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Anarchism

Rejecting hierarchy and authority

Anarchism
Because human beings are essentially good, human society is naturally cooperative. Governments and other artificial and coercive institutions corrupt the human personality. Emphasis on individual freedom and choice. An optimistic view of human potential.

Anarchism key idea


Opposed to any structure that is hierarchical, coercive or authoritarian. Most governments Organized religion The military Courts & prisons Both capitalism and Soviet-style communism

Anarchism & government


Not all government functions rejected. Government can exist in order to protect people from invasion by others and to coordinate the productive work of the society (2 functions of govt). Government should be small and decentralized, not an all-powerful and controlling state.

Anarchism & authority


Authority per se is not rejected. Only irrational authority based not on reasoned argument and persuasion, but on having a position of power over others. In contrast, rational authority is derived from rational argument and is open to constant criticism and review.

Anarchism & critical thought


The thinking process is critical. Anarchists criticize blind acceptance of the status quo as mental indolence. Instead, we should examine ideas, including their origin. In the words of Emma Goldman: Anarchism urges man to think, to investigate, to analyze every proposition.

History of anarchism
Elements of anarchist thought in writings of the ancient Greeks and Chinese. Some evidence in utopian religious movements of the Middle Ages. Anarchism as a coherent political philosophy first originated at the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. Late 19th century, anarchist movement emerged. From 1860s onward, periodic eruptions of anarchist activities throughout Europe, particularly in southern Europe,

History of anarchism
Anarchists also active in labor movements in Europe, although most fellow members were not anarchists. Involved in many uprisings and revolutions, including the Russian Revolution of 1917, although the Bolshevik party (a small radical communist party) soon took over in Russia.

Anarchist thinkers
William Godwin (British) late 18th c. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (French) 19th c. Peter Kropotkin (Russian) late 19th c. Mikhail Bakunin (Russian) late 19th c. Emma Goldman (Lithuanian-American)

Emma Goldman
Born in Russia in 1869 came to the U.S. when she was 17. Very idealistic about America. Disillusioned: found that America was not much different than the oppressive Russian government, in terms of peoples daily lives. Workers exploited - long hours, low pay, brutal working conditions, no real legal rights. This led her to rethink liberal democracy and to embrace anarchism.

Emma Goldman
Wrote, traveled and lectured extensively on anarchism. Also advocated womens rights and opposed the draft and World War I.

Backlash against anarchism in United States


Associated with labor unrest Associated with radicalism in Russia Associated with assassination of President McKinley in 1901 Associated with protests against the war in 1917 Associated with violence, including bombing of AGs house in 1919

Arrested in 1893 urging the unemployed to ask for work. If they do not give you work, ask for bread. If they do not give you bread, take bread. Arrested on Sept. 10, 1901, on a charge of conspiracy to assassinate President McKinley. No evidence, so she was released in two weeks. Arrested in 1916 for distributing literature advocating birth control (considered obscenity). Arrested in 1917 and imprisoned 2 years for organizing anti-war rallies (obstructing the draft). Deported in 1919, at the height of the Red Scare.

Goldman in trouble with authorities

Anarchism, What it Really Stands for (1911)

How does Emma Goldman answer this question?

Anarchism, What it Really Stands for (1911)


How does Emma Goldman answer this question?

ANARCHISM:--The philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by man-made law; the theory that all forms of government rest on violence, and are therefore wrong and harmful, as well as unnecessary.

Goldmans ideas about anarchism


Two misconceptions: 1. That anarchism is impractical, just a beautiful utopian idea. People are too selfish. 2. That it is violent, destructive and dangerous - a black monster bent on swallowing everything.

Two misconceptions about anarchism


1. That it is impractical, merely a beautiful idea. Goldman says it is the current system that is wrong, foolish, and impractical. In contrast, anarchism promotes a vital new society that will eliminate wrong and foolish practices.

Two misconceptions about anarchism


She responds that humans are not by nature selfish & wicked, but are distorted by a corrupt society that deprives people of liberty. She sees crime, disorder and laziness as arising out of the current corrupt system. People will work hard and be honest if their work is meaningful and joyful.

Two misconceptions about anarchism

2. That it is violent, destructive and dangerous - a black monster bent on swallowing everything.

Two misconceptions about anarchism


2. That it is violent, destructive and dangerous. Anarchists claim that they are constructive, not destructive, because they want to build a society free of the chaotic and disfiguring features of current society.

Anarchism & violence


Violence is often associated with anarchism. Some anarchists do condone violence, but many reject it outright. Others accept it only if it is needed as a defensive measure against the violence of the state.

Rejecting representative democracy


Goldman is extremely critical of politics. Even if people with integrity went into public life, they would have no influence. She concludes, The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue. She says voting is only a game, that nothing comes out of it.

Oppressive institutions
The state is one of the three primary oppressive institutions that she identifies. What are the other two, and why does she consider them oppressive?

Oppressive institutions
Another one: Religion. Because of the view that man is a mere speck of dust who owes complete surrender to a superior power on high. She criticizes this idea of a spiritual hierarchy.

Oppressive institutions
Another oppressive institution: Private property. To her, this is the most oppressive. For the average person, private property has robbed him of his birthright, and has turned him loose a pauper and an outcast.

Goldmans view of the U.S.


America is particularly boastful of her great power, her enormous wealth. Poor America, of what avail is all her wealth, if the individuals comprising the nation are wretchedly poor?

Goldmans view of the U.S.


Consider these figures from one of the federal reserve banks (2001):
Top 1% of U.S. households have nearly 30% of the countrys wealth. Top 5% holds 55% of the wealth. Top 20% holds 80% of the wealth.

Goldmans view of Marxism


Critical of Marxism. Shared the view that capitalism is oppressive & exploitive, but: Economic relations dont define everything. Both individual and community important; community needs dont trump individual rights.

Goldmans solution
What can people do about their
lack of liberty, about their oppression?

Goldmans solution
Direct action: Open defiance of and resistance to all laws and restrictions, economic, social and moral.

Goldmans solution
Successes of direct action: 1. Universal suffrage brought by American revolutionaries (for white men) 2. End of slavery for black Americans 3. Rise of trade unions.

Goldman in 1917