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George Woodcock
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 434
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    "The essential introduction to the classical anarchist thinkers." - Mark Leier, Simon Fraser University

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0235-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Preface to the 1986 Edition
    (pp. 7-10)
  4. 1. Prologue
    (pp. 11-32)

    ‘Whoever denies authority and fights against it is an anarchist,’ said Sébastien Faure. The definition is tempting in its simplicity, but simplicity is the first thing to guard against in writing a history of anarchism. Few doctrines or movements have been so confusedly understood in the public mind, and few have presented in their own variety of approach and action so much excuse for confusion. That is why, before beginning to trace the actual historical course of anarchism, as a theory and a movement, I start with a chapter of definition. What is anarchism? And what is it not? These...

  5. Part One: The Idea

    • 2. The Family Tree
      (pp. 35-53)

      Anarchism is a creed inspired and ridden by paradox, and thus, while its advocates theoretically reject tradition, they are nevertheless very much concerned with the ancestry of their doctrine. This concern springs from the belief that anarchism is a manifestation of natural human urges, and that it is the tendency to create authoritarian institutions which is the transient aberration. If one accepts this view, then anarchism cannot merely be a phenomenon of the present; the aspect of it we perceive in history is merely one metamorphosis of an element constant in society. It is to tracing this constant but elusive...

    • 3. The Man of Reason
      (pp. 54-80)

      Like Tolstoy and Stirner, William Godwin is one of the great libertarian thinkers who stand outside the historical anarchist movement of the nineteenth century, yet, by their very isolation from it, demonstrate the extent to which it sprang from the spirit of the age. He had little direct influence on that movement, and many of its leaders, whose theories so closely resembled his own, were unaware of the extent to which he had anticipated them. Proudhon knew Godwin by name, but his single reference to him inEconomic Contradictions(1846), in which he dismissed him as a ‘communist’ of the...

    • 4. The Egoist
      (pp. 81-90)

      The pervasiveness of anarchistic ways of thinking in the age that followed the French Revolution, and which established both the capitalist system of production and the modern centralized state, is shown strikingly in the variety of points from which writers in many countries started independently on their journeys to similar libertarian destinations. Godwin, as we have seen, came to the rejection of government by way of the English Dissenting tradition, modified by the French Enlightenment. Josiah Warren in the United States and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in France independently reached anarchism during the 1840s largely by criticizing Utopian socialist doctrines, particularly those...

    • 5. The Man of Paradox
      (pp. 91-121)

      ‘My conscience is mine, my justice is mine, and my freedom is a sovereign freedom,’ said Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. No individualist—not even Stirner—was more lonely in the extremity of his thought than this self-taught philosopher who became angry at the suggestion that he had constructed any system of ideas, who passionately avoided the encouragement of any party or sect to support his views, and who proudly displayed the fluctuations and contradictions of his thought as evidence of its vitality. ‘Such men,’ said his friend Alexander Herzen, ‘stand much too firmly on their own feet to be dominated by anything...

    • 6. The Destructive Urge
      (pp. 122-153)

      Of all the anarchists, Michael Bakunin most consistently lived and looked the part. With Godwin and Stirner and Proudhon there always seems a division between the logical or passionate extremes of thought and the realities of daily life. These men of terror, as their contemporaries saw them, would emerge from their studies and become transformed into the pedantic ex-clergyman, the brow-beaten teacher of young ladies, the former artisan—proud of his fine printing—who turns out to be a model family father. This does not mean that any of them was fundamentally inconsistent; both Godwin and Proudhon showed exemplary courage...

    • 7. The Explorer
      (pp. 154-184)

      In the spring of 1872, when Bakunin was in Locarno nursing the humiliation of his failure at Lyons, another disaffected Russian aristocrat was travelling in Switzerland. He was a young but distinguished geographer of vaguely liberal inclinations; he was also a hereditary prince, and his name was Peter Kropotkin. Kropotkin spent much of his visit among the Russian refugees of Zürich and Geneva, listening to the arguments of the various revolutionary sects. Then he went for a short period into the Jura, where he met James Guillaume and joined the still undivided International as a supporter of the Bakuninist faction....

    • 8. The Prophet
      (pp. 185-196)

      Stefan Zweig once described Tolstoy as ‘the most passionate anarchist and anti-collectivist of our times’. One may dispute the extremity of this statement, but a consideration of Tolstoy’s thought and teaching during the last thirty years of his life, and of the tendencies lightly concealed in the great novels written before the period of his conversion, leaves little doubt of its general truth. Tolstoy did not call himself an anarchist, because he applied the name to those who wished to change society by violent means; he preferred to think of himself as a literal Christian. Nevertheless, he was not entirely...

  6. Part Two: The Movement

    • 9. International Endeavours
      (pp. 199-229)

      Humanity is one, subjected to the same condition, and all men are equal. But all men are different, and in his inner heart every man is in fact an island. Anarchists have been especially conscious of this duality of universal man and particular man, and much of their thought has been devoted to seeking a balance the claims of general human solidarity and those of the free individual. In particular they have sought to reconcile internationalist ideals—the idea of a world without frontiers or barriers of race—with a stubborn insistence on local autonomy and personal spontaneity. And even...

    • 10. Anarchism in France
      (pp. 230-274)

      In England, with Winstanley and Godwin, anarchism first appeared as a recognizable social doctrine. In Spain it attained its largest numerical support. In Russia it produced, with Kropotkin, Bakunin, and Tolstoy, its most distinguished group of theoreticians. Yet for many reasons it is France that deserves pride of place among the countries that have contributed to the anarchist tradition. This is not merely because it is the country of Proudhon, from whom most varieties of anarchism draw their ultimate inspiration, or because Proudhon’s mutualist disciples in the First International created the prototype of an organized anarchist movement. It is also...

    • 11. Anarchism in Italy
      (pp. 275-298)

      The tendency of anarchist movements to take on local characteristics has been particularly evident in Italy, where the revolutionary attitude developed during the Risorgimento was one of the shaping influences on the libertarian movement. The first anarchist militants in the country were former Mazzinians or Garibaldians; under the Savoy monarchy anarchism continued for long periods the same kind of clandestine life as the republican movements of the earlier nineteenth century, and the traditions of conspiracy, insurrection, and dramatic deeds developed by the Carbonari helped to determine anarchist ways of action. Even the loose organization of the movement resembled that which...

    • 12. Anarchism in Spain
      (pp. 299-334)

      In relation to the rest of Europe, Spain has always been an isolated land geographically, economically, historically; a land at once conservative and revolutionary, living by tradition and given to temperamental extremities; a land whose people are violent and generous, independent and morally rigorous; a land where most men live—as well as they can live—by the soil, and where to be poor is not to lose dignity. In the harsh face of this land and in the proud spirits of its inhabitants anarchism found the most congenial of all its homes, and for fifty years, until long after...

    • 13. Anarchism in Russia
      (pp. 335-356)

      At first the history of Russian anarchism seems puzzlingly slight. In the writings and lives of Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Tolstoy, Russia probably contributed more than any other country to anarchist theory and even to the creation of an international anarchist movement. Yet in Russia itself a specifically anarchist movement did not appear until the middle of the 1890s, and throughout the quarter of a century of its existence it remained the smallest of the revolutionary groupings, dwarfed in the rural districts by the Social Revolutionary Party, in the cities by the Menshevik and Bolshevik halves of the Social Democratic Party,...

    • 14. Various Traditions: Anarchism in Latin America, Northern Europe, Britain, and the United States
      (pp. 357-403)

      Anarchism has thriven best in lands of the sun, where it is easy to dream of golden ages of ease and simplicity, yet where the clear light also heightens the shadows of existing misery. It is the men of the South who have flocked in their thousands to the black banners of anarchic revolt, the Italians and Andalusians and Ukrainians, the men of Lyons and Marseilles, of Naples and Barcelona. But though the Mediterranean countries and southern Russia have been its great strongholds, anarchism has a place that cannot be ignored in the political and intellectual life of many other...

    • 15. Epilogue
      (pp. 404-423)

      The narrative I have just completed leaves two questions in one’s mind. Why did classic anarchism, the historical movement created by Bakunin and his associates a century and a quarter ago, fail in the early twentieth century? And why and how did the anarchist idea, which is a much wider thing, survive it and re-emerge in new forms in the later twentieth century?

      To answer the first question, I suggest, we must begin with a contradiction between self-image and reality. The anarchists have always regarded themselves as revolutionaries, and so they are in theory. In practice, however, organized anarchism in...

  7. Index
    (pp. 424-434)