European Political Thought, 1815-1989

By Spencer M. Di Scala; Salvo Mastellone | Go to book overview

8
ANARCHISM

As shown in the previous chapter, the class struggle as conceived by Marx called for revolution, the centralization of all economic and political power in a workers' state, and an overwhelming dose of coercion to achieve socialism. Another school of socialist thought, anarchism, also believed in equality and the common ownership of the means of production as necessary to obtain social justice, but shunned the concentration of authority in governmental hands as a sure prescription for dictatorship. This school advocated immediate destruction of existing states and replacement of current forms of economic organization by cooperative institutions.

Just as Germany was the center of socialism, France was the heart of anarchism. After 1850 mutual-aid societies and a host of similar voluntary associations designed to smooth out the dislocations of economic life flourished in France. Most of these associations felt the influence of Pierre Joseph Proudhon, who considered these institutions capable of changing society by bringing about "the division of property [and] the independence of labor. . . ."


PIERRE JOSEPH PROUDHON (1809-1865)

Proudhon became famous at a young age with the essay What Is Property? An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and Government ( 1840), mentioned in the previous chapter. After 1848 he started effective political activities.

Since the political struggle pitted the rich bourgeoisie against the poor "people," Proudhon posed the difficult question of how to transform a political revolution into a social one. He discussed the issue in his General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century ( 1851). He viewed revolution as the expression of society's needs as opposed to the government's desire for centralization. According to Proudhon, society must be based

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