Alan Ritter, Anarchism: A Theoretical Analysis (1980)



The anarchists' case for freedom would be flimsy if their way of maximizing individuality and community was only abstract. But they do more than show why abstract individuality and community are reinforcing. Each seeks a concrete individuality and community with mutual relations of a distinct type. Each traces the character of these relations, rejoicing in those that unite individuality and community, worrying about those that cause them to conflict. Finally, to relieve this worry, each anarchist introduces a mediating agent, a cohesive social attitude, to bind individuality and community firmly so that conflict between them is decreased. The elements of anarchy that most affect how well it nurtures freedom are thus the characters of its individuality, of its community and of the attitude it uses to encourage their accord.

There is disagreement among anarchists about the kind of individuality and community a well-ordered society creates. For the early anarchists, above all Godwin, community involves mainly rational awareness, and individuality has generic traits. For later anarchists, especially Kropotkin, communal ties are more emotional, and individuality lies less in what a person shares with others than in what makes him unique. Along with these shifts in the anarchists' conception of individuality and community go changes in the attitude they use to make individuality and community coalesce. Godwin relies on sincerity; Proudhon and Bakunin on respect; Kropotkin uses mutual benevolence. These differences among anarchists give their visions of a good society distinctive character. Godwin's anarchy, with its generic individuality, rational community and mediating sincerity, is like a thoughtful, candid conversation. For Proudhon and Bakunin, who favor somewhat more particular, emotional forms of individuality and community, and who mediate their conflicts with respect, anarchy resembles life among collaborators in a productive enterprise. Kropotkin's anarchy, which uses mutual benevolence to mediate between a highly personal individuality and a community marked by strong affective ties, is like an extended group of friendly neighbors.

Though characterizing anarchy as conversation, enterprise or neighborhood gives only a rough classification of types, it captures enough of the diversity within anarchism to make its expository use worthwhile. Seeing the types of anarchy as like one or another of these social patterns brings out salient differences, while confirming that all take the same ideal of communal individuality as their lodestar.


An individual, for Godwin, must be mentally independent, in the sense that he grounds his beliefs and actions on his own assessment of their merits. If others determine his acts or opinions for him, he is not an individual, because then his mind and theirs are indistinguishable. 'Following the train of his disquisitions and exercising the power of his understanding' makes a man an individual by differentiating him mentally from other people.1 The mark of the Godwinian individual is thus generic reason. One finds individuality by sharing with others the capacity of the human species for independent thought.

Two misconceptions about Godwinian individuality must be set aside before its relation to community can be accurately assessed. For one thing, Godwin's emphatically rational individuality seems to be opposed to emotions. Not only does Godwin exclude emotions from the marks of individuality, he also sees them as a threat. To maintain individuality requires repressed feelings. We must resist the desire to 'indulge in the gratifications and cultivate the feelings of man' lest, resigning ourselves 'wholly to sympathy and imitation', we become intellectually dependent.2 But Godwin's hostility to emotions is not absolute. Without 'the genuine emotions of the heart' we are 'the mere shadows of men, . . . destitute of substance and soul'.3 An emotionless person, though logically able to be an individual, will not become one. Feelings which encourage independent thinking are thus valued aids to individuality. Godwin wants to direct emotions, not expunge them.

There is also some apparent basis in Godwin's individuality for seeing it as endangered by community. The best evidence for this view is his attack on cooperation 'for imprisoning . . . the operation of our own mind'. How can Godwin think community aids individuals when he calls even the cooperation among actors and musicians 'absurd and vicious'?4 Once one grasps that he attacks cooperation so far as it weakens individuals, and not as being bound to weaken them, his view of its effect on individuality is revealed to be nuanced. Concerts and dramas threaten individuals because they require 'formal repetition of other men's ideas'.6 But cooperation encouraging to mental independence deserves praise. The opposition to community that Godwin's individuality provokes also leads to giving community qualified support.

The kind of community that Godwin sanctions occurs among participants in conversation. He admits that conversation, as a species of cooperation, involves 'one or the other party always yielding to have his ideas guided by the other'.6 But conversers, unlike actors or musicians, suffer no interference when they cooperate with the independence of their minds. In fact, conversation serves individuality because the remarks of other parties, rather than imprisoning one's thoughts and feelings, help them grow. 'Conversation accustoms us to hear a variety of sentiments, obliges us to exercise patience and attention, and gives freedom and elasticity to our disquisitions.'7 Not only does conversation encourage mental independence: by exposing us to new ideas, it gives that independence wider scope.

To explain better how conversation serves individuals, Godwin likens it to a mirror. Just as a mirror helps me know my physical identity, so conversation helps me know my mental self. Through his reactions to my statements, an interlocutor reflects them, so that I understand them better than I could alone. My firmer grasp of my expressed opinions helps me criticize them, so as to increase the independence of my thought.8

By comparing conversation to a mirror, Godwin clarifies his thesis that it creates individuals, but he also calls his thesis into doubt. For the figure of a mirror is most used by analysts to account for social emulation. When Rousseau explained conflict and conformity as arising from our desire to shine in others' eyes, he equipped social theory with a helpful tool, perhaps used most aptly by C. H. Cooley, in his discussion of the 'looking-glass self'. Cooley sees even more clearly than Rousseau that a man's socially reflected image, far from helping him become an independent thinker, makes him a copy of those with whom he interacts. The character of social men is so 'largely caught up from the persons they are with' that they always 'share the judgements of the other mind'.9 How can Godwin think conversation favors individuality, when, as a form of interaction, it creates a social self ?

It is in answering this question that Godwin calls attention to the individualizing aspects of sincerity, which for him consists in 'telling every man the truth, regardless of the dictates of worldly prudence and custom'.10 He readily admits the harm for mental independence of conversation that is insincere. Since an insincere converser hides his sentiments, he cannot serve others as a mirror in which to reflect and clarify their ideas. He serves them as a mirror, to be sure, but one which, like Cooley's, is apt to reflect social expectations and so discourages the development of independent thought. To make matters worse, insincerity is contagious. When one converser hides his sentiments, so do the rest. And when none are candid, all benefit of conversation for individuality is lost. 'Reserve, deceitfulness and an artful exhibition of ourselves take from the human form its soul and leave us the unanimated semblance of what man might have been, of what he would have been, were not every impulse of the mind thus stunted and destroyed.'11

By tracing the harm of conversation for self-development to insincerity, rather than to the character of interaction, Godwin avoids concluding with sociologists like Cooley that conversation must cramp the self. So long as my interlocutor is deceptive, Godwin argues, he cannot help me be an individual. For I will conceal my thoughts from someone who may mock them secretly. But if he speaks sincerely, I have no need to hide my sentiments from fear. I will express them fully, thereby achieving mental independence, because his sincere response to my statements helps me more than a dishonest response does to evaluate them for myself.12

The sincerity of Godwinian conversation not only helps it create individuals, it also helps tie these individuals together. All conversation is to some degree communal because participants, having close, egalitarian relations, must be somewhat conscious of one another's minds. But where sincerity is lacking, notes Godwin, obstacles to mutual awareness arise. Insincerity, by fostering deceit among conversers, makes each eye the other 'as if he expected to receive from him a secret wound'.13 By arousing uncertainty about how others view their thoughts, it produces 'zeal for proselytism and impatience of contradiction'.14 And by masking character it breeds permissiveness and calumny. 'The basest hypocrite passes through life with applause; and the purest character is loaded with unmerited aspersions.'15 Sincere conversers, on the other hand, being free of the suspicion, fear and hatred that insincerity excites, and hence less separated by practices like proselytism or libel, are better able to unite as a community. Furthermore, they seek communal contacts, for candor and forthrightness elicit their attention and make them eager to know one another's minds.16

How sincerity unites conversers in community is neatly captured by the figure of a mirror. One mark of a community is awareness that the other members know my thoughts. Only if they reflect my thinking can I have this awareness, for otherwise I lack the evidence on which it must be based. Now sincerity, by making individuals transparent, might seem to keep them from reflecting anything whatever, including other minds. For how can a transparent surface be a mirror? But what sincerity does, says Godwin, is strip off the social mask which obstructs communication so as to expose rational identity, the only kind one can rely on to reflect another self. It is thus precisely because sincerity makes us transparent on the surface that it lays bare the inner mirror which creates communal ties. Freed of the social pretenses that mask their rational selves, sincere conversers reflect the thoughts of others faithfully, so that mutual awareness grows intense.

The merit of Godwin's reliance on sincere conversation, in which all participants disclose their true beliefs, to mediate between community and individuality turns on the answers to three questions: Is sincerity achievable? Is it effective as a mediator? Is it a valuable social trait?

The most radical argument for rejecting Godwin's sincerity as unachievable, made familiar by the French moralists, claims that the self-watching it requires is self-defeating. Godwin's sincerity is a consciously willed condition, reached by watching and changing one's state of mind. Now this sort of deliberate self-observation interferes with the candor it is intended to achieve. The sentiments of one who tries to be sincere are disingenuous because they are transformed by being watched into 'a cerebral invention, a kind of posturing'.17

This objection to sincerity counts heavily against those versions which emphasize ingenuous emotions. But Godwin's version is more rational. Sincerity for him requires full disclosure of opinions and beliefs, so far as they result from rational deliberation; but emotions, being significant above all as deliberative aids, may sometimes be legitimately concealed.18 The very self-watching which complicates the search for emotional sincerity thus helps achieve the more rational Godwinian kind. For while self-watching harms the spontaneity of feelings, it helps give a reasoned grounding to beliefs.

Godwin cannot so easily escape other arguments for calling sincerity unreachable which deny the possibility of candid thought. Perhaps the most interesting of these arguments points to the effect of sincerity on shadowy or tentative ideas. Instead of disclosing ideas which are uncertain, sincerity distorts them by making them seem too firm and definite. It is self-defeating because it exposes secret thoughts to too much light.19

To this objection Godwin can respond in the same way as to the first one: by pointing out how limited his sincerity is in scope.

Not all our thoughts need be revealed for us to share Godwinian sincerity. What it requires is disclosure of rational beliefs. Since sincerity for Godwin applies to rational beliefs, whose clarity permits their accurate disclosure, rather than to tentative or secret thoughts, which when disclosed become distorted, it is narrow enough in scope to be achievable.

A final ground for calling sincerity unreachable, more modest than the foregoing, claims not that it is self-defeating but that, owing to discrepancies between thought and expression, it cannot be entirely achieved. No method of communication transmits even rational beliefs with perfect accuracy, since they are too numerous for all to be expressed. Furthermore, our gestures, speech and writing use standardized conventions, which schematize communicated thought. Rational beliefs defy exposure, because our power to express them is too weak.20

While admitting the force of this objection, Godwin regards it as innocuous, so far as his reliance on sincerity to mediate between individuals and their community is concerned. Such mediation is accomplished best by that sincerity which supports reciprocal awareness and independent thought the most. Perfect sincerity, which for Godwin means disclosing all rational beliefs, is not well suited for such mediating, since individuality and community are sometimes damaged by too much disclosure of even reasoned thought. If I withhold or temper my reasoned finding that an interlocutor is a fool, I diminish my sincerity but help reach the end it is meant to serve. 'Sincerity is only a means.' 'The man who thinks only how to preserve his sincerity is a glaringly imperfect character'.21 Since Godwin does not seek complete sincerity, he can easily accept the argument that it must be incomplete.

Even if sincerity is reachable to the extent that Godwin hopes, it still would fail to serve him as a mediator unless it helps create communally related individuals. Thoughtful examiners of sincerity have usually denied that it can do this. Nietzsche was not the last to warn against sincerity as intrusive to the self. He sees self-development as a secret process, involving 'delicate decisions'. An individual is 'a concealed one, who instinctively uses speech for silence and withholding. . . and encourages a mask of himself to wander about in the hearts and minds of his friends'.22 For Santayana, as for Nietzsche, individuals need masks, though less to guard the self than to define its character. In assuming a visage, 'we encourage ourselves eloquently to be what we are. . .We wrap ourselves gracefully in the mantle of our inalienable part.'28 These themes are now standard among observers of sincerity, who routinely note how masks protect and shape the self.24

If sincerity harms individuals, it indirectly harms Godwinian community which has individuals for components. But writers on sincerity also find it harms community by directly blocking mutual awareness. Andre Gide, for instance, thinks sincerity 'can only concern those who have nothing to say'. Sincere ones, says Gide, are so absorbed by introspection that they can't communicate.25 George Simmel sees sincerity as impeding mutual awareness by making others less attractive. 'Portions even of the persons closest to us must be offered us in the form of indistinctness and unclarity, in order for their attractiveness to keep on the same high level.'28

To meet these objections to his reliance on sincerity as a mediator, Godwin can appeal again to the rational character of the individuality and community he uses sincerity to help reach. It is our ability to develop and share delicate emotions, transient perceptions, elusive intimations that is most threatened by stark frankness. Sincerity is less harmful to the more solid and permanent - because rationally grounded - sentiments that define and unite Godwinian individuals. Nevertheless, sincerity might plausibly be charged with harming even Godwin's communal individuality, were it not for the conversational context in which it occurs. The objections to sincerity just considered all take as their context the existing social order with its opaque impersonality. There indeed 'complete openness would encounter misunderstanding, inability to forgive, limited tolerance for differences'. It might even be 'the greatest threat to civilized social life'.27 But the close, egalitarian connections among participants in conversation dispel the mistrust that makes achieving communal individuality through frank disclosure difficult. The conversational context of Godwin's good society works in tandem with its rationality to help sincerity join its members in community.

The final question which affects the merit of sincere conversation, as Godwin uses it, is its value as a social trait. For sincerity, though attainable and an effective mediator between individuality and community, still might cause outweighing harm. The harm that sincerity can be most plausibly charged with causing is to privacy. When sincerity is practiced, privacy declines, because the barriers between myself and others, which keep them from observing me, are breached. To the extent, then, that privacy has value, sincerity is suspect.

Statements can be found in Godwin which suggest he answers this objection by denying that privacy has worth. For he berates 'the solitary anchorite' as parasitical, and his ideal society would be one whose member 'had no hopes in concealment [and] saw at every turn that the eye of the world was upon him'.28 But Godwin does not oppose all forms of privacy, just those based on indifference or reserve. If I escape observation because others are uncaring, or because I hide my thoughts, Godwin does think privacy lacks value. But if my privacy results from solitude or discretion, as when I withdraw from interaction or count on others not to probe or spy, then for Godwin my privacy has worth.29

By drawing this distinction, Godwin enables himself to assure candor, while also protecting private life. As conversationalists, the members of his anarchy are open and sincere because they care about each other and disclose their beliefs. But they also have a private life, being discreet in conversation and at home in solitude. The sincerity of frank disclosure is thus limited in Godwin's anarchy by barriers of discretion and islands of seclusion to save privacy.

Godwinian sincerity emerges from this survey of objections as defensible in the role assigned to it. Being limited in scope by its rational character, in range of application by its conversational context, and in operation by its respect for privacy, it is an appropriate mediator between the commensurately limited self-development and reciprocal awareness it is designed to help secure. For Godwin's successors, however, who seek a more extensive communal individuality, sincerity has too many traps to be their mediator. They need a substitute that melds the more particularized individuals they search for into the more embracing community it is their purpose to achieve.


The close agreement between Proudhon and Bakunin concerning individuality, community and how to mediate between them justifies considering their plans for anarchy together. Certainly their plans have differences, but Bakunin, an avowed disciple of Proudhon, agrees with him on basic points of social structure.

Rationality marks developed individuals as much for Proudhon and Bakunin as for Godwin.30 Where they differ from their predecessor in their view of individuality is in finding other signs of the developed self. Emotional vitality, which merely aids self-development for Godwin, is one such sign.31 Another is the capacity for productive work, in which Proudhon and Bakunin see such individualizing qualities as 'bodily strength, manual dexterity, mental quickness, intellectual energy, pride in having overcome difficulties, mastered nature, acquired knowledge, gained independence'.32

By identifying three aspects of individuality rather than one, as Godwin had, Proudhon and Bakunin give their vision of self-development more richness, but they also make it harder to achieve. For it is surely harder to be rational, emotional and productive, than to be rational alone. One way they meet this problem is by arguing that productive work aids rationality, being its major source. Through making things, we test beliefs and discover facts. Hence one whose individuality is productive is more apt to engage in reasoned thought.33

To show that the emotional element of individuality can be achieved together with its productive and rational elements, Proudhon and Bakunin use a different argument. Rather than viewing emotionality as arising from one of the other aspects of individuality, they claim that, though its source is independent, it has to develop, for individuality as a whole to be complete. 'The mind is troubled', writes Proudhon, 'if any one faculty tries to usurp power.' 'The opposition of faculties, their mutual reaction, is the source of mental equilibrium.'34 Unless emotions have the strength to counter the mind's rational and productive tendencies, none will reach complete development. The individuality sought by Proudhon and Bakunin thus differs from the kind that Godwin seeks, not only in having several elements, but in requiring that these elements be balanced.

Proudhon and Bakunin reject Godwin's rational community for the same reason as they reject his rational individuality. A sharing of considered beliefs among intimate conversers is too narrow a form of mutual awareness for these later anarchists who seek community, like individuality, not only in the realm of intellect, but also in emotional and productive life. To achieve a wider and more varied consciousness, Proudhon and Bakunin envision anarchist society as composed of numerous productive enterprises, equal in power but diverse in kind, distinguished by their differentiated functions, related by negotiated bargains, and united by reciprocal dependence.35

A society organized as Proudhon and Bakunin wish would do something to create the multi-faceted individuality and community they use it to help reach. Being composed of enterprises which supply goods and services, it would foster awareness among its members of their concerns as producers, while developing their capacities for productive work.36 It also would support rational individuality and community, to the extent that the productive activity it required encouraged the expression of independent thought. Only the emotional aspect of the individuality and community Proudhon and Bakunin seek would be unlikely, in their society, to be nourished much. Some shared emotional warmth could be expected from the team-work and cooperation occurring there, but feelings develop best in the intimate surroundings which Proudhon's and Bakunin's large, functionally differentiated society lacks.

The largeness and complexity of their good society also arrest growth of the rational and productive aspects of their envisioned community and self. Godwin had secured rational individuality and community partly by making society small and simple, so that its closely related members achieved mutual trust. Such trust, and the rationality it engenders, is harder to establish in Proud-hon's or Bakunin's anarchy because its members, divided by their roles and ranks in complicated enterprises, and separated from participation in other enterprises by the rivalry that bargaining evokes, find it difficult to gain one another's confidence. Nor can productive consciousness and ability easily flourish in such enterprises, even though they are devoted to productive work. For the divided labor and managerial supervision they need for their success make activity in them so routine and servile that it does not foster productive power or awareness much.

Proudhon and Bakunin try to win support in their society for the rational and productive elements of community and self partly by the way they organize education. Both see education as an immunizer, which protects aspiring producers from the dividing and debilitating effects of work, through the methods of what Proudhon calls polytechnical apprenticeship. These methods consist first in 'having the neophyte producer carry out the entire series of industrial operations, moving from the simplest to the most difficult, however specialized', and second, in 'having him derive from these operations the principles that apply to each of them'.37 Education thus organized serves individuality by making work more comprehensible. Since each producer who receives a polytechnical education learns the underlying theory of his work and knows from practical experience how his job relates to the rest, he sees the point of doing it, grasps its place in a larger whole and finds that far from sapping his rational and productive powers, it gives them added strength. His education also strengthens his involvement in productive and rational community by solidifying contacts with fellow workers. Producers who have taken turns performing others' work, and who share an understanding of its basic principles, are so closely attuned in attitude and outlook that they are not much separated by function or rank. Under anarchy, despite divided labor and managerial control, 'social communion [and] human solidarity are not vain words' because producers are held together 'by the memory of early struggles [and] the unity of their work'.38

The trouble with polytechnical education is its temporary benefits. Once completed, it no longer directly helps producers to relate as reciprocally conscious individuals. To extend its benefits to workers who have completed this initiation Proudhon and Bakunin propose to organize an anarchist economy so that producers in every industry, no matter how experienced, continue to work in turn at all the jobs their industry creates. Workers would also be encouraged to develop their skills and increase their knowledge by taking jobs in different industries. The only producers who would devote themselves to a single kind of work would be those who, on the basis of long experience, found that the positions they preferred to fill were fixed.39

The main difference between Proudhon's and Bakunin's way of developing community and self is in how they would organize the family. Bakunin seeks diverse and open families; Proudhon wants them to be uniform and enclosed. To give diversity and openness to children's family life Bakunin would weaken the hold of parents by forbidding the inheritance of wealth and would bring them under non-parental influence by charging society with their education.40 Domestic openness and diversity would be provided for adults partly by leaving sexual unions untrammelled, 'neither violence, nor passion, nor rights previously surrendered' justifying regulation, and partly by making the care of children by their parents optional.41

The family Proudhon favors is more enclosed than Bakunin's, being organized as a permanent, monogamous household, in which inheritance is allowed. Its dominant figure is the father, who directs the lives of his children and his wife. The mother, 'fatally subordinate' to her husband, is charged with child-care and housework. Children, as the household's passive members, owe 'familial piety' and unqualified obedience to both parents.42

Bakunin's envisioned family is less of a remedy than Proudhon's for the inadequacies of their productive scheme as a support for community and self. These inadequacies, already noted, include a grave inability to nourish the emotional aspect of communal individuality and a substantial weakness, only in part corrected by polytechnical education and variety of work, as a source of the mutual trust needed to promote communal individuality in the rational and productive realms of life. Bakunin's family is unsuited for removing these inadequacies because it offers nothing more than do his economic and educational plans to overcome them. Encouraging the same mobility, diversity and rivalry in the domestic sphere as it encourages in productive life, his family, resembling an industrial enterprise, is no richer in warmth or trust.

Proudhon's family is better at providing warmth and confidence because its members, holding fixed positions in a hierarchy, are less troubled by the uncertainties that Bakunin's varied, egalitarian domestic life provokes. Emotional awareness and reciprocal trust are further strengthened in Proudhon's family by ties of devotion and love. The father certainly controls his wife and children, but to sustain and protect them, whether he profits thereby or not.43 The mother shows her familial devotion by caring-for the household and giving emotional support. She, no more than the father, considers the merits or achievements of needy relatives in deciding how to be of help. This 'sister of charity' gives her husband and children more than they deserve. 'Defeated or condemned, it is at her breast that [they] find consolation and forgiveness.'44 It is thus the ascriptive character of domestic roles and the confidence and devotion it can be expected to evoke that make Proudhon's family more suitable than Bakunin's for developing the emotional and rational aspects of community and self. Producers in both theorists' anarchy are stymied to about the same extent in their search for self-development and mutual awareness. But while Bakunin's producers have nowhere to turn for their missing individuality and community, Proudhon's can turn to their families. There, in a stable, loving atmosphere, quite different from the volatile complexity of productive life, they find some, at least, of their needed trust and warmth.45

The educational and industrial organization that Proudhon and Bakunin back, even fortified by Proudhon's way of organizing families, gives insufficient help to individuals and community, as both anarchists admit. For producers remain at least somewhat estranged and stunted by supervised, divided work and separated by the conflict that bargaining among enterprises excites. To rid anarchy for good of these nagging defects, Proudhon and Bakunin suggest connecting its members with bonds of respect.

To respect another, for both writers, is to cherish him for what he, as an individual, is an emotional, productive creature, responsible for his acts because able to choose them according to reasons. Thus conceived, respect has attitudinal and practical requirements. As an attitude, it enjoins care for the other person's sentiments and choices, empathizing with them, accepting them as one's own. As a practice, it calls for helping the other develop his thoughts and feelings, make his decisions and perform his chosen acts.46

Respect so understood provides the mediation between self-development and mutual awareness that Proudhon and Bakunin need, for by requiring care and nurture for what others think, feel and make, it supports the rational, emotional and productive elements in communal individuality. Mention of some ways Proudhon and Bakunin think respect gives this support will help clarify how it serves them as a mediator.

Two threats to communal individuality which respect easily defeats are force and fraud. When I coerce another or tell him lies, I weaken his identity and his consciousness of others as having rational, emotional and creative capabilities by manipulating or ignoring his power to think, feel or produce.47 Since respect requires care for attributes of individuality that force and fraud negate, these cannot occur among its practitioners. The only way to affect another that accords him full respect is, after considering his plans and sentiments from his point of view, to offer arguments and evidence which convince him they are wrong. Such treatment is unqualifiedly respectful, because, while recognizing the capacities of those it affects to think, feel and make as they see fit, it helps them, within the limits of this recognition, to give these capacities added strength.

Proudhon and Bakunin can be criticized for proposing to mediate between individuality and community with respect, for though respect is a more effective mediator than Godwinian sincerity, and though its value as a social trait is less open to doubt, it is no less difficult to achieve. Even in Proudhon's or Bakunin's anarchy, producers would be baffled in trying to respect each other, because respect's requirements often are ambivalent. To respect another, I must help him perform his chosen act. But what if his act is one which, because it harms rational, emotional, or creative capabilities, is disrespectful? Respect urges me to reason with him, hoping to change his mind, but if my arguments are unavailing, however I treat him involves disrespect. For whether I help or hinder his attempt to carry out his action, I diminish the capabilities for which respect enjoins support.

To the charge that the sincerity he sought could not be achieved in full, Godwin had replied that since the individuality and community between which it had to mediate were limited, it could- be incomplete. Proudhon and Bakunin cannot give such a reply to the charge that complete respect lies beyond reach, because their more complex individuality and community need mediation by a widely disseminated and fully applied respect. Since respect is both more needed and less attainable in Proudhon's or Bakunin's anarchy than sincerity is in Godwin's, theirs is harder to establish. But the point at issue here is unaffected by this drawback. Though Proudhon and Bakunin would have difficulty establishing anarchy with respect, respect is an appropriate mediator between the individuality and community they seek. Their anarchy is more complicated than Godwin's and harder to achieve, but like his its crux is a cohesive attitude which communally unites developed selves. Proudhon's and Bakunin's anarchy is thus fundamentally like Godwin's, because its organizing principle is the same.


More than his predecessors, Kropotkin consciously extends the anarchist tradition, by scrutinizing and developing its earlier forms. One part of his revisionary effort is criticism of respect, both in its own right and as a mediator.

Respect had seemed a worthy attitude to Proudhon and Bakunin, because it fostered mutual consideration without what Proudhon called 'solidarite genante'.48 Respect puts an upper limit on the help that one must give. For I may go so far in helping you to think, choose or act that your dependence on me impairs your capabilities. Since respect is breached by excessive intervention, I must be careful not to give you too much help.49

While acknowledging the value of an attitude of respect, Kropotkin finds it too niggardly to serve as a mediating attitude for anarchy. 'Something grander, more lovely, more vigorous. . . must perpetually find a place in life.'50 The fear of harming capabilities which a respectful person feels makes his intervention too inhibited. Anarchy requires outgoing relationships. It needs 'large natures, overflowing with tenderness, with intelligence, with good will, and using their feeling, their intellect, their active force in the service of the human race without asking anything in return'. In short, it needs benevolence.51

Since Proudhon used benevolence to unite members of the family, one might suppose that Kropotkin, developing the anarchist tradition, extends domestic devotion to society at large. This belief is incorrect, because for Kropotkin and Proudhon benevolence is different. Benevolence for Proudhon is owed only to persons who, as members of a family, are social intimates. Kropotkin thinks it is owed to anyone in need, even complete strangers.52 Kropotkin's benevolence is also more egalitarian and mutual. Whereas benevolence in Proudhon's family is owed by parents to children, who are not expected to be benevolent in turn, it is owed in Kropotkin's society by each to all. No hint of the 'charity which bears a character of inspiration from above' is found in the benevolence Kropotkin seeks.53 His is marked by a generous reciprocity that makes us one with each other, sharing and equal. That is why he often calls it mutual aid.

Kropotkin chooses benevolence rather than respect as the mediating attitude of anarchy not just because he finds it generous, but because he thinks its generosity better fits it to nurture his kind of self. There is more to Kropotkin's individuality than reasoning, emotions and productive force. It also includes 'inventive spirit', 'the full. . .expansion of what is original' in man, 'an infinite variety of capacities, temperaments and individual energies'.54 The search for this sort of creative individuality is a dangerous adventure, which respectful (or sincere) treatment gives me little help to face. But if the treatment I receive from others is inspired by benevolence, my chance to become a creative individual grows. I can then rely on others to help me when in need, just because I am their fellow and regardless of defeats. Knowing they will support me should I fail in my quest gives me courage to seek uniqueness and creativity in the face even of great risk. Guyeau, notes Kropotkin, had posed the ultimate problem of creative originality by his reminder that 'sometimes to flower is to die'.55 Anarchist benevolence solves even this grave problem by making-the risk of the creative quest acceptable. A cruel end may await the seeker of individuality, but he is prepared by Kropotkin's anarchy even for death. ' If he must die like the flower that blooms, never mind. The sap rises, if sap there be.'56

Community, like individuality, has distinctive traits for Kropotkin, which make achieving it through benevolence appropriate. Proudhon and Bakunin gave anarchist community an emotional dimension and widened it to include productive work. Kropotkin further enlarges the anarchist conception of community by bringing more activities and a new feeling within its scope.

Reciprocal awareness among members of Kropotkin's anarchy occurs at every phase of life, in consuming as well as producing economic goods, in non-economic activities such as 'study, enjoyment, amusements', and in 'the narrow circle of home and friends'.57 It is thus more pervasive in his society than in his predecessors'. Reciprocal awareness for Kropotkin is also richer than for them, because it includes, besides the rational, emotional and productive consciousness they mention, the feeling of solidarity they deem suspect. Since the awareness that I know you have and that you know I experience often arises in Kropotkin's anarchy from a sense of 'what any being feels when it is made to suffer',58 it includes the sympathy for others' plight that Proudhon and Bakunin mistrust and that the fragmented production they make the source of reciprocal emotion does little to promote.

It is easy to see why an attitude of benevolence is a source of reciprocal solidarity. A benevolent person gives overt sympathy to anyone he encounters who needs help. Hence each member of a society in which benevolence is practiced cares for the others, knows they care for him and knows they know he cares. Benevolence is also an appropriate supporting attitude for the pervasive community Kropotkin seeks. Unlike sincerity, which is limited in application to intimate contexts such as conversation, or respect, which for Proudhon and Bakunin mainly affects treatment in productive life, benevolence, with its bearing on all activities, helps make all of social life communal.

It is partly because Kropotkin's community is so rich and pervasive that his anarchy can be likened to an extended neighborhood. Relations in small neighborhoods are apt to be benevolent and solidaristic in just the way Kropotkin envisages for anarchy. What he can therefore be conceived as doing is extending the neighborly relations which arise in contiguous small groups to the context of society at large. This interpretation of Kropotkin's enterprise is confirmed by his view of anarchy's social structure. For, like his predecessors, he thinks communal individuality unreachable if based only on a mediating attitude, and tries to organize society so that it gives communal individuality structural support. The social arrangement, called an agro-industrial commune, that he relies on for this purpose combines elements of earlier schemes of anarchist organization with new features designed to overcome their shortcomings and which make social relations neighborly.

The agro-industrial commune provides the same comprehensive education and the same occupational mobility as Proudhon's and Bakunin's anarchy, for Kropotkin agrees that by giving an industrial society these attributes self-development and mutual awareness can be markedly increased. Proudhon and Bakunin had judged their educational and occupational arrangements to be powerful, if insufficient, as a social basis for their communal individuality. Kropotkin, striving for a communal individuality more elusive, because at once more particular and more solidaristic, cannot rely as much on occupational mobility and education for its achievement.

To provide the greater warmth and trust that his neighborly communal individuality demands, Kropotkin returns to Godwin's use of intimacy. But whereas Godwin had conceived of intimacy as occurring within the 'small and friendly circles' of a simple anarchy, Kropotkin extends it to a society that is larger and more complex. The main way he does this is by requiring that all activities, but especially production, be carried out in small, internally unspecialized units. The more intimate relations in such units and their less differentiated roles make them superior as a basis for solidaristic trust to the large, impersonal and internally specialized units of which Proudhon's and Bakunin's anarchy is composed.

To encourage the individual uniqueness, which is the other distinctive aspect of his ideal, Kropotkin puts even more stress than his immediate predecessors had on social diversity. It is 'the highest development of voluntary association in all its aspects, in all possible degrees, for all imaginable aims; ever changing, ever modified associations which. . . constantly assume new forms' that enables the members of Kropotkin's anarchy to become singular.59 For among the varied units in Kropotkin's good society, each finds those that help him to develop a unique self.

One must doubt that benevolence, even in the context of an extended neighborhood, could mediate acceptably between the particularistic individuals and the solidaristic community that are the crucial elements of Kropotkin's ideal. More than his predecessors', the goal of Kropotkin's anarchy is discordant. Conflict between his unique individuals and their embracing community is more intense, and less controllable, than the conflict between the individuals and community earlier anarchists conceive. How can Kropotkin's social order, however well contrived, keep his seekers of uniqueness, even though benevolent, from rending communal ties ? How can it prevent these ties from stymieing the creative quest? So bold is Kropotkin in denning the anarchist project that he seems seriously to diminish its prospects for success.

The truth of this charge and its bearing on the merit of Kropotkin's anarchism are crucial evaluative questions which the concluding chapter of this book takes up. But whatever the verdict on Kropotkin's boldness in discordantly defining his ideal, it has clear significance for the theoretical unity of anarchism. Though Kropotkin's ideal is more strife-ridden than his predecessors' it is the same ideal of communal individuality. Its elements may clash more markedly and be harder to achieve together, but they cannot be achieved apart.

Kropotkin's way of realizing his aspirations is further evidence of anarchism's deep unity. Committed like his predecessors to self-development and mutual awareness, and believing in the interdependence of these goals, he too tries to reconcile them with a mediating attitude and encourages this attitude with structural support. That Kropotkin should try to realize his discordant ideal in so unpromising a way may seem surprising. But it testifies once again to the unity of anarchist thought. For if even Kropotkin chooses attitudinal mediation as the path to communal individuality, then not only this path's destination, but the path itself must be one of anarchism's distinctive traits.


1 Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (Toronto, 1946), II, 500; cf. I, 232, 236; II, 215, 497; Godwin, The Enquirer (New York, 1965), p. 77.

2 Godwin, Political Justice, I, 500; cf. Godwin, The Enquirer, p. 344.

3 Godwin, Political Justice, II, 280.

4 Ibid., II, 504. For a restatement of the view that Godwin has no place 'within the philosophy of the anarchist community' see R. A. Nisbet, The Social Philosophers (New York, 1973), pp. 365-6.

5 Godwin, Political Justice, II, 504.

6 Ibid., II, 505.

7 Ibid., I, 295; cf. Godwin, Thoughts on Man (New York, 1969), p. 310 and Godwin, The Enquirer, pp. vii-viii, where Godwin describes the liberating effects of his own conversations.

8 Godwin, The Enquirer, p. 343; cf. Yvon Belaval, Le souci de sincirite (Paris, 1944), pp. 127-9.

9 Charles Horton Cooley, Human Nature and the Social Order (New York, 1902), pp. 178, 153. Cooley admits that character need not depend immediately on interaction, but he denies that it depends on reasoned thought (pp. 205-7).

10 Godwin, Political Justice, I, 328.

11 Ibid.,1,335.

12 Ibid., I, 327-8, 332. 336.

13 Ibid., I, 333.

14 Ibid., I, 330.

15 Ibid., I, 330.

16 Ibid., I, 296, 356.

17 Stuart Hampshire, 'Sincerity and Single-Mindedness', in Freedom of Mind and Other Essays (Princeton, 1971), p. 234; cf. Jean Starobinski, J.-J. Rousseau, La transparence et l'obstacle (Paris, 1971), pp. 237-8, Belaval, Sincerite, pp. 55, 63.

18 Godwin, Political Justice, I, 280, 294, 333-4, 340, Godwin, The Enquirer, p. 344.

19 Belaval, Sincirite, pp. 134-5, z77-

20 Ibid., p. 144, Starobinski, J.-J. Rousseau, p. 188, George Santayana, 'The Comic Mask', in Soliloquies on England and Later Soliloquies (New York, 1922), p. 135.

21 Godwin, The Enquirer, pp. 341, 349; cf. Godwin, Thoughts on Man, pp. 301-4; Godwin, Political Justice, I, 348-9.

22 Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (Chicago, 1955), section 40.

23 Santayana, Soliloquies, p. 133.

24 Belaval, Sinchiti, p. 165; Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity (Cambridge, Mass., 1972), p. 119; Paul A. Freund, 'Privacy: One Concept or Many', in J. Roland Pennock and John W. Chapman (eds.), Privacy (New York, 1971), p. 195; John R. Silber, 'Masks and Fig Leaves', ibid., p. 233.

25 Quoted in Belaval, Sincerite, p. 120.

26 Kurt H. Wolff (ed.), The Sociology of Georg Simmel (New York, 1964), p. 329.

27 Freund, 'Privacy', p. 195; Alan E. Westin, Privacy and Freedom (New York, 1967), p. 37.

28 Godwin, Political Justice, I, 332, II, 275.

29 Ibid., II, 505-6: To 'the most perfect man. . . society is not a necessary of life but a luxury. . . He will resort with scarcely inferior eagerness to solitude; and will find in it the highest complacence and the purest delight.' For evidence that Godwin values discretion as contrasted with reserve see Godwin, The Enquirer, p. 127.

30 Proudhon, De la Justice dans la Revolution et dans l'Eglise (Paris, 1930-5), III, 253; Bakunin, OEuvres (Paris, 1895-1913), I, 101, 105.

31 Bakunin, OEuvres, I, 221.

32 Proudhon, Justice, III, 88; cf. Bakunin, OEuvres, I, 109-10, V, 204.

33 Proudhon, Justice, III, 69-70; Bakunin, OEuvres, I, 109.

34 Proudhon, Justice, III, 256; cf. I, 436.

35 For a detailed analysis of Proudhon's anarchist society see Alan Ritter, The Political Thought of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (Princeton, 1969), pp. 126-34; a good text describing Bakunin's social vision is in OEuvres, II, 297.

36 Proudhon, Justice, III, 87-8; Bakunin, 'Revolutionary Catechism', in Sam Dolgoff (ed.), Bakunin on Anarchy (New York, 1971), pp. 89- 93.

37 Proudhon, Justice, III, 86; for Bakunin's description of 'integral education', which is very close to Proudhon's polytechnical apprenticeship, see OEuvres, V, 136, 145, 156-7.

38 Proudhon, Justice, III, 87-8.

39 Ibid., Ill, 92-3. Though this description of an anarchist economy is based solely on what Proudhon writes, Bakunin agrees with it. He is less specific in his economic plans, but what he says, such as that no one may devote himself exclusively to manual or mental work {OEuvres, V, 126-8, I, 360), shows that he encourages communal individuality with the same practice of occupational mobility used by Proudhon.

40 Bakunin, 'Revolutionary Catechism', in Dolgoff, Bakunin on Anarchy, p. 95.

41 Ibid., p. 94, cf. OEuvres, I, 317.

42 Proudhon, Justice, IV, 271, 283.

43 Ibid., IV, 322.

44 Ibid., IV, 274.

45 That Proudhon finds much communal individuality in the family is shown by where he puts the figure of a mirror. It is a mother or wife who, 'transparent and luminous, serves man as the mirror.. .in which to contemplate his character' (Justice, IV, 266, 268). Bakunin follows Godwin in finding that members of society, not the family, best reflect the self (OEuvres, V, 321).

46 Proudhon, Justice, I, 301, 418; Bakunin, OEuvres, I, 117, V, 309; cf. R. S. Downie and Elizabeth Telfer, Respect for Persons (New York, 1970), especially ch. 1, and Bernard Williams, 'The Idea of Equality', reprinted in Hugo A. Bedau (ed.), Justice and Equality (New York, 1971), especially pp. 123-4.

47 Proudhon, Justice, I, 419.

48 Proudhon, Idee generate de la revolution au dix-neuvieme siecle (Paris, 1923), p. 189.

49 Proudhon, Justice, I, 417; cf. Downie and Telfer, Respect, pp. 21, 25.

50 Kropotkin, Revolutionary Pamphlets (New York, 1968), p. 107; cf. p. 105 for Kropotkin's acknowledgment of the value of respect.

51 Ibid., p. 107; cf. Derry Novak, 'Une lettre inedite de Pierre Kropotkine a Max Nettlau', International Review of Social History, 9 (1964), p. 272.

52 Kropotkin, Mutual Aid (New York, 1925), p. 205.

53 Ibid., p. 211.

54 Kropotkin, Pamphlets, pp. 109, 141, 123.

55 Ibid., P -109.

56 Ibid., p. 109.

57 Ibid., pp. 139, 140, 108. It is important to note that though Kropotkin envisages community as occurring in both domestic and social life, he does not want it to be the same in both. He warns not to 'take the family as a model' for relations in larger, less intimate groups. 'Communisme et anarchie', in La science moderne et l'anarchie (Paris, 1913), p. 144, cf. p. 153.

58 Kropotkin, Pamphlets, p. 95.

59 Ibid., pp. 123-4.