. Resistance against the state and hierarchical powers is not just praised, but encouraged universally.But the special horror of the present world is that the whole damned thing is in one bag. There is nowhere to fly to. Even the unlucky little Samoyedes, I suspect, have tinned food and the village loudspeaker telling Stalinâ€™s bed-time stories about Democracy and the wicked Fascists who eat babies and steal sledge-dogs. There is only one bright spot and that is the growing habit of disgruntled men of dynamiting factories and power-stations; I hope that, encouraged now as â€˜patriotismâ€™, may remain a habit! But it wonâ€™t do any good, if it is not universal.
And we can sort of see this in Tolkienâ€™s work. There are kings, many kings, but rarely concrete state structures. The â€˜bestâ€™ rulers like Elrond and Galadriel donâ€™t seem to sit atop a hierarchy or a class system â€” they are just there at the top being wise and smart, and their subjects are free to associate with them or leave as they will. There are no tax collectors in Lothlorien, or Elven cops. The most â€˜statelikeâ€™ Kingdom we see, NÃºmenÃ³r, is explicitly a critique of the British Empire â€” an island nation which colonized the world and enslaves lesser men before quite literally being destroyed by god for its hubris.
I know not everyone here will agree with these takes or interpretations, but it is very interesting to see how Tolkienâ€™s politics influenced the world he built and the stories he told.
It's a bit of a baffling philosophy, if I'm honest. "We should have a king who doesn't want the job and mostly amuses himself with hobbies" is an understandable sentiment if there's no alternative to monarchy, but why have a king at all at that point? Quite odd.