Understanding the Anarchist Philosophy

For readers who are interested in learning more about the traditional anarchist philosophy and its history, I would recommend the following works:

“Demanding the Impossible” by Peter Marshall gives a very comprehensive overview of the entire anarchist tradition. Noam Chomsky argues this is the best book on anarchism, and I tend to agree. It’s full text is available on the Lib Com website. Warning: It’s over 800 pages long.

Read it here.

“The Political Theory of Anarchism” was published by Australian political scientist April Carter in 1971, and is a very good discussion of anarchist political theory on a more abstract level within the context of a short booklet.

Read it here.

“Anarchism” by Paul Eltzbacher is a work by a German judge published in the early twentieth century examining the work of the seven classical anarchist theorists who are arguably the “founding fathers” of anarchism: Godwin, Proudhon, Stirner, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tolstoy, and Tucker.

Read it here.

Last, I would certainly recommend reading my own book, “Attack the System: A New Anarchist Perspective for the Twenty-First Century.” What I do is take the traditional anarchist philosophy as its been developed thus far and modify it a bit for the sake of making it relevant to contemporary world conditions.

It’s available from Amazon.Com.

Most people who are either adherents of the anarchist philosophy on some level, or are at least familiar with it, are mostly aware of it from the leftist youth counterculture that has adopted the “anarchist” label (although this has undergone something of a change in recent years due to the growing popularity of Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism, which is an overlapping tradition with somewhat different roots). Normally, the leftist youth culture version of anarchism synthesizes various other youth cultures or subcultures (e.g. punk rock music and hippies) with standard brand left-progressive politics (e.g. anti-racism, gay rights, the ecology movement, vegetarianism, etc.) with the anarchist philosophy being almost an afterthought or a superimposition on these other things. Alternately, the Rothbardians are about the so-called “non-aggression principle” and the inviolability of individual property rights.

I take a different approach. First, I hold to a non-sectarian version of anarchism which has precedents in such tendencies as anarchism without adjectives (De Cleyre), anarchism without hyphens (Hess), synthesism (Voline), panarchism (Zube), and other similar positions. I am interested in the entire spectrum of anarchist, libertarian, decentralist, anti-authoritarian, and anti-statist thinking and the ways in which these overlap as well as the ways they conflict.

I also disagree that anarchism necessarily needs to be connected to leftism. I think the anarchism=leftism thesis is problematic given that the mainstream of leftist thinking since the French Revolution has been state-centric, and historically leftist regimes have repressed anarchists as fervently as rightist ones. Also, I recognize the legitimacy of strands of anarchist thought with rightist influences, e.g. anarcho-capitalism (Rothbard, Friedman, the Tannehills), Troy Southgate’s national-anarchism, Tolkienesque “anarcho-monarchism,” traditionalist religious interpretations of anarchism (Dorothy Day), etc.

I likewise disagree that anarchists need to adopt doctrinaire left-wing positions (or any-wing positions) on every contentious issue or public controversy that there is:

Is abortion morally defensible? Has anthropogenic global warming been effectively proven by science? Are race and gender differences innate or socially constructed? Did Iraq have weapons of mass destruction prior to the 2003 invasion? Is predatory criminal behavior the result of social conditions or individual moral failure? Was the United States correct to intervene in Europe during World War Two? What kinds of economic policies are most optimal within the context of a statist society? Are secret societies involved in a conspiracy for world domination? Was 9-11 an inside job? Is there a “war on Christmas”? Is there a “war on women”? Was Officer Darren Wilson innocent or guilty in the shooting of Michael Brown? Who is the aggrieved party in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? Were Marxist-Leninist regimes an improvement over the societies they replaced?

These may all be immensely important questions, and they may all have implications concerning the application of the anarchist philosophy, but the anarchist position itself is not contingent on any one “correct” answer to any of these questions.

I am also interested in introducing the anarchist philosophy and its various forms, parallels and derivatives to as many different kinds of political, economic, and cultural factions as possible, while recognizing that some of these are more compatible with anarchism than others. I am just as interested in discussing anarchism with Republicans, Christian fundamentalists, and white separatists as a I am with Muslims, Communists, and black nationalists.

Lastly, as an American, I happen to think that overthrowing a genocidal regime is more immediate of an issue than, for example, promoting unisex restrooms, raising the minimum wage, reducing taxes, vegetarianism, bicycle paths, or policing bad words. If others disagree, fine. But I generally think many if not most anarchists have their priorities out of whack.

Categories: Anarchism/Anti-State

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