Anarchism has ratings and 10 reviews. To what degree can anarchism be an effective organized movement? Is it realistic to think of anarchist ideas ev. “Whoever denies authority and fights against it is an anarchist,” said Sebastien. Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements – George Woodcock. Book Cover. An important study of the historical international.

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It was used in this sense against the Levelers during the English Civil War and during the French Revolution by most parties in criticizing those who stood to the left of them along the political spectrum. Nevertheless, the two uses of the word have survived together and wooxcock caused confusion in discussing anarchism, which to some has appeared a doctrine of destruction and to others a benevolent doctrine based on a faith in the innate goodness of man.

There has been further confusion through the association of anarchism with nihilism and terrorism. In fact, anarchism, which is based on faith in natural law and justice, stands at the opposite pole to nihilism, which denies all moral laws. Similarly, there is no necessary connection between anarchism, which is a social philosophy, and terrorism, which is a political means occasionally used by individual anarchists but also by actionists belonging to a wide variety of movements that have nothing in common with anarchism.

Anarchism aims at the utmost possible freedom compatible with social life, in the belief that voluntary cooperation by responsible individuals is not merely more just and equitable but is also, in the long run, more harmonious and ordered in its effects than authoritarian government.

Anarchist philosophy has taken many forms, none of which can be defined as woodccock orthodoxy, and its exponents have deliberately cultivated the idea that it is an open and mutable doctrine. However, all its variants combine a criticism of existing governmental societies, a vision of a future libertarian society that might replace them, and a projected way of attaining this society by means outside normal political practice.

Anarchism in general rejects the state. It gorge the value of democratic procedures because they are based on majority rule and on the delegation of the responsibility that the individual should retain.

It inclines toward internationalism and federalism, woodcodk, while the views of anarchists on questions of economic organization vary greatly, it may be said that all of them reject what William Godwin called accumulated property. Attempts have been made by anarchist apologists to trace the origins of their point of view in primitive nongovernmental societies. There has also been a tendency to detect anarchist pioneers among a wide variety of teachers and writers who, for various religious or philosophical reasons, have criticized the institution of government, have rejected political activity, or have placed a great value on individual freedom.

However, while ansrchism is true that some of the central libertarian ideas are to be found in varying degrees among these men and movements, the first forms of anarchism as a developed social philosophy appeared at the beginning of the modern era, when the medieval order had disintegrated, the Reformation had reached its radical, sectarian phase, wiodcock the rudimentary forms of modern political and economic organization had begun to appear.

In other words, the emergence of the modern state and of capitalism is paralleled by the emergence of the philosophy that, in various forms, has opposed them most fundamentally. Although Proudhon was the first writer to call himself an anarchist, at least two predecessors outlined systems that contain all the basic elements of anarchism. The first was Gerrard Winstanley c. Winstanley and his followers protested in the name of a radical Christianity against the economic distress that followed the Civil War and against the inequality that the grandees of the New Model Army seemed intent on preserving.

In — the Diggers squatted on stretches of common land in southern England and attempted to set up communities based on work on the land and the sharing of goods. The communities failed, but a series of pamphlets by Winstanley survived, of which The New Law of Righteousness was the most important.

In the society he sketched, work would be done in common and the products shared equally through a system of open storehouses, without commerce.

Like later wooodcock philosophers, Winstanley saw crime as a product of economic inequality and maintained that the people should not put trust in rulers.

Winstanley died in obscurity and, outside the small and ephemeral group of Diggers, he appears to have wielded no influence, except possibly over the early Quakers. A more elaborate sketch of anarchism, although still without the name, was provided by William Godwin in his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice Godwin differed from most later anarchists in preferring to revolutionary action the gradual and, wkodcock it seemed to him, more natural process of discussion among men of good will, by which he hoped truth would eventually triumph through its own power.


Godwin, who was influenced by the English tradition of Dissent and the French philosophy of the Enlightenment, put forward in a developed form the basic anarchist criticisms of the state, of accumulated property, and of the delegation of authority through democratic procedure.

Godwin rejected all established institutions and all social relations that suggested inequality or the power of one man over another, including marriage and even the role of an orchestra conductor.

Review of ANARCHISM AND ANARCHISTS by George Woodcock. (Quarry Press) | Workers Solidarity Movement

For the present he put his faith in small groups of men seeking truth and justice; for the future, in a society of free individuals organized locally in parishes and linked loosely in a society without frontiers and with the minimum of organization. Every man should take part in the production of necessities and should share his produce with all in need, on the basis of free distribution.

Godwin distrusted an excess of political or economic cooperation; on the other hand, he looked forward to a freer intercourse of individuals through the progressive breaking down of social and economic barriers.

Here, conceived in the primitive form of a society of free landworkers and artisans, was the first sketch of an anarchist world. However, despite their similarities to later libertarian philosophies, the systems of Winstanley and Godwin had no perceptible influence on nineteenth-century European anarchism, which was an independent development and which derived mainly from the peculiar fusion of early French socialist thought and German Neo-Hegelianism in the mind of Pierre Joseph Proudhon, the Besancon printer who has been called the father of anarchism.

This tradition centered largely on a developing social revolutionary movement that attained mass dimensions in France, Italy, and Spain where anarchism remained strong until the triumph of Franco inand to a lesser extent in French-speaking Switzerland, the Ukraine and Latin America. Also, there arose among nineteenth-century anarchists a mystique that action and even theory should emerge from the people.

George Woodcock

Libertarian attitudes, particularly in connection with the anarchosyndicalism of France and Spain, were influenced by the rationalization and even romanticization of the experience of social struggle; the writings of Fernand Pelloutier and Georges Sorel in particular emanate from this aspect of the anarchist movement.

Nineteenth-century anarchism assumed a number of forms, and the points of variation between them lie in three main areas: Individualist anarchism lies on the extreme and sometimes dubious fringe of the libertarian philosophies since, in seeking to assure the absolute independence of the person, it often seems to negate the social basis of true anarchism.

A milder form of individualist anarchism was that advocated by the American libertarian writer Benjamin Tucker —who rejected violence in favor of refusal to obey and who, like all individualists, opposed any form of economic communism. What he asked was that property should be distributed and equalized so that every man should have control over the product of his labor. Mutualism, developed by Proudhon, differed from individualist anarchism in its stress on the social element in human behavior.

The mutualists laid great stress on federalist organization from the local commune upward as a substitute for the national state. Mutualism had a wide following among French artisans during the s.

Collectivism is the form of anarchism associated with Michael Bakunin. The collectivist philosophy was developed by Bakunin from onward, when he was forming the first international organizations of anarchists, the International Brotherhood and the International Alliance of Social Democracy.

Bakunin and the other collectivists agreed with the mutualists in their rejection of the state and of political methods, in their stress on federalism, and in their view that the worker should be rewarded according to his labor. On the other hand, they differed in stressing the need for revolutionary means to bring about the downfall of the state and the establishment of a libertarian society. While in mutualism the individual worker had been the basic unit, in collectivism it was the group of workers; Bakunin specifically rejected individualism of any kind and maintained that anarchism was a social doctrine and must be based on the acceptance of collective responsibilities.

Collectivism survived as the dominant anarchist philosophy in Spain until the s; elsewhere it was replaced during the s by the anarchist communism that was associated particularly with Peter Kropotkin, although it seems likely that Kropotkin was merely the most articulate exponent of a trend that grew out of discussions among anarchist intellectuals in Geneva during the years immediately after the Paris Commune of Kropotkin also linked his theories closely with current evolutionary theories in the fields of anthropology and biology; anarchism, he suggested in Mutual Aidwas the final stage in the development of cooperation as a factor in evolution.

Anarchist communism differed from collectivism on only one fundamental point — the way in which the product of labor should be shared.

They reasoned, first, that work was a natural need that men could be expected to fulfill without the threat of want and, second, that where no restriction was placed on available goods, there would woodcovk no temptation for any man to take more than he could use. The anarchist communists laid great stress on local communal organization and even on local economic self-sufficiency as a guarantee of independence.


Anarchosyndicalism began to develop in the late s, when many anarchists entered the French trade unions, or syndicates, which were just beginning to re-emerge after the period of suppression that followed the Paris Commune. Later, anarfhism militants moved into key positions in the Confederation Generale du Travail, founded inand worked out the theories of anarchosyndicalism.

They shifted the basis of anarchism to the syndicates, which they saw gworge organizations that united the producers in common struggle as well as in common work. When the state was paralyzed, the syndicates, which had been the organs of revolt, could be transformed into the basic units of the free society; the workers would take over the factories where they had been employees and would federate by industries.

Anarchosyndicalism created a mystique of the working masses that ran counter to individualist trends; and the stress on the producers, as distinct from the consumers, disturbed the anarchist communists, who were haunted by the vision of massive trade unions ossifying into monolithic institutions. However, in France, Italy, and Spain it was the syndicalist variant that brought anarchism its first and only mass following.

The men who elaborated the philosophy of anarchosyndicalism included militants, such as Fernand Pelloutier, Georges Yvetot, and Emile Pouget, who among them created the vision of a movement arising from the genius of the working people. Pacifist anarchism has taken two forms. That of Leo Tolstoy attempted to give rational and concrete form to Christian ethics. Tolstoy rejected all violence; he advocated a moral revolution, its great tactic the refusal to obey. He denounced the state, law, and property; he foresaw cooperative production and distribution according to need.

Anarchism by George Woodcock

Later a pacifist trend appeared in the anarchist movement in western Europe; its chief exponent was the Dutch ex-socialist, Domela Nieuwenhuis. It differed from strict Tolstoyism by accepting syndicalist forms of struggle that stopped short of violence, particularly the millenarian general strike for the abolition of war.

Despite their differences, all these forms of anarchism were united not merely in their rejection of the state, of politics, and of accumulated property, but also in certain more elusive attitudes.

In its avoidance of partisan organization and political practices, anarchism retained more of the moral element than did other movements of protest. This aspect was shown with particular sharpness in the desire of its exponents for the simplification of life, not merely in the sense of removing the complications of authority, but also in eschewing the perils of wealth and establishing a frugal sufficiency aharchism the basis for life.

Progress, in the sense of bringing to all men a steadily rising supply of material anarcjism, has never appealed to the anarchists; indeed, it is doubtful if their philosophy is at all progressive in the ordinary sense. They reject the present, but they reject it in the name of a future of austere liberty that will resurrect the lost virtues of a more natural past, a future in which struggle will not be ended, but merely transformed within the dynamic equilibrium of a society that rejects utopia and knows neither absolutes nor perfections.

The main difference between the anarchists and the socialists, including the Marxists, lies in the fact that while the socialists maintain that the state must be taken over as the first step toward its dissolution, the anarchists argue that, since power corrupts, any seizure of the existing structure of authority can only lead to its perpetuation.

However, anarchosyndicalists regard their unions as the skeleton of a new society growing up within the old. The problem of reconciling social harmony with complete individual freedom is a recurrent one in anarchist thought.

It has been argued that an authoritarian society produces antisocial reactions, which would vanish in freedom. It has also been suggested, by Godwin and Kropofkin particularly, that public opinion will suffice to deter those who abuse their liberty. However, George Orwell has pointed out that the reliance on public opinion as a force replacing overt coercion might lead to a moral tyranny which, having no codified bounds, could in the end prove more oppressive than any system of laws.

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