Anarchism by Paul Eltzbacher

During the first decade of the twentieth century, a German jurist name Paul Eltzbacher produced a book that offered an extensive overview of the ideas of the founding fathers of anarchism: Godwin, Proudhon, Stirner, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tucker, Tolstoy. The book was originally translated into English by Steven T. Byington, and published in the United States by Benjamin Tucker. The full text is available online. Read it here.

The problem for our study is, to get determinate concepts of Anarchism and its species. As soon as such determinate concepts are attained, Anarchism is scientifically known. For their determination is not only conditioned on a comprehensive view of all the individual phenomena of Anarchism; it also brings together the results of this comprehensive view, and assigns to them a place in the totality of our knowledge.

The problem of getting determinate concepts of Anarchism and its species seems at a first glance perfectly clear. But the apparent clearness vanishes on closer examination.

For there rises first the question, what shall be the starting-point of our study? The answer will be given, “Anarchistic teachings.” But there is by no means an agreement as to what teachings are Anarchistic; one man designates as “Anarchistic” these teachings, another those; and of the teachings themselves a part designate themselves as Anarchistic, a part do not. How can one take any of them as Anarchistic teachings for a starting-point, without applying that very concept of Anarchism which he has yet to determine?

Then rises the further question, what is the goal of the study? The answer will be given, “the concepts[7] of Anarchism and its species.” But we see daily that different men define in quite different ways the concept of an object which they yet conceive in the same way. One says that law is the general will; another, that it is a mass of precepts which limit a man’s natural liberty for other men’s sake; a third, that it is the ordering of the life of the nation (or of the community of nations) to maintain God’s order of the world. They all know that a definition should state the proximate genus and the distinctive marks of the species, but this knowledge does them little good. So it seems that the goal of the study does still require elucidation.


Categories: Anarchism/Anti-State

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