Alan Ritter, Anarchism: A Theoretical Analysis (1980)



Accurate understanding has been the main purpose of the previous chapters of this book, which have sought to elucidate the arguments of the anarchists faithfully and in detail. But accurate understanding is not this study's only purpose; another is evaluation. How consistent is the case for anarchism ? What is its plausibility, if not its truth? And what is the moral value of its model of an ideal social order?

Fortunately, the foregoing analysis makes it unnecessary to answer these questions from scratch. For though this analysis has been expository, it has done more than describe. The process of establishing what anarchists are saying has included evaluation of their arguments with regard to both consistency and plausibility. We have found the anarchists to be unexpectedly consistent, with the sovereign value of communal individuality lending their arguments a marked unity. The plausibility of their arguments has also been substantiated. The anarchists, we have discovered, evince a certain realism about the obstacles posed by human nature, social conditions and the power of their adversaries to the success of their project. Since two of the evaluative questions which need to be addressed have already received direct attention, the assessment of the anarchists in this concluding chapter will be devoted mainly to the question, which so far has been slighted, of the value of their social model as a model of the best regime.

The gist of anarchy has been identified in this book as a society which, by virtue of its statelessness and its internal structure, provides utmost communal individuality and freedom. Anarchy may therefore be considered as a possible alternative to the models of a good society which more familiar political theories advance. The moral value of anarchy, viewed as a candidate for choice as the ideal social order, depends partly on its merit as a complete achievement, and partly on its merit as a critical standard and practical guide. It thus must be evaluated here from both of these perspectives.


No ideal society attains perfection, because the merits of each incur a moral price. Even the most attractive requires the sacrifice or abridgment of some values, because they are incompatible or uneasy with it. A society like Rousseau's, for example, which achieves equal political participation, can secure neither the material abundance of Marx's good society, nor the intellectuality of Plato's. To designate a model of the good society as the one which, if realized, would be morally best thus requires a choice among competing values.

Appreciation of how choice among values enters into the endorsement of social ideals leads easily to despair about whether agreement on the nature of the good society can be reached. Since the choice of values on which such agreement rests is in-eluctably contestable, it may seem hopeless to expect consensus concerning which model of the good society is best. Why should any advocate change his choice, when it rests as much as all the others on an incorrigible moral preference ? And if the basis for designating any model of the good society as morally best is incorrigible, arguments for or against so designating anarchy are pointless. Once beliefs about the nature of the good society are seen to be contestable, it may seem that the task of evaluating an ideal anarchy must be abandoned.

This conclusion should be resisted, since the value of a social ideal depends significantly on considerations which have nothing to do with moral preference. One of those considerations is attainability. A model of a good society with patently unattainable characteristics, such as costless methods of production or telepathic minds, is ineligible for the status of morally best, because it gives bad practical advice. By calling on us to work for advantages that cannot possibly be won, it directs activity into a path that must be fruitless. Another way of showing why unattainable models of the good society lack moral value is to consider what would happen if they had it. The way would then be open for the most inventive dreamer to claim, validly, that since he had equipped his model with the greatest number of good though unattainable features, it deserved designation as morally best.

If anarchy is, as some have claimed, a condition plainly beyond reach, it is no more eligible for selection as the best regime than any other unachievable social system. There are two main arguments for calling anarchy unreachable. One denies the slightest possibility of success for the strategy that must prepare the way for it. The other, focusing on anarchy as a finished structure, views its achievement as precluded by incompatibilities among its elements. Ample evidence has been assembled in this book to meet these arguments.

The prospects for anarchist strategy have certainly been revealed in the course of this analysis as slight. The dilemma in which anarchists are caught by their need to produce sweeping changes without deceit or force has thus far prevented all of their strategies from being effective. Yet past failure to devise measures that can set the stage for anarchy is not proof that such measures lie beyond reach forever. One or more of the conditions that have for so long stymied anarchist endeavor might some day relent. Nor can one entirely dismiss the promise of creative innovation. Anarchy would be disqualified for consideration as the ideally best social order only if the strategy needed to attain it faced permanent defeat. But even after fullest weight has been given to its historic failure, the possibility that anarchist strategy will be successful remains. The argument that strategic unattainability excludes anarchy from consideration as the ideally best regime must therefore be rejected as unpersuasive.

Though a strategy that prepares for anarchy must be accounted possible, anarchy would still not qualify as a model of the good society if the main attributes of its completed structure could not coexist. Points of friction among these attributes are numerous. The rich diversity that marks anarchist society is supposed to be accompanied by equality of status. Yet the normal tendency of people to evaluate each other means that differences of kind encourage differences of rank. The censure which is anarchy's distinctive method of control is supposed to occur among persons who are open and forthright. Yet the threat of rebuke, which anarchist censure poses, prompts all but the bravest to hide from surveillance by being secretive. But of the many points of friction which trouble a complete anarchy, the most dangerous to its integrity is the friction, previously analyzed in detail, between its members' individuality and their communal ties. Anarchist individuality and community are patently discordant. Individuality, especially if conceived in Kropotkin's way as creative uniqueness, but also if conceived generically, as rational independence, is a trait that renders the self separate. Developed individuals, in all their anarchist delineations, tend to become detached by virtue of their self-assertion from their fellow humans. Just as individuality fragments community, so community makes it hard for individuality to grow. The reciprocal awareness which constitutes the communal bond of anarchy is a significantly repressive force, which, through pressures toward conformity, saps personal independence. If anarchy is not to be pre-emptorily disqualified as a possible model of the good society, it must be shown to be attainable despite its internal frictions.

One of the arguments sometimes used to show the inner harmony of anarchy is lame and facile. Anarchy, according to this argument, has remarkably accordant attributes. They only appear at odds because they are illegitimately viewed as having to exist under the state's inhospitable conditions. Diversity will of course undermine equality wherever the state, through its impersonality, renders its subjects envious and grasping. Censure will of course discourage openness and honesty wherever subjects have to hide their selves from the state's remote presence. Individuality and community will of course be enemies where there is a state to homogenize subjects and cut off the wellsprings of reciprocal awareness at their individual source. But since the state-imposed conditions which render the attributes of anarchy incompatible are absent from the setting in which complete anarchy occurs, the claim that anarchy's internal incompatibilities make it unattainable must be rejected as resting on a contextual mistake.

The weakness of this argument lies in its assumption that the sufficient condition for rendering the attributes of anarchy compatible is statelessness. Even though the state's presence is an obvious source of the conflicts among the attributes of anarchy, these conflicts may plausibly be suspected of being overdeter-mined by a team of cooperating causes. To vindicate their social ideal as harmonious enough to be achievable, anarchists must therefore do more than trace its internal incompatibilities to the state's effects; they must also show that in a stateless condition these incompatibilities would not arise from other causes. Anarchist theory contains material to demonstrate this point.

Anarchists show an appreciation, with which they are too seldom credited, for the insufficiency of mere statelessness as a setting for their system. Statelessness must in their view be preceded and accompanied by conditions which combat the numerous causes of anarchy's internal friction that statelessness cannot defeat alone. When legal government and social hierarchy have completed their civilizing missions, when economic advances have ended the need for abject poverty and for the most servile industrial routines, when anarchist endeavor has weakened the destructive tendencies of habit, fear and envy, and has strengthened more cooperative, sympathetic, reasonable dispositions, then and only then will statelessness, now operating in a context which dampens anarchy's internal frictions, be a source of harmony. If the anarchists claimed that statelessness alone resolved such conflicts in their social model as those between diversity and equality, censure and honesty, or individuality and community, then anarchy would have to be judged too discordant to qualify for consideration as the best regime. But since statelessness is but one of the forces on which anarchists rely to give harmony to their system, and since their various remedies for discord, taken together, are not obviously ineffective, anarchy remains eligible, despite its internal conflicts, for designation as the ideal social order.

The case for acknowledging anarchy as attainable, despite its internal discords, rests on more than the impossibility of altogether denying its capacity to form a coherent structure. Besides offering this minimal defense of their model's inner unity, anarchists also deploy a bolder argument. Since no complete anarchy has ever been established, the compatibility of its attributes cannot be tested by direct experience. But the question of their compatibility is not entirely beyond indirect empirical assessment. Numerous social arrangements which resemble anarchy harmoniously combine attributes whose compatibility in a state of anarchy is suspect. We have already encountered-some of these arrangements, when we examined the circles of conversers, producers and neighbors used by the various anarchists to exemplify their society's structure. Kropotkin, in his descriptions of primitive societies, village communes, medieval cities and contemporary organizations for voluntary aid, such as the English Life-Boat Association, furnishes additional examples of harmonious relations in settings that resemble anarchy.1 In all of these settings individuality and community, to take only anarchy's most troublingly discordant attributes, not only coexist, but give each other varying degrees of mutual support. In the Life-Boat Association, for example, which consists of volunteers who save shipwrecked survivors, reciprocal awareness of pursuing a daring purpose strengthens each member's independent resolve, while the adroitness and determination of the individual members strengthens the ties of community which unite them. Anarchy is, of course, so much more complex, encompassing and stateless than these quasi-anarchist arrangements that their success in reconciling anarchy's discordant elements is no proof that anarchy can reconcile them. But their ability to do so makes the coherence of anarchy plausible enough so that qualms about its qualifications as an ideal social model which arise from concern about its internal frictions must be cast off as unreasonable.

The merit of a completed anarchy, now eligible for consideration by virtue of its having been proved attainable, turns on the balance between its morally objectionable and its morally valuable features. No definitive striking of this balance, which may well be impossible to achieve, will be attempted here. What will be offered are remarks aimed at highlighting the moral deficiencies and attractions of the anarchist ideal. These remarks, though inconclusive, will dispel misconceptions about anarchy's worth and open the way to more clearly appreciating its merit as a social model.

It must be recognized, to begin with, that anarchy suffers from neither of two moral shortcomings which are frequently ascribed to it, Its members exhibit none of that socially destructive selfishness which led Edward Hyndman to denounce it as 'individualism gone wild'. Nor are its members smothered in oppressive peer group pressures, such as have prompted a recent commentator to liken anarchy to 'an adolescent gang'.2 Our understanding of how individuality and community are reinforcing under anarchy compels us to acknowledge its freedom from these defects. Neither a shattering individualism nor a stifling communitarianism contaminates an ideal anarchy, because its individualizing and communalizing tendencies fructify each other so as to prevent destructive excess.

Anarchy does, of course, have genuine defects, but some are not particularly objectionable or severe. These include its incomplete provision for privacy, for emotional self-expression and for meeting claims of distributive justice.

The opportunity to act and think without surveillance by unchosen others which we call privacy is greater in some models of the good society (such as J. S. Mill's), and perhaps even in some actual societies, than under anarchy. As was discovered when examining Godwin's conversational anarchy, its members are unable, except by retreating into solitude and by counting on their interlocutors' discretion, to escape being observed. In the more complex societies of the later anarchists opportunities for privacy are no doubt greater. But anarchy in all its variants remains a system where privacy, since it involves social indifference and personal concealment, is hardly salient.

To appreciate how far anarchy is morally deficient for limiting privacy, one must bear in mind the conditions which, in a state of anarchy, cause the need for privacy to diminish. Privacy fills two quite different needs: it is both a refuge from incursions by the malevolent or insensitive and a place of seclusion for inner growth or restoration. Now the members of an anarchy, owing to their mutual awareness, their honest sympathy and their commitment to controlling behavior with reasons, are neither the sanctimonious Pecksniffs, nor the barefaced prigs, and certainly not the domineering zealots against whom the refuge of privacy is urgent. As for privacy as seclusion, there is no reason to doubt that under anarchy it is available. Certainly Godwin, who devotes much attention to this subject, praises solitude. And anarchist individuals have a discrete sensitivity to their neighbors' moods. Since seclusion, which is the type of privacy needed in an anarchy, is the type that anarchy provides, its lack of the privacy that serves as a refuge is not a defect to regard as grave.

No less marked than anarchy's deficiency as a provider of privacy is its deficiency as a setting for emotional self-expression. Its shortcomings as a facilitator of emotions must not be exaggerated. Even Godwin, for whom feelings are no part of individuality, grants that they contribute to its growth. Expressions of emotion are therefore by no means absent from Godwinian anarchy, but being ancillary to its nature, they have an insecure presence. The later anarchists, by endowing their conceptions of individuality with emotional attributes, give feelings in their good society a safer place. In Kropotkin's anarchy, the display of emotions remains limited, because reasoned argument - which Kropotkin, following earlier anarchists, makes the first defense against misconduct - is jeopardized not only by displays of destructive feelings such as selfishness, fear or envy, which in an anarchy would diminish, but also by the display of less harmful and more permanent emotions. Alarm, triumph, despair, impatience, indeed almost the whole gamut of human feelings, though surely they would continue to be experienced under anarchy, would sometimes have to be repressed. Their frequent expression would certainly be normal, but since not even the influence of a full-fledged anarchy can entirely prevent emotional outbursts from disrupting the practice of controlling behavior with reasoned arguments, or the process of rational deliberation on which this practice rests, the unlimited display of feelings in an anarchy is unallowable. What thus emerges at the root of anarchy's deficiency as a setting for emotional self-expression is its remarkably tenacious devotion to sovereign reason.

Whether the rationality that anarchy provides is worth the price of a somewhat limited emotional self-expression is a question which will be addressed later in this chapter. The point that now needs making is that anarchy, in order to achieve utmost communal individuality and freedom, must pay this price. It remained for those recent sympathizers with anarchism who have been most touched by disillusionment with rationality to give up the conviction of anarchy's devisers that reliance on the giving of reasons is the wellspring of its moral worth. Believing the old anarchists to have been too optimistic in their estimates of human reasonableness, finding emotional attributes of the self more at the center of individuality than rational attributes, and having witnessed too much use of reason for evil ends to trust the reasoner any longer, a motley assortment of contemporary writers and activists claims to have devised a new form of anarchy in which the avowedly non-rational display of emotions, especially by evanescent leaders performing spectacular gestures, replaces reason as the chief regulating force.3 The society envisaged by this group of authors, being stateless, and directed toward attaining communal individuality, can certainly be called a type of anarchy. But it is an anarchy with less of the freedom that is one of classical anarchy's chief attractions. The remarkable amount of freedom in the anarchy studied in this book arises from a marked absence of hindrances, including emotional hindrances, to deliberation, choice and conduct. Proceeding from the scarcely deniable premise according to which freedom is undiminished by the rationally based conclusions which a deliberating agent reaches about the merit of his contemplated acts, the founders of anarchism devised a model of the good society which protects these conclusions, and hence freedom, from every sort of threat. There must be less freedom in the model of the good society devised by recent non-rational anarchists, because it includes emotional displays which jeopardize the rationally based conclusions on which freedom in an anarchy must rest. The extensive freedom of classical anarchy is simply unobtainable without the limits on emotional self-expression that non-rational anarchists reject.

The partial shortcoming of anarchy that remains to be considered is its slighting in its pattern of economic distribution of some established claims of justice. The anarchists, we have discovered, increasingly choose need over productive contribution as the distributive claim the good society must meet. This choice, despite its certain merit, has the drawback of denying recognition to other worthy claims. Members of an anarchy with extraordinary talents or abilities receive less material advantage than other ideal societies provide them, and, under conditions of scarcity, not enough to exploit their endowments fully. Nor are benefits bestowed to the same extent as in some other ideal societies on persons who show unusual diligence or daring. Because anarchy is so devoted to satisfying the claim of need, it must neglect these rival claims of justice.

The moral defect incurred by anarchy from this neglect is mitigated by how it organizes production and by how its members view productive work. One good reason for honoring claims of contribution, ability or effort is to increase well-being (perhaps above all of the least favored) through eliciting plentiful and efficient production. The prospect of receiving economic benefit for adding to the supply of goods, for exercising natural talents and for hard or dangerous work is normally a stimulus to productivity. Viewed from this angle, the merit of claims to remuneration that rival that of need lies not in their intrinsic fittingness but in their utility as incentives. Now conditions in an ideal anarchy are such that bounteous, efficient production occurs without these incentives. The mutual understanding among participants in anarchy, their desire to develop their native talents, the satisfaction they find in their often voluntary, varied work, and their ability, owiilg to polytechnical education and occupational mobility, to understand the productive process as a whole, are some of the reasons why it is unnecessary in an anarchy to distribute economic benefits according to claims of contribution, ability or effort. One can nevertheless argue plausibly that though conditions under anarchy assure ample productivity, even if these claims are slighted, they should be honored anyway, as claims to just desert. The claim that seems most to deserve recognition on this basis is (conscientious) effort. That producers who are especially brave or diligent should be rewarded economically, whether or not rewarding them is generally advantageous, is an intuitively appealing proposition, which serves as a defensible ground for deeming anarchy's neglect of effort in its pattern of distribution to be a real, though far from overwhelming, moral defect.

If its incomplete recognition of privacy, emotional self-expression and the claims of distributive justice were anarchy's only shortcomings, there would probably be wide agreement that it is the model of the good society which, if realized, would be morally best. But anarchy also suffers from a fourth deficiency, which is complete and more open to objection. This is its repudiation of active citizenship. A vision of the citizen as an equal participant in the process of self-government is a recurrent theme in political theory, most eloquently articulated in modern times by Rousseau. The citizens of Rousseau's direct democracy, who subordinate their personal interests to the good of the whole, who eschew the distractions of activity in partial groups, and whose chief business is to deliberate and vote on laws, are figures who, despite their awesome virtues, have no place in a mature anarchy. We have already discovered, in examining the anarchists' criticism of unanimous direct democracy, that a main reason they object to such a government is for its homogenizing public spirit. Participants in a unanimous direct democracy view legislative proposals with an aloof disinterest that anarchists reject for being repugnant to developed individuality. Now the homogenizing public spirit which anarchists reject in a unanimous direct democracy, far from being peculiar to that bizarre form of government, must be a part of any which includes an active citizenry. For unless citizens who participate in the legislative process as equals subordinate their particular concerns to the general good, the laws they enact will be so shortsighted and divisive that social peace will be endangered. According to the anarchists, then, active citizenship, in all its forms, though not without attractions, still must be excluded from their model of the good society as injurious to the independent, particularized sort of individual that it is a main purpose of that society to promote.

It might be thought that the exclusion by the anarchists of active citizenship from any place in their good society rests on a mistaken understanding of its relationship to individuality. If being an individual and being a citizen were compatible, then anarchy, contrary to the belief of its espousers, could enjoy the benefits of both.

One of the best reasons for accepting the anarchists' view of citizenship at odds with individuality is its acceptance by citizenship's proponents. Rousseau, for instance, acknowledges that in his society of equal citizens individuality must be repressed. The individual man 'is the unit, the whole, dependent only on himself. Man as citizen 'is but the numerator of a fraction, whose value depends on the denominator; .. .he no longer regards himself as one, but as part of the whole, and is only conscious of the common life'. Since individuality subverts commitment to the public, 'you must take your choice between man and the citizen, you cannot train both'.4 The contradiction between man as individual and as citizen, which Rousseau drew so starkly, has remained a chief preoccupation of political theorists who admire active citizenship. Most have tried through some means such as pluralism or functional representation to reduce the force of the contradiction, but none have denied that it exists. Michael Walzer, for instance, ends his anguished discussion of citizenship with a plea for kibitzers, not so much because he finds them likeable as because they narrow the inevitable gap between 'the world of the meeting' and the world of 'the tete-a-tete'.5 Since proponents of citizenship would surely embrace full individual development, if they thought it was safe, their refusal to do so is strong evidence of its incompatibility with citizenship and hence that the defect anarchy suffers owing to its lack of citizens is beyond escape.

Anarchy's repudiation of active citizenship is more serious than its other shortcomings, not only because it is total, whereas they are partial, but also because it is more morally offensive. The ideal of the self-governing citizen has legitimate appeal. Man the citizen, who obeys his own laws, is one version of man at his very best: self-directing, public spirited, controlling his own destiny. That anarchy is seriously deficient for excluding citizens is a conclusion that only those who find citizenship worthless can reject.

Yet in an anarchist society the lack of citizens is less disturbing than it is in other societies, because the communal individuality prevailing in an anarchy affords one of the chief advantages of citizenship. Rousseau condemned existing society as strongly as the anarchists, and for similar reasons. Both saw it as composed of competitive, self-centered role-players, utterly bereft of mutual understanding. Citizenship was Rousseau's hope for ending this estrangement and for providing a more communal existence. Centering their lives around deliberation in the public forum, where each gives his disinterested opinion on proposed legislation and is respectfully attended to by all the rest, Rousseauist citizens develop a strong mutual awareness. They do lack individuality, but this is the price they pay for their community. It is because they are so limited as particular individuals that the communal bond among these deliberating citizens is intense.

Anarchists, of course, are as determined as Rousseau to create community where now there is estrangement. But whereas Rousseau, because he confined community to life in the forum, suppressed individuality as a disruptive influence, the anarchists, because they suffuse community through all of life, welcome individuality as a cohesive force. Personal particularity and independence, instead of dividing the members of an anarchy, make them more apt for their variegated communal existence. By increasing their appeal for one another, and their dependence on one another for the satisfaction of needs, individuality intensifies their mutual awareness. It is thus because anarchy provides community even though it lacks citizens that the offensiveness of this lack is lessened. But it nevertheless remains a moral defect. For even though the absence of citizens does not deprive anarchy of community, it does deprive it of a source of noble eminence.

To reach a verdict on whether anarchy is the ideal social order its assets as well as its shortcomings need assessment. One of its chief assets, the conjoint provision of ample individuality and community, certainly has great merit, though hardly enough to make anarchy's status as the best regime uncontroversial. What is most crucial to assessing the moral worth of anarchy is its problematic exaltation of a freedom that is rationally based.

No one in the history of political theory has advanced a more exigent concept of freedom than the anarchists, because none has required that agents, to count as free, be as unhindered by restraints. For anarchists, it will be recalled, a completely free agent is liberated in both action and choice from every removable hindrance, except for those arising from his rational deliberation. If the anarchists said no more about the restraints that count as non-coercive than that they are rationally based, their concept of liberty would not be particularly exigent. Many political theorists who are far from being libertarians have conceived of freedom as a matter of rational control. What gives the freedom of the anarchists its special exigence is their insistence that the deliberative process whose conclusions are non-coercive must be rational in a more than minimal sense. This process must be rational in the sense of systematic and critical, to be sure. In weighing the arguments and evidence which bear on whether to perform an act, the deliberating agent must use standards which he has judged acceptable by methodical examination and which he applies consistently to his relevantly similar conduct. But deliberation, for anarchists, must be rational in a stronger sense than this in order for its conclusions to be coercionless. It must be thoroughly particular in having for its focus the advantages and disadvantages attached to the performance of a single act. If, after deliberating, I choose to do an act because it is of a type whose general performance I believe to have good consequences, or because it is enjoined by a rule I deem inviolable, or because some person or organization'whose judgment I respect prescribes it, anarchists regard my deliberation as non-rational. For I have failed to consider the particular circumstances of the case. The only deliberation that is rational enough to make me free involves attending to all the concrete details that bear on my act's merit, and especially to the consequences for the particular individuals who would be touched by its effects.6 Even in an anarchy, where access to such details is easy, such particularized deliberation is hard, relentless work. It is the dependence of anarchist freedom on such a demanding rationality that raises questions about the value of its contribution to anarchy's moral worth.

Doubts concerning the value of anarchist freedom are bound to grow more urgent when one appreciates that the rationality on which it depends is purely procedural. It specifies only the manner in which the members of an anarchy must choose their acts and says nothing about the attributes their acts must have. I act rationally, in an anarchy, no matter what I do, just so long as systematic, critical, particularized deliberation is the means I use to choose my conduct. The anarchist view of rationality as a matter of nothing but procedure calls the worth of the freedom which depends on it into question by making that freedom consistent with performing abominable acts. The only restraints that do not curtail anarchist freedom are imposed by the conclusions drawn by individuals from their rational deliberations. Since the rationality of these deliberations is procedural, they can warrant any act. Freedom in an anarchy, owing to its dependence on a procedural rationality, thus serves as a license for misconduct. How can anarchy possibly be the ideal social model, when its freedom, besides demanding burdensome particularized deliberation, allows wrong-doing? To make the case for anarchy as the best regime in face of the stiff price in laborious deliberation and in opportunities to misbehave that its rationally demanding, behaviorally permissive freedom exacts, what must be shown is that, despite these drawbacks, anarchy is imbued by its freedom with sufficient value to tip the moral balance in its favor.

One benefit of anarchist freedom that must not be overlooked in an overall assessment of its value is its service to communal individuality. The anarchists, we have discovered, prize freedom mainly as a support for the communal individuality that is their chief objective. It is largely by stripping away the hindrances to choice and conduct, except for those which are rationally based, that anarchists encourage mutual awareness and self-development. Intellectual independence and forthright communication are leading attributes of their goal that anarchists expect an atmosphere of their kind of liberty to nurture. The service anarchist freedom renders to communal individuality surely helps offset its moral drawbacks.

The limit anarchists place on the scope of liberty adds to its moral value by restricting how far it licenses wrongful acts. Freedom in an anarchy, though remarkably extensive, nevertheless is incomplete, because decisions and conduct governed by the agent's rationally based conclusions sometimes are impeded. The frailty of reasoned argument does not escape the anarchists, who enlist internalization, positional authority and censorial rebuke as supplementary means of regulation. If an act, though rationally based, would cause serious harm, coercion from one or more of these three sources deprives participants in anarchy of the freedom to choose or do it. It is true that those who apply this coercion do so on the basis of a deliberative rationality that is just as procedural as that of the agent whose freedom they curtail. Being no more equipped than he is with standards for judging the attributes of conduct, they enjoy an equally generous license for misbehavior and relieve the agent of his objectionably permissive freedom through using an objectionably permissive freedom of their own. Hence the limit anarchists place on the scope of liberty certainly does not rid it of moral license, for while it somewhat diminishes opportunities for misconduct, it leaves substantial freedom to misbehave.

Though the dependence of anarchist freedom on procedural rationality renders it distressingly permissive, making it depend on substantive rationality, so as to cure this defect, would bring another, which, from the anarchist perspective, is worse. Anarchists prize their freedom because its liberation of action and choice from every hindrance except for those which the agent himself deems right helps communal individuality to grow. Now substantive rationality differs from procedural by identifying acts which one might deem right as having attributes which make choosing or doing them non-rational. A freedom dependent on substantive rationality thus allows more interference with choice and action than a freedom dependent on procedural rationality does. Being more restrictive, it is less conducive than a freedom dependent on procedural rationality to the realization of the anarchists' final goal.

Remaining doubts about the merit of the anarchists' choice, as a chief attribute of the good society, of such a rationally demanding, behaviorally permissive freedom can be allayed, though not eliminated, by considering the conditions serving as a background where this freedom is enjoyed. It is unlikely that the members of an anarchy, even though they have freedom to cause harm, actually will cause it, because they deliberate under conditions which discourage them from choosing harmful acts. The equality of power, prestige and wealth among the members of an anarchy, as well as their close interdependence, tend to put harming others at odds with interest. The sincerity, respect, or benevolence that is anarchy's dominant social attitude tends to put such harm at odds with inclination. Conditions in an anarchy thus provide a context in which the exercise of freedom based on procedural rationality is rather safe.7

More might be said about why anarchist freedom is less objectionable than appears at first glance, but there is no denying that it suffers from grave defects. Even some who accurately appreciate its virtues, and who avoid exaggerating its faults, will legitimately deem the exigency and permissiveness of the freedom sought by anarchists inordinate enough to make their model of the good society unfit for the status of the best regime. But those of us who, in our reflective moments, exalt the personal particularity of the deliberation on which anarchist freedom rests, and who find its dependence on a substantively unlimited rationality inspiring, will hardly be considered outlandish if we advance the thesis that of all the ideal social models anarchy is the best. Every model of the good society has drawbacks, and anarchy, especially owing to its denial of a place to citizens, certainly has its share. But anarchy is also well endowed with assets. Its remarkable merger of individuality and communality through a substantively unlimited, particularized rationality makes it the setting for an illustrious way of life.


To vindicate the choice of anarchy as the ideal social order, more must be considered than its merit once achieved. Though a state of perfect anarchy cannot be deemed unreachable, the chance of reaching it must be accounted slight. The unlikelihood of attaining anarchy would diminish its value markedly, if its value resided only in its completed structure, for the value of a good lessens as the probability of achieving it declines. There is, however, hope of vindicating anarchy as the ideal social order, despite its unlikelihood as a complete achievement, because it also draws its value from another source. Anarchy serves not only as a model for a completely new society, but also as a standard for judging present society, and as a guide for moving from old to new. Since the value of anarchy as standard and guide is separate from its value as a finished model, even though this model will probably never be realized, anarchy may still be the good society with the greatest moral worth.

There is a well-known and persistent objection to the value as standard and guide of an ideal like anarchy, which is exigent, improbable, and morally appealing. Such an ideal is viewed by many as singularly dangerous on the ground that its practical use causes grave, uncompensated harm. Being dramatically different from the established social order, an ideal like anarchy calls on those who rely on it for guidance to take steps which, since they include substantial suffering, coercion and deceit, are both inherently reprehensible and in moral conflict with the ideal for whose sake they are carried out. The harm caused by these measures might be justified, if they realized the ideal toward which they point, because the moral excellence of that ideal might be great enough to outweigh all harm caused by the steps needed to achieve it. What makes the practical use of the ideal abhorrent, according to this argument, is the improbability of its attainment. Since the ideal, being unlikely to be realized, will almost certainly not yield the benefits for whose sake it calls for harm, its practical use is cruel and reckless. An exigent, improbable social ideal, even though, like anarchy, it is morally appealing, must be rejected as a critical standard and practical guide as a self-defeating source of evil.8

This abstract argument against ideals which are exigent, improbable and appealing is most tellingly applied to the ideal sought during the Russian Revolution. The spectacle of Marx's vision of the good society being debased by terror and repression as its admirers struggled vainly to achieve it leads understandably to the view that exigent, improbable, appealing ideals should always be renounced. That this conclusion follows even in the Russian case is doubtful, since devotion to their ideal may not have been the reason why the Russian revolutionaries caused such hardship. Adverse circumstances or a misreading by the revolutionaries of their ideal's practical significance are equally plausible explanations. But however strong this argument may be against other social ideals, that of the anarchists has attributes which greatly blunt its force. The forthright rationality, personal independence and communal solidarity that characterize a complete anarchy constrain efforts to achieve it so as to make them benign. It is because the anarchists appreciate how the develop-ii ment of these characteristics depends on what happens during the preparatory period that they require favorable attitudes and circumstances to prevail before struggle for their good society begins, that they minimize the place of coercion and fraud in the waging of this struggle, and that they insist on advancing mainly through the force of argument and example. All of these constraints on anarchist practice protect those who engage in it from causing uncompensated harm, by helping to prevent them from inflicting the inordinate suffering that so often accompanies un-trammeled struggle. Thus the ideal of anarchy, because it constrains efforts to rebuild society so as to protect them from excess, though exigent, improbable and morally appealing, promises to serve practice safely.

Those whom history has taught to fear bold ideals may still suspect that the limits which anarchy places on efforts designed to reach it, and which promise to make these efforts safe, are all too likely to be abandoned in the heat of struggle. 'The spirit of revolt', which energizes anarchist endeavor for Kropotkin, has an equivalent for his predecessors. All of the anarchists envision workers for their ideal as enthusiastic, bold and steadfast. The ideal they are seeking, while not unquestionably beyond their grasp, is not likely to be reached. Would it be surprising if these devoted workers, troubled by frustration, impatience and despair, betrayed their ideal by renouncing the limits it sets on practice as intolerable? No matter that this betrayal makes their ideal permanently unreachable. In the heat of struggle, energy is concentrated on immediate efforts, and fine perceptions about future consequences are lost.

Examples which might be read as accrediting this scenario can be found in the history of Spanish anarchism. Part of what incited the anarchist pistoleros during the civil war to execute summarily so many innocents may have been a response to the difficulty of realizing an exigent ideal. Astounded by the difference between their own society and the one they sought, disheartened, by setbacks, and overwhelmed by the obstacles their project faced, the pistoleros may have succumbed to the desperate hope, tempting to anyone in their plight, that in a sufficiently convulsive upheaval their ideal would prevail miraculously. Here, as in the case of the Russian Revolution, blaming the harm caused by attempts to reconstruct society on the boldness of the ideal being sought is speculative and conjectural. Numerous other plausible explanations, ranging from fascination with the cult of death to the imperatives of total war, have been offered for the Spanish anarchists' excesses. To hold the exigency and improbability of their ideal responsible for the uncompensated damage caused by their attempts to rebuild society is thus out of the question. Nevertheless, taken as a warning, the abstract argument against using exigent ideals for guidance retains some point; for it has to be admitted that pursuing such an ideal, even when, like anarchy, it Carries limits, risks causing damage that would not occur if the ideal had been renounced.

Before accepting the argument for renunciation, one needs to recognize that acting without the guidance of exigent ideals also carries risks. There are various conclusions concerning political activity that someone who refuses to be guided by exigent ideals might reach. He might become complacent, believing all reformative endeavor dangerous; he might use his renunciation as an excuse for indolence, for refraining from efforts to improve society while continuing to denounce it as reprehensible; or he might opt for a cautious incrementalism. The first two conclusions can be summarily dismissed for condoning blatant suffering. Incrementalism, which can alleviate existing misery, needs closer consideration as a guide to action free of the dangers that bedevil exigence.

The incrementalist is like the complacent and indolent re-nouncers of bold ideals in accepting the established social system as a whole. Where he differs is in striving to improve the existing system through cautious modification and reforms. Meliorative activity that proceeds through small, predictable, reversible adjustments, and that has the lessening of felt misery as its aim, he supports fervently. What the incrementalist opposes are efforts, which the use of exigent ideals as guides suggests, aimed at increasing future welfare through replacing the established social system with an entirely new one. Such efforts are denounced by the incrementalist, for reasons just examined, as dangerous sources of uncompensated suffering; but he is moved by his appreciation of how the established system causes misery to proceed gradually, without the help of an ideal social model, toward ridding it of the traits widely perceived as most harmful.9

While incrementalism must surely be preferred to complacency or indolence as a guide to action, it is not obviously preferable to an ideal like anarchy, which, though exigent, hedges action in its service with constraints. For incrementalism, because it eschews reference to exigent ideals, ignores or tolerates objectionable features of established social systems which practice guided by such ideals contests. Any exigent social model identifies underlying sources of misery in the existing society which may not elicit much alarm, and which, being inherent in its nature, cannot be eliminated unless the whole society is replaced. The anarchist social model, to take the exigent ideal with which we are now fully acquainted, identifies inherent features of modern society, such as law and hierarchy, as the taproots of its members' stunted, estranged existence. The incrementalist, because he accepts the existing social system and tries to improve it only by diminishing its most immediate sources of felt misery, leaves undisturbed the inherent, underlying evils to which an exigent ideal like anarchy calls attention. Thus, though incrementahsm offers comforting protection against fanatical excess, its repudiation of ideals as guides to action is a burdensome source of dread. For incremental-ists are condemned to live with the daily apprehension that promising opportunities to augment human welfare are being missed.

Even though incrementahsm leaves possibilities for human welfare unfulfilled, as a practical guide it is still preferable to social ideals whose unlimited exigence makes using them for guidance likely to wreak serious uncompensated harm. But anarchy, we have discovered, owing to the constraints it puts on efforts to rebuild society, is an ideal which can be pursued without much risk of havoc. That those who seek anarchy will ignore the constraints it sets on action is of course a remote danger, but one worth accepting, if its practical guidance leads to appreciably greater benefits than can be secured through incrementalism. The practical value of anarchy thus depends not only, or even mainly, on the danger of using it for guidance, but also on how much advantage its use as a guide can bring.

The first practical use to which an ideal like anarchy can be fruitfully put is as a standard for judging an established social system. Anarchy, when used to judge modern industrial society, raises deep objections to many of its most generally accepted traits. Rather than rehearsing all of these objections, it should suffice at this stage of analysis to recall the most distinctive - those directed against legality. Judged against the standard of an ideal anarchy, modern society appears seriously defective for controlling behavior by means of law, whose generality, permanence and physical coercion make it impossible for community or individuality to develop fully, let alone to merge. The practical effect of using anarchy as a critical standard is thus to make law (along with several other essential attributes of existing society) the target of relentless attack.

The animus which anarchy, used as a standard, directs against the rule of law is expressed not just in hostile declarations, but also more creatively in concrete criticism. The founders of anarchism, starting with Godwin, all marshalled evidence, drawn from history and their own experience, of how law serves those who are ascendent to keep their inferiors in tow, of how its permanence and generality cause crude, misguided behavioral regulation, and of how the predictability, which is law's redeeming asset, remains in fact a will-o'-the-wisp. Though law promises to bring certainty, what it actually amounts to, says Godwin, is 'a labyrinth without end,. . . a mass of contradictions that cannot be untangled'.10 This genre of concrete criticism of legal institutions, inaugurated by the founders, has been much elaborated in recent times by empirically oriented observers who have studied law from the anarchists' critical perspective. Lester Mazor, for example, ascribes the numerous cases of legal oppression, ineptitude and caprice that he has collected in his essay on 'Disrespect for Law' to 'the limits of rules as means of accomplishing change and as an expression of the character of social relations'.11 The concrete criticisfn of established institutions, which arises from judging them against the anarchist ideal, gives more impetus to efforts to rebuild society than criticism which, however vigorous, remains abstract. For outrage against an abstraction like legality gains strength and focus when the abstraction is seen as causing specific evils. But if the anarchist ideal served practically as no more than a critical standard, it could not easily be proved more beneficial in its bearing on efforts to rebuild society than incrementalism. Concrete criticism, by itself, has diagnostic value, but it is more likely to yield advantage if accompanied by a plan of action. Fortunately, anarchy, in its practical use, serves not only as a standard for judging the ills of established society, but alsb as a guide to their cure. It is the guidance anarchy gives to social reconstruction that is most crucial for assessing its value as applied to practice.

The safety which the founders imparted to anarchist struggles by hedging them with constraints is somewhat unreliable, chiefly because these struggles have as their strategic aim to substitute full-fledged anarchy for the industrialized nation-state. The founding anarchists justified the actions they recommended as the most likely, among those falling within permissible limits, to achieve this substitution. So long as anarchists decide what to do by reference to the effectiveness of their efforts for replacing the modern state, they will be tempted to disregard the constraints which limit their activity and promise to make it safe. To replace the modern state with a full-fledged anarchy is so difficult that anarchists for whom this is the chief practical concern must find the conditions, scruples and timetables that constrain their efforts hard to support. The obvious way to give action guided by the anarchist ideal the safety it needs to be more beneficial than action guided by incrementalism is to set the strategic aim of replacing the nation-state by anarchy aside. For when this replacement ceases to be the anarchist's main concern, he will be less prone to view the constraints his ideal sets on practice as fetters.

There are other reasons, besides safety, for giving up the strategic aim of replacing the state with anarchy. For one thing, this move, while not made explicitly by any founder, was certainly suggested by some of them. Godwin, in his view of progress toward rationality as unending, and Proudhon, in his plea for withdrawal by anarchists into their own separate organizations, both implied that the main concerfSin deciding on present action should not be whether the contemplated course will best serve to replace the state with anarchy. Many of the most thoughtful recent anarchists, more despondent than their forebears about the prospects for destroying, dissolving or otherwise eliminating industrialized nation-states, let alone replacing them with anarchy, and more fearful of the unredeemed suffering to which attempts to do this might lead, have pursued in their writings, as well as in their activities, the founders' intimations about efforts directed at achieving something less than a fully anarchist society on the scale of existing states. These recent extensions of the anarchist tradition, designed to give it safe purchase on the present social world, have produced marked benefits. A brief sketch of how anarchists of late have been using their social model to guide partial anarchization within the nation-state is thus required before the practical value of the anarchist model can be assessed accurately.

A quotation from Karl Landauer, chosen by Colin Ward as the motto for Anarchy, his journal which, in the 1960s, championed partial anarchist endeavors, aptly captures their underlying inspiration. 'The state is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of behavior; we destroy it by behaving differently.'12 Anarchists who have approached action from Landauer's angle have carried out two types of changes, both of which achieve some measure of immediate anarchization. The first rearranges some particularly significant social activity, while leaving the structure of other activities undisturbed. The second rearranges all of the social activities occurring in a particular place, but makes no direct attempt to rearrange them elsewhere.

The first type of change is well illustrated by the accomplishments of anarchists concerned with education, who have used their ideal social model for guidance in establishing schools with as many features of a complete anarchy as can feasibly be incorporated into an organization like a school, which is not an independent social system. The Ferrer Modern School of New York, which functioned with many changes from 1911 to 1953, exemplifies how anarchists have derived benefits from using their model to guide the restructuring of education. 'Very young children' in the Modern School, as described by one of its organizers, learn 'nearly all the major parts of anthropology... through the desire that so many of them have to make things'. Education, as practiced in the Modem School, thus 'combines training of the senses and of the mind, skill of hand and skill of brain', just as they are combined in a complete anarchy. The Modern School also follows the anarchist model in its abhorrence of legality. 'We do away with all coercive discipline and all the rules and paraphernalia of such discipline: the raised desk of the teacher, the rigid rows of seats for the children, and the ideal that every class should be conducted according to.. .preconceived codes.' Finally, the Modern School draws from the ideal of anarchy its emphasis in the classroom on unrestrained discussion of 'problems suggested by the children,.. .which is of the very greatest aid in developing the children as separate, thinking individuals and as members of the social unit'.18 The steps anarchists have been taking to restructure education have yielded advantages, without wreaking uncompensated harm of the sort that struggles to replace the state with anarchy threaten. At the very least, anarchist education has saved some children from the inflexible discipline common in our schools, which often teaches that learning is something to resent. More positively, anarchist education has surely, though to an unmeasurable extent, aided the growth of independent rationality and voluntary cooperation.

Another social activity that has benefited from being partially reorganized along lines indicated by the anarchist ideal is work. Anarchists who have been more concerned with restructuring productive activity within the state's jurisdiction so that it resembles what would occur under anarchy, than in using the workplace as a weapon in the struggle to replace the state, favor a self-management which, within the realm of the individual enterprise, is thoroughgoing. In the enterprises planned or established by these anarchists, internal decisions are made by neither owners, nor investors, nor managers, nor technicians, nor union officials, but consensually by all producers. The practice of self-management is ambiguous, because, depending on how far it goes, it has contrary effects. If producers make decisions on no matters except immediate conditions of work, the effect is often to increase efficiency, job satisfaction and profits. When self-management is extended upward to more significant matters - personnel, marketing, investment and the like - and when it is extended outward to decisions that affect the whole economy, the effect may be, though this is more speculative, to encourage producers, both in self-managed enterprises and in those with which they deal, to further restructure their activities along anarchist lines. The anarchists' recognition of this ambiguity in the practice of self-management is part of the reason why they require it to be thorough. But it is their determination to build as many features of an ideal anarchy into productive enterprises as is consistent with their remaining under the jurisdiction of the state that best explains not only the thoroughness of the self-management they advocate, but why it has distinctive features. In his essay on 'A Self-Employed Society' Colin Ward, working from the evidence of congenial, though non-anarchist examples, and of explicitly anarchist plans, describes the shape that an anarchist, though state-bound, self-management should take.14 Voting and rule-making are de-emphasized in faVor of open-ended discussion aiming toward consensus and the continuous process of 'one or two people thinking out and trying new things'. Consensual decisions are not enforced by designated supervisors, but by peers. There are no fixed roles; workers 'deploy themselves, depending on the requirements of the ongoing group task'. Finally, income is distributed equally among all members of the productive unit. Though enterprises organized like these are not intended, and could not be expected, to anar-chize society completely, nevertheless, because they have so many anarchist features, they offer much of the advantage of a complete anarchy.

Besides restructuring particular activities on lines indicated by their social model, anarchists intent on immediate, though partial, progress also use their model to guide the reorganization of all activity within a circumscribed place, usually a farmland. Several rural settlements organized on anarchist principles were established in France at the beginning of this century, when the anarchist movement had been partially discredited by an epidemic of bomb-throwing and was threatened with being absorbed by syndicalism. Responding to this situation, a few French anarchists turned away from efforts to replace the state and founded an association whose purpose was to gather members, donations and sympathy so as to enable a site to be acquired for establishing an anarchist commune.

The story of the Colony of Vaux, founded by this association in 1903, parallels that of many similar endeavors. Having rented a house and about six acres of land on favorable terms from a friendly farmer, a half dozen settlers began living and working together according to certain arrangements. Before entering the commune, each agreed to do the necessary work and to renounce physical force. Necessities were taken, as needed, from communal stores, or, in case of shortage, distributed equally. Any productive surplus was also equally distributed. Collective decisions were made consensually, except for those concerning the admission of new members, which were made by unanimous vote. In case of strife that was 'a real danger to the general peace', offenders were 'invited' to leave. At first, the commune prospered, increasing in a few months to twenty-one members and successfully producing food and clothes. Despite the need to change their site, the colonists continued to live and work together for three years, after which disputes over alleged high-handedness by the leading founder caused them to disband.15

There are also numerous cases in the United States of anarchist settlements, starting in the mid-nineteenth century with Josiah Warren's experimental villages. One of the most ambitious and longest-lived of these settlements was the Ferrer Colony of Stelton, New Jersey, established in 1914 by the sponsors of the previously mentioned Modern School of New York. The Stelton Colony in its heyday in the 1920s had eighty or so families as permanent residents, as many as 100 boarding students in its elementary school, and an additional summer population of several hundred. It followed the usual anarchist pattern of unenforced consensual decision-making, and there was a great deal of shared cultural and educational activity, but in its economic arrangements it differed from the French settlements in that members owned their own houses and small plots of land, on which some farmed, while most commuted to work in New York City. Though plagued by growing controversy in the 1920s about whether to emphasize education or social action, and in the 1930s between those who remained anarchists and those who joined the Communist cause, the Stelton Colony, despite compromises both in its school and in its way of life, continued for over thirty years to offer many of the advantages of anarchy.18

Certain of the communes that were landmarks of the American counter-culture in the 1960s have also been viewed, though less convincingly, as at least implicitly guided by the anarchist social model. The settlers of Cold Mountain Farm, which lasted barely through the summer of 1967, followed the advice of the impeccably anarchist Murray Bookchin. Yet many of them were moved more by yearnings for rustic simplicity or by oriental mysticism than by the intention to go as far as possible, on their small Vermont farm, toward building anarchy.17 The very few Western communes which have been called anarchist by their founders or observers are even more remote in their inspiration from the anarchist ideal; and since some lasted longer than Cold Mountain, it can be shown that they diverge markedly from anarchy in their practice. Consider the case of Lou Gottlieb's Morningstar Ranch. Though anarchist in its avoidance of hierarchy, legality and physical coercion, Morningstar lacked the replacements for these practices which the ideal of anarchy suggests. Gottlieb, believing that 'the land selects the people', disliked collective decision making, no matter how consensual, resisted attempts to screen new settlers, and, in various ways, worked less for community than separation. No wonder that Morningstar was so beset by self-centered, destructive transients. Because, like most counter-culture communes which professed to follow the anarchist model, it tended to disregard that model's rational and solidaristic elements, it could achieve scarcely a semblance of the communal individuality to which a correct application of the anarchist model points.18 Since the disappointing record of Morningstar cannot be blamed on deficiencies in the anarchist social model, neither its failure nor that of similar counter-cultural experiments impugns anarchy's value as a guide to action. The lesson of such failures is not to give up attempts to partially anarchize society, but, in making these attempts, to take as one's guide an accurate conception of the anarchist model. Since settlements and institutions rebuilt according to this model provide marked benefits without destructive havoc, it seems that between the alternatives of anarchy and incrementalism as guides to action, anarchy should be the choice.

To those who reject incrementalism for precluding the replacement of an entire social system, using anarchy to guide partial efforts to reconstruct society may seem just as unacceptable. Since the partial efforts that anarchy as a guide suggests are not appreciably bolder or more sweeping than those suggested by incrementalism, both, it may be argued, cut off the opportunities for augmenting human welfare that arise when an entire social system is replaced. It is true that the partial changes carried out under the guidance of the anarchist model have a cautious quality reminiscent of those an incrementalist would undertake. But whereas the incrementalist, being committed to the established social system, rejects measures which might jeopardize its continued existence, and confines himself to remedies for pressing, immediate evils, the anarchist, though his efforts aim to partially anarchize, not overthrow, the existing social order, finds effects of his efforts that tend to undermine that order anything but adverse. Believing that human welfare would be increased greatly if anarchy replaced the state, he welcomes the help his partial efforts give to this replacement, even though achieving it is not their point. Should the changes carried out under the guidance of his model in schools, workplaces, rural settlements and the like accumulate, as is possible, so as to completely dissolve the state, the anarchist would be delighted. Anarchy used as a guide to the partial reconstruction of society, far from evoking fear, as does incrementalism, that possibilities for wellbeing are going unfulfilled, offers the safety which is incrementalism's strong point while keeping prospects for augmenting human welfare through systemic transformation alive.19

Thus the worth of anarchy as a model of the best regime must be deemed outstanding, judged from a practical, as well as from a theoretical, point of view. As a complete achievement anarchy is not just possible, but offers benefits unavailable from its rivals. As a practical standard and guide, anarchy points the way to action that combines safety, immediate advantage and the promise of systemic change. Since the advice of the incrementalist to disown exigent ideals has been and no doubt always will be too severe to follow, the choice among such ideals is one that simply must be faced. Though no arguments can show that anarchy -- or any ideal social model -- is indisputably best, the arguments advanced in this chapter show at least that in controversy about the nature of the good society anarchy must receive a leading place.


Recent books on anarchism all conclude with observations on its continuing vitality. Even before the Paris rebellion of May 1968, when students put anarchist theory to work in their struggles against their university and the state that lay behind it, commentators were cautioning against inferring from the rout of the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War that their theory was dead. Though none saw much hope for anarchism as an organized movement, working to replace, or even modify, the state, even the most gloomy believed that as 'an austere personal and social code' it would continue to capture the attention of receptive minds.20 What this meant was that at least a few people could always be expected to take bearings from the anarchist tradition on how to lead their personal, aesthetic and immediate social lives. After 1968, observers began announcing with dread, triumph or amazement that the anarchist movement, transfigured by contact with the New Left, had revived.21 These announcements of revival, because they now seem as exaggerated as the preceding reports of death, point up the hazard, which it would be foolish to defy, of forecasting anarchism's prospects. But the continued vitality of anarchism as both idea and movement prompts other less ensnaring questions, which can be answered clearly with the aid of the analysis presented in this book. What is the explanation for anarchism's longevity? And what is its significance for political thought?

The longevity of anarchism, despite its failure to win victories, or even to secure a mass following, is all the more striking when one remembers how little, as a doctrine, it has changed. The revisers of liberalism, conservatism and socialism, who often quite drastically modified the ideas they inherited in order to keep them relevant to the changing socio-economic situation of their supporters, have no anarchist counterparts. That the anarchism of the founders still intermittently revives suggests that its strength lies less than is usual with political doctrines in its appeal to interests. This suggestion is borne out by the fact that anarchism has won backing from persons whose places in society, being markedly divergent, could not all have been expected to support it, if its suitability as a medium for satisfying interests was the main source of its appeal. There have, of course, been attempts to paint anarchism as an ideology in the service of a particular class. But writers who make these attempts disagree whether it is peasants, artisans, small businessmen or rural landless workers whose interests anarchism represents. And no wonder they disagree, for anarchism has at times drawn backing from all of these groups, as well as from industrial workers.22 The secret of anarchism's endurance, these remarks suggest, should be sought less in the support it gives to mutable class interests than in its ability to satisfy aspirations that are more universal and enduring. The black flag of anarchy, we cannot but believe, now waves above at least a corner of every human heart.

In seeking to intensify and finally to merge the individual and communal sides of life, the anarchists were following the course of much nineteenth-century political theory, exemplified, as we noted in the introduction, by Hegel and Marx. What must now be added is that these seekers on the plane of theory of a fused communal individuality were responding to concerns which, less perfectly articulated, were widespread in their culture and are even more pervasive in ours. To exhibit strong personality without losing touch with others, to unite with the whole without sinking into it, to live in a society both warmly receptive to self-expression and gratifyingly unitary - these for us are pressing aspirations. Unless one rests content with denouncing these aspirations as self-contradictory or worse, though they are central to our culture, the way that anarchists propose to satisfy them must seem filled with promise.23 Of the various paths mapped by political theorists toward combining the fullest individual development with the greatest communal unity, that of the anarchists is distinctive in its concreteness, its immediate practicality, and in the particularized rationality and thoroughgoing liberty of its projected way of life. So long as communal individuality remains an aspiration, the path to anarchy, despite its hazards, will continue to be travelled.


1 Kropotkin, "The State: Its Historical Role', in Miller (ed.), Selected Writings on Anarchism and Revolution (Cambridge, Mass., 1970), Mutual Aid (New York, 1925), chs. 3-8, Revolutionary Pamphlets (New York, 1968), pp. 65-6. For recent work by an anthropologist who reaches conclusions similar to Kropotkin's about the anarchistic quality of some primitive societies see Pierre Clastres, Society Against the State (New York, 1977); and for a recent report on the Royal National Life-Boat Institution see The New York Times (23 April 1978). The coxswain of the Dover lifeboat is quoted as saying, 'This job is much too important to let the Government get its hands on it.'

2 Edward Hyndman, The Historical Basis of Socialism in England (London, 1883), p. 425. Donald Mcintosh, 'The Dimensions of Anarchy', in Pennock and Chapman (eds.), Anarchism (New York, 1978), p. 263.

3 Roel Van Duyn, Message of a Wise Kabouter (London, 1969), pp. 48-9; Laurence Veysey, The Communal Experience (New York, 1973), pp. 427-9. Lyman Tower Sargent, 'Social Decision Making in Anarchism and Minimalism' (unpublished paper presented at the Fifth Plenary Meeting, of AMINTAPHIL, November 1976), pp. 17-18.

4 J.-J. Rousseau, Emile, trans. Barbara Foxley (London, 1911), p. 7.

5 Michael Walzer, Obligations: Essays on Disobedience, War and Citizenship (Cambridge, Mass., 1970), pp. 238, 231.

6 It must not be forgotten that the anarchists, in laying out these requirements for freedom, are concerned with action in the public sphere. They acknowledge that in acting privately, as when I build my own house, it is not irrational to follow rules or experts without verifying the merit of the particular actions they prescribe. Nor must it be forgotten that in the rational deliberation of the anarchists general rules must be consulted as presumptive guides.

7 In laying out the conditions which serve as a background to the exercise of freedom, the anarchists can be viewed as doing for liberty what is more often done for justice. Just as the theory of justice identifies the background conditions which best assure that entirely procedural adjudication will yield a just verdict, so anarchist theory identifies the background conditions which make it most likely that an entirely procedural liberty will yield good conduct.

8 The locus classicus for the objection is Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies (New York, 1962), vol. 1, ch. 9; see also his essay, 'Utopia and Violence', in Conjectures and Refutations (New York, 1963), pp. 355-64. 9 Incrementalism as a decision procedure is carefully laid out by Robert Dahl and Charles Lindblom in Politics, Economics and Welfare (New York, 1953), pp. 82-6.

10 Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (Toronto, 1946), II, 402. The last part of Kropotkin's 'Law and Authority', in Pamphlets, pp. 206-8, fills out this analysis.

11 Lester Mazor, 'Disrespect for Law', in Pennock and Chapman (eds.), Anarchism, pp. 143-59. See also the suggestive essay by Stanley Diamond, 'The Rule of Law Versus the Order of Custom', in Robert Paul Wolff (ed.), The Rule of Law (New York, 1971), pp. 115-44. It is important not to confuse these empirical studies of law, which criticize it from an anarchist perspective, with empirical criticism from a socialist viewpoint, a good example of which is Richard Quinney, Critique of Legal Order (Boston, 1973). Quinney makes no attempt to blame the suffering he documents as caused by the American legal system on law as such; the culprit for him is the capitalist economy. He says only that ' there is no need for a legal order, as known under capitalism, in the social relations of a socialist society', p. 191 (my emphasis).

12 Quoted in David Stafford, 'Anarchists in Britain Today', Government and Opposition, 5 (Autumn 1970), p. 488.

13 Bayard Boyeson, 'The Modern School', in Perry and Krimmerman, Patterns of Anarchy (New York, 1966), pp. 417-20. For a description of the school in a less anarchist phase, from 1920 to 1925, after it had been transferred to Stelton, New Jersey, see Veysey, The Communal Experience, pp. 141-8. For contemporary developments in anarchist education, including details about specific schools, see George Dennison, The Lives of Children (New York, 1969), Allen Graubard, Free the Children (New York, 1972), and Joel Spring, A Primer of Libertarian Education (New York, 1975).

14 Colin Ward, Anarchy in Action (New York, 1973), pp. 95-109. For analysis of the value and effects of self-management see Gerry Ffunnius, G. David Garson and John Case (eds.), Workers' Control (New York, 1973), and Carole Pateman, Participation and Democratic Theory (Cambridge, England, 1970), ch. IV, 'Participation and "Democracy" in Industry'.

15 Charles Gide, Communist and Cooperative Colonies (London, 1930), pp. 157-63. Another anarchist commune founded in France during this period, and just touched upon in Gide's survey, was more thoroughly described in a contemporary newspaper account. The Aiglemont Colony, established in 1903 by Fortune Henry, an anarchist who had spent thirteen years in prison for his earlier, less circumspect activities, followed a similar trajectory to the Colony of Vaux. According to Henry, at Aiglemont 'the only signal everyone obeys is the dinner gong'. No one commands. 'Each evening, we decide what work to do the next day; but the next day each of us does his work just as he pleases.' The newspaper correspondent reported from Aiglemont that there were indeed no fixed rules or routines governing work, yet the settlers were producing more than enough to live on. The Aiglemont Colony fell apart, like the one at Vaux, when its founder was called a dictator and invited to leave. Le Temps, 11 and 13 June 1905.

16 Laurence Veysey, on whose somewhat querulous account of Stelton these remarks are based, though he concludes that the Colony's record was 'mixed and inconclusive', nevertheless is moved to add that 'to have fought the outside world for so long to a kind of draw is itself impressive'. The Communal Experience, p. 177.

17 Veysey, The Communal Experience, pp. 185-8; Richard Fairfield, Communes USA. (Baltimore, 1972), pp. 39-52.

18 Keith Melville, Communes in the Counter Culture (New York, 1972), pp. 126-g; Fairfield, Communes, pp. 241-67.

19 Using anarchy as a guide to partial reconstruction certainly does not assure beneficial transformation, or even make it probable. The withdrawal of anarchists into separate institutions might consolidate, rather than undermine, the established social order.

20 Joll, The Anarchists (London, 1964), p. 279, Woodcock, Anarchism (New York, 1962), p. 475.

21 Karl Wittfogel responded with dread in 'Marxism, Anarchism, and the New Left' (unpublished paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, September 1969). For a triumphant response see Guerin, Anarchism (New York, 1970), 'Postscript: May, 1968', pp. 155-9, and for responses which express varied degrees of amazement see James Joll, 'Anarchism - A Living Tradition', Government and Opposition, 5 (Autumn 1970), pp. 541-54, and Gerald Runkel, Anarchism: Old and New (New York, 1972), pp. 175-220.

22 Pre-eminently, the members of the Spanish CNT. For the view that anarchism represents artisanal interests see Pierre Ansert, Naissance de Vanarchisme (Paris, 1970); for an interpretation emphasizing its appeal to landless rural workers see Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels (New York, 1959), pp. 74-92; Aime Berthod stresses the affinities between Proudhon's anarchism and peasant interests in Proudhon et la propriete (Paris, 1910); the association of anarchism with 'petty bourgeois' interests is, of course, a Marxist hobbyhorse.

23 John Chapman and Gerald Gaus decry this aspiration as self-contradictory in their provocative essay, 'Anarchism and Political Philosophy: An Introduction', in Pennock and Chapman (eds.), Anarchism, p. xi. They also cite Eric Voegelin for denouncing it as 'the pneumatic disease', p. xliii. In ch. 1 of his Hegel (Cambridge, England, 1975), Charles Taylor gives a magisterial account of our preoccupation with individuality and community in the context of the development of pre-Hegelian German philosophy and culture.