A Society in Revolt or Under Analysis? Investigating the Dialogue Between 19th-Century Anarchists and Sociologists

By Dana Williams

Anarchism has not had a noticeable impact upon sociology. The two traditions diverged in their interest in society and their relationship to it. This paper contrasts the practitioners or thinkers of one tradition against the other. The analysis shows some strong antagonisms, many instances of close analysis and critique of each other’s perspectives, and a number of friendly and supportive relationships between anarchists and sociologists.

Anarchists tended to admire the intellectual rigor of sociologists, but thought sociologists were insiders – mere reformers at best, reactionaries at worst – content to study society, but rarely to act for its improvement. Sociologists viewed anarchists with an even wider range of opinion, including considering them principled and admirable revolutionaries, slightly naïve utopians, or criminals and chaos-lovers bent on the destruction of social order. These factors contributed to the exclusion of anarchist ideas and anarchists themselves from the sociological canon.


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