The Essential Works of Anarchism

The Essential Works of Anarchism

The Essential Works of Anarchism

The Essential Works of Anarchism

Synopsis

The purpose of this volume is to introduce the student of anarchism to the most original and illuminating primary sources on the subject. Many of these works are unwieldy, out of print, or otherwise difficult to utilize in their original form. No secondary works have been included, and with the exception of Franz Borkenau every author represented in this volume was or is an adherent of the anarchist tradition.Obviously no single volume can hope to embrace every aspect of a tradition so rich and manysided. Limitations of space as well as the availability of suitable texts have precluded the separate consideration of certain topics. Some of these, however, are touched upon in the introductory notes to the selections. In parts I-III an effort has been made to provide excerpts of sufficient length to convey the full character of the author or episode involved; in the opinion of the editor this is preferable to an all-embracing but at the same time confusing collection of smaller pieces.Part IV, on anarchism in the highly fluid political environment of today, can do no more than sample some of the recent manifestations of anarchist theory and practice.Now, as in the past, the word "anarchism" is often applied indiscriminately to all terrorists, nihilists, and other advocates of violence and destruction.Although echoes of historical anarchism can be heard in many quarters today, the selections in Part IV have purposely been restricted to those individuals or groups who explicitly call themselves anarchists.The reader may wish to determine for himself the extent to which other movements on the political scene today can rightly be termed "anarchist." It is hoped that this anthology of the essential works of anarchism will provide him with the theoretical and historical perspective from which to make an informed judgment.

Excerpt

Anarchism, of all the major currents of modern social and political thought, has probably been subject to the grossest misunderstandings of its nature and objectives. Anarchism can trace its intellectual lineage back more than a century and a half, and political movements inspired by it have been appearing in most of the countries of the Western world for about a hundred years.Yet today it is still necessary to ask, just what is anarchism? In part, this confusion is the price anarchism has had to pay for being on the losing side of history. Never having come to power as a ruling ideology (a concept abhorrent to anarchism in any case), it has failed to attract as much attention from scholars and historians as its more successful rivals. And in part the elusiveness of what anarchism stands for is inherent in the doctrine itself, which is hostile to rigorous intellectual formulations. What anarchists have actually said and done in respect to specific economic, social, and political issues is best learned from the texts contained in this book. What follows here is an attempt to delineate the underlying character of anarchism, first by distinguishing it from other doctrines to which it is related and then by placing it in historical perspective.

A useful starting place for a discussion of anarchism is the succinct definition that Peter Kropotkin formulated for the doctrine he did so much to advance.Anarchism, according to Kropotkin, is

the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government—harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfac-

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