Politics and Science in the Making of Peter Kropotkin’s Modern Anarchism

By Richard Morgan

This thesis treats the political thought of Petr Kropotkin as a site of intersection between anarchism and science. It explores moments of interaction between the diagnostic and remedial aspirations of revolutionary anarchism and certain epistemologies and methodologies of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century scientific thought. On the one hand I argue that this meeting led to the scientization of Kropotkin’s anarchist politics, transforming conventional anarchist ideas on the state, capitalism, and revolution. On the other hand, I consider how Kropotkin politicized science, that is, how he inflected certain theories and concepts into powerful revolutionary devices that equipped his brand of anarchism with new ways to identify political problems and solutions. Kropotkin’s bio-political worldview, his enthusiasm about statistics as a means to visualize society and social law, and his understanding of the ‘social’ as a field for the application of rational and scientific forms of knowledge for the improvement of human populations, had far-reaching implications for the way he conceptualized and articulated traditional anarchist notions of power, domination, moral corruption, exploitation, order, freedom, the dissemination of knowledge.

I show that in contrast to political philosophers who employ scientific ideas metaphorically to represent political concepts such as sovereignty, stability, and resistance, Kropotkin’s absorption of science was literal. Concepts such as health, sickness, insanity, medicine, hygiene, and degeneration did not function analogically in his thought, but were in fact some of his key political concerns.


Categories: Anarchism/Anti-State

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