The term autarky has two different etymological roots, both coming from the Greek language. On the one hand, autarky can derive from autarchy, a concept that translates as “total power. ” On the other hand, the notion can originate in autárkeia: “self-sufficiency”.
The idea of autarky, in this way, refers to having control of oneself or being self-sufficient. By extension, we speak of autarky when a State tries to satisfy its needs with its own resources, without depending on others.
A regime or system that seeks to achieve autarky, therefore, seeks self-sufficiency. The objective is to generate the necessary resources so as not to have to request external help. Autarky equates to independence: one does not need another or others for functioning or subsistence.
Autarky is generally an ideal or a theoretical concept, since in practice it is almost impossible to achieve. A person, for example, has autarky if he does not depend on society for the satisfaction of his essential needs. That would be the case of an individual who grows his own food, makes his clothes and procures the medicines he needs, to name one case.
A country achieves autarky when it can satisfy the needs of its inhabitants without depending on economic exchanges with the outside and without taking external credits. For this to be possible, the nation in question must have an immense amount of natural resources and developed and sustainable industries that produce all the necessary goods.
Sometimes, dictatorships are spoken of as autarchies, taking the first mentioned meaning of the term (the provision of absolute power).
As can be seen in the previous paragraphs, the concept of autarky (which is also known by the names self- sufficient economy, self-sufficiency and autarky), does not focus solely on governments but rather serves to describe the condition of any society, mechanism, industrial system, place, nation or person struggling to achieve a situation of self-sufficiency.
Depending on the point of view from which it is analyzed, this state can be considered positive or negative. Positive, if we understand that the refusal to receive help from an external entity results in greater growth and use of one’s own resources; negative, if this leads to cultural impoverishment due to limited contact with the rest of the world.
On the other hand, it is important to note that not any country or individual can aspire to autarky, and this brings us back to the previous dilemma. If a nation that has sufficient natural resources to grow its own food and develop the necessary raw materials for the various manufacturing processes that could sustain its economy, then the decision to reject the help of others may result in a stage of higher productivity.
Various currents of philosophy developed in Ancient Greece saw autarky as an ideal way of life. The fact of being able to achieve happiness by making exclusive use of virtue was considered a synonym of wisdom by the Cyrenaic, Epicurean, Stoic and Cynical schools. The ideal traits of the wise person are ataraxia, autonomy and autarky, which give him imperturbability, freedom and independence.
In the field of administrative law, autarky is understood as a form of decentralization thanks to which self-government is possible; it is one of the main features of the autarkic entity. The constitutional law defined similarly as it speaks of the ability to autogobernarnse or self – administered, although the difference undergoing certain statutes that come from a higher power.