Modern Science and Anarchism
(1842 - 1921) ~ Russian Father of Anarcho-Communism : As anarchism's most important philosophers he was in great demand as a writer and contributed to the journals edited by Benjamin Tucker (Liberty), Albert Parsons (Alarm) and Johann Most (Freiheit). Tucker praised Kropotkin's publication as "the most scholarly anarchist journal in existence." (From : Spartacus Educational Bio.)
• "Which side will you take? For the law and against justice, or for justice and against the law?" (From : "An Appeal to the Young," by Peter Kropotkin, 1880.)
• "...the strength of Anarchy lies precisely in that it understands all human faculties and all passions, and ignores none..." (From : "The Conquest of Bread," by Peter Kropotkin, 1906.)
• "The communes of the next revolution will proclaim and establish their independence by direct socialist revolutionary action, abolishing private property. When the revolutionary situation ripens, which may happen any day, and governments are swept away by the people, when the middle-class camp, which only exists by state protection, is thus thrown into disorder, the insurgent people will not wait until some new government decrees, in its marvelous wisdom, a few economic reforms." (From : "The Commune of Paris," by Peter Kropotkin, Freedo....)
This document contains 10 sections, with 19,941 words or 127,101 characters.
(1,370 Words / 8,841 Characters) Two fundamental tendencies in Society: the popular and the governmental.--The Kinship of Anarchism and the Popular-creative tendency.
Anarchism, like Socialism in general, and like every other social movement, has not, of course, developed out of science or out of some philosophical school. The social sciences are still very far removed from the time when they shall be as exact as are physics and chemistry. Even in meteorology we cannot yet predict the weather a month, or even one week, in advance. It would be unreasonable, therefore, to expect of the young social sciences, which are concerned with phenomena much more complex than winds and rain, that they should foretell social events with any approach to certainty. Besides, it must not be forgotten that men of science, too, are but human, and that most of them either belong by descent to the possessing classes, and are steeped in the prejudices of their class, or else are in the actual service of the government. Not out of the universities, therefore, does Anarchism come. As Socialism in general, Anarchism was born among th... (From : Anarchy Archives.)
(3,114 Words / 20,494 Characters) The Intellectual movement of the XVIII century: its fundamental traits: the investigation of all phenomena by the scientific method.--The Stagnation of Thought at the Beginning of the XIX century.--The Awakening of Socialism: its influence upon the development of science.--The Fifties.
But, though Anarchism, like all other revolutionary movements, was born among the people--in the struggles of real life, and not in the philosopher's studio,--it is none the less important to know what place it occupies among the various scientific and philosophic streams of thought now prevalent: what is its relation to them; upon which of them principally does it rest; what method it employs in its researches---in other words, to which school of philosophy of law it belongs, and to which of the now existing tendencies in science it has the greatest affinity. We have heard of late so much about economic metaphysics that this question naturally presents a certain interest; and I shall endeavor to answer it as plainly as possible, avoiding difficult phraseology wherever it can be avoided. The intellectual movement of our own times originated in the writings of the Scotch and the French philosophers of the middle... (From : Anarchy Archives.)
(1,153 Words / 7,307 Characters) Auguste Comte's Attempt to build up a Synthetic Philosophy.--The causes of his failure: the religious explanation of the moral sense in man.
It was natural that, as soon as science had attained such generalizations, the need of a synthetic philosophy should be felt; a philosophy which, no longer discussing "the essence of things," first causes," the " aim of life," and similar symbolic expressions, and repudiating all sorts of anthropomorphism (the endowment of natural phenomena with human characteristics), should be a digest and unification of all our knowledge; a philosophy which, proceeding from the simple to the complex, would furnish a key to the understanding of all nature, in its entirety, and, through that, indicate to us the lines of further research and the means of discovering new, yet unknown, correlations (so-called laws), while at the same time it would inspire us with confidence in the correctness of our conclusions, however much they may differ from current superstitions. Such attempts at a constructive synthetic philosophy were made several times during the nineteent... (From : Anarchy Archives.)
(1,952 Words / 12,548 Characters) The flowering of the Exact Sciences in 1856-62.--The Development of the Mechanical World-Conception, embracing the Development of Human Ideas and Institutions.--A Theory of Evolution.
But it must not be forgotten that Comte wrote his Positivist Philosophy long before the years 1856-1862, which, as stated above, suddenly widened the horizon of science and the world-concept of every educated man. The works which appeared in these five or six years have wrought so complete a change in the views on nature, on life in general, and on the life of human societies, that it has no parallel in the whole history of science for the past two thousand years. That which had been but vaguely understood--sometimes only guessed at by the encyclopædists, and that which the best minds in the first half of the nineteenth century had so much difficulty in explaining, appeared now in the full armor of science; and it presented itself so thoroughly investigated through the inductive-deductive method that every other method was at once adjudged imperfect, false and--unnecessary. Let us, then, dwell a little longer upon the results obt... (From : Anarchy Archives.)
(1,262 Words / 8,033 Characters) The Possibility of a New Synthetic Philosophy.--Herbert Spencer's attempt: why it failed.--The Method not sustained.--A False Conception of "The Struggle for Existence."
Since Anthropology--the history of man's physiological development and of his religious, political ideals, and economic institutions--came to be studied exactly as all other natural sciences are studied, it was found possible, not only to shed a new light upon this history, but to divest it for ever of the metaphysics which had hindered this study in exactly the same way as the Biblical teachings had hindered the study of Geology. It would seem, therefore, that when the construction of a synthetic philosophy was undertaken by Herbert Spencer, he should have been able, armed as he was with all the latest conquests of science, to build it without falling into the errors made by Comte in his "Positive Politics." And yet Spencer's synthetic philosophy, though it undoubtedly represents an enormous step in advance (complete as it is without religion and religious rites), still contains in its sociological part mistakes as gross as are found in the f... (From : Anarchy Archives.)
(1,785 Words / 11,163 Characters) The Causes of this Mistake.--The Teaching of the Church: "the World is steeped in Sin."--The Government's Inculcation of the same view of "Man's Radical Perversity."--The Views of Modern Anthropology upon this subject.--The Development of forms of life by the "Masses," and the LAw.--Its Two-fold Character.
In these erroneous views, however, Spencer does not stand alone. Following Hobbes, all the philosophy of the nineteenth century continues to look upon the savages as upon bands of wild beasts which lived an isolated life and fought among themselves over food and wives, until some benevolent authority appeared among them and forced them to keep the peace. Even such a naturalist as Huxley advocated the same views as Hobbes, who maintained that in the beginning people lived in a state of war, fighting "each against all,"1 till, at last, owing to a few advanced persons of the time, the "first society" was created (see his article "The Struggle for Existence--a Law of Nature.") Even Huxley, therefore, failed to realize that it was not Man who created society, but that social life existed among animals much earlier than the advent of man. Such is the power of deep-rooted prejudice. Were we, however, to trace the history of... (From : Anarchy Archives.)
(1,333 Words / 8,657 Characters) The Place of Anarchism in Science.--Its Endeavor to Formulate a Synthetic Conception of the World.--Its Object.
What position, then, does Anarchism occupy in the great intellectual movement of the nineteenth century? The answer to this question has already been partly formulated in the preceding pages. Anarchism is a world-concept based upon a mechanical explanation of all phenomena,1 embracing the whole of Nature--that is, including in it the life of human societies and their economic, political, and moral problems. Its method of investigation is that of the exact natural sciences, by which every scientific conclusion must be verified. Its aim is to construct a synthetic philosophy comprehending in one generalization all the phenomena of Nature--and therefore also the life of societies,--avoiding, however, the errors mentioned above into which, for the reasons there given, Comte and Spencer had fallen. It is therefore natural that to most of the questions of modern life Anarchism should give new answers, and hold wi... (From : Anarchy Archives.)
(922 Words / 5,887 Characters) Its origin.--How Its Ideal is Developed by the Natural-Scientific Method.
Anarchism originated, as has already been said, from the demands of practical life. At the time of the great French Revolution of 1789-1793, Godwin had the opportunity of himself seeing how the governmental authority created during the revolution itself acted as a retarding force upon the revolutionary movement. And he knew, too, what was then taking place in England, under the cover of Parliament (the confiscation of public lands, the kidnapping of poor workhouse children by factory agents and their deportation to weavers' mills, where they perished wholesale, and so on). He understood that the government of the "One and Undivided" Jacobinist Republic would not bring about the necessary revolution; that the revolutionary government itself, from the very fact of its being a guardian of the State, was an obstacle to emancipation; that to insure the success of the revolution, people ought to part, first of all, with their belief in Law, Authority, Unifor... (From : Anarchy Archives.)
(3,213 Words / 20,161 Characters) A Brief Summary of the Conclusions Reached by Anarchism: Law.--Morality.--Economic Ideas.--The Government.
This is not the place to enter into an exposition of Anarchism. The present sketch has its own definite aim--that of indicating the relation of Anarchism to modern science,--while the fundamental views of Anarchism may be found stated in a number of other works. But two or three illustrations will help us to define the exact relation of our views to modern science and the modern social movement. When, for instance, we are told that Law (written large) "is the objectification of Truth;" or that "the principles underlying the development of Law are the same as those underlying the development of the human spirit;" or that "Law and Morality are identical and differ only formally;" we feel as little respect for these assertions as does Mephistopheles in Goethe's "Faust." We are aware that those who make such seemingly profound statements as these have expended much thought upon these questions. But they have taken a wrong path; and hence we see in th... (From : Anarchy Archives.)
(3,837 Words / 24,010 Characters) Continuation:--Methods of Action.--The Understanding of Revolutions and their Birth.--The Creative Ingenuity of the People.--Conclusion.
It is obvious that, since Anarchism differs so widely in its method of investigation and in its fundamental principles, alike from the academical sociologists and from its social-democratic fraternity, it must of necessity differ from them all in its means of action. Understanding Law, Right, and the State as we do, we cannot see any guarantee of progress, still less of a social revolution, in the submission of the Individual to the State. We are therefore no longer able to say, as do the superficial interpreters of social phenomena, that modern Capitalism has come into being through "the anarchy of exploitation," through "the theory of noninterference," which we are told the States have carried out by practicing the formula of "let them do as they like" (laissez faire, laissez passer). We know that this is not true. While giving the capitalist any degree of free scope to amass his wealth at the expense of the helpless laborers, the government has NOWHERE... (From : Anarchy Archives.)
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