April Carter, The Political Theory of Anarchism, 1971.

1 The Political Theory ol Anarchism

The Leviathan

This chapter examines some of the key concepts and themes of anarchism and their relation to orthodox political theory. The discussion centres round Hobbes's Leviathan. Because Hobbes stated with exceptional clarity and incisiveness some of the key problems of politics, and did so at a high level of abstraction which gives his philosophy a relatively timeless quality, it is possible to draw on his thought for the purposes of general analysis.

Hobbes is also particularly relevant to a discussion of anarchism. As a philosopher of rigorous 'realism' he contrasts strongly with the 'Utopian' elements in anarchist thought; and the Leviathan, which is a classic statement of the need for strong government, persuasively equates anarchy with violence and disorder. But interestingly Godwin, the first philosopher of anarchism, is in the direct line of intellectual descent from Hobbes's individualism and rationalism. It is, therefore, possible to point to the complexity of political ideas, by tracing how Hobbes's theory can generate its own opposite -- a consistent individualist anarchist theory, whilst at the same time laying the theoretical foundations for an anarchist inversion of itself.

Anarchist ideas can be linked with Hobbes's theory at three levels. First, at the most obvious level, an anarchist vision of a peaceful society free from the ills of government, is a reverse image of Hobbes's picture of the state of war which results when government breaks down, or in the absence of any central power. Secondly, there are interesting connections to be made between Hobbes's psychology and conception of the individual, and anarchist attitudes. Thirdly, Hob-besian propositions about the State, the role of law, and the nature of crime, illuminate the central concerns of anarchism. There are limitations in the Hobbesian account of society which takes the psychological make-up of the individual as the basis for analysis, and self-interest -- even the enlightened self-interest leading to virtuous behaviour Godwin envisages -- as the motive force holding society together. But the emphasis of many later anarchists on the positive role of social groups in influencing and binding together individuals provides a partial solution for some of the difficulties inherent in this position. [14]

Anarchy means literally 'without government', and the lowest common denominator of anarchist thought is the conviction that existing forms of government are productive of wars, internal violence, repression and misery. This critique of government extends to liberal democratic governments as well as to the more frequently criticized dictatorships. Hobbes was, like the anarchists, more interested in government as a general phenomenon than in distinguishing between different types of government. While he thought monarchial government would be more efficient and less open to corruption than other forms, he was primarily concerned to explain in abstract terms why government is necessary.

The Social Contract

Hobbes's abstract justification for government rests on the legalistic fiction of the social contract. The contract is envisaged between individuals driven to set up a government because of the miseries they endure in the 'state of nature', where there is no stable social organization. The state of nature is sometimes envisaged in a quasi-historical way: once upon a time, before government existed, men lived in small scattered groups -- sometimes perhaps joined together in bands for hunting or war -- and tried to live off the land. But no one could cultivate the land in peace, or be secure in his possessions, because at any time he might be attacked by marauders and driven off or killed. Therefore, everyone had to be ready to fight off attackers; and men were likely to attack both for the sake of possessions and the power which possessions bring; or through sheer love of fighting and the glory to be won from success in battle. Even if only a minority were likely to act in this fashion, everyone was forced through fear to take defensive measures, and might, in line with the familiar logic of defence, feel impelled to launch preventive attacks against their more threatening neighbours.

Hobbes is not claiming to describe an actual historical situation -- even though in the seventeenth century historical and anthropological evidence would not have thrown as much doubt as they do now on the realism of his picture of a pre-social stage. He is exploring the logic of a situation in which human nature predisposes men to act in certain ways, and there is no superior power to prevent them warring with one another. So in the state of nature there is no economic prosperity -- because economic advance depends on security and co-operation; no scientific knowledge, 'no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death' (Leviathan, 82). This is an extreme picture of what [15] life would be like without any government at all. Superimposed on this are images of a partial 'state of nature' resulting from the breakdown of central government, or civil war -- the realistic dangers Hobbes is trying to avert.

Hobbes is aware that the state of nature in which there is no organized society is a logical fiction; it is the basis for the second fiction, the social contract. Individuals who have been driven by fear and guided by reason to seek a rational solution to their difficulties are envisaged as coming together to draw up what amounts to a peace treaty, and simultaneously setting up a sovereign to ensure the treaty is, in future, kept. The articles of the treaty, and the obligations of the parties to it, are spelt out in full on the analogy of other legally binding contracts, for example in the commercial sphere. Hobbes is able through this analogy to argue a double case. First, he shows that it is in the interest of the individual to live under strong government, and therefore he should act in such a way as to maintain the existing government (i.e. keep the terms of the 'social contract'). Secondly, by drawing on the sophisticated concepts and sense of moral obligation evolved in legal practice and familiar to his readers, Hobbes is able to suggest why government is not only necessary and useful, but has legitimate authority.

Hobbes is the most brilliant and original of the contract theorists, but the conception of the social contract is common to many other seventeenth century writers. It was carried over into the eighteenth century, but by the time of the French Revolution it had lost much of its orginal relevance as a political analogy; and it had also lost its logical clarity as a result of being merged in political discourse with the Whig interpretation of British history, and being identified with the settlement of 1688. Moreover, by this time contract theory often seemed designed to justify existing political practices, which struck many reformers and radicals as corrupt, unjust and frequently absurd. As a result the contract tended to look like a form of intellectual mystification, designed to delude the people into forgoing their rights. The theoretical foundations of the contract theory were undermined by Hume. Bentham attacked the fiction of the contract in the name of utilitarianism; Tom Paine derided, in defence of popular sovereignty, the idea of a contract which vested in the Government continuing rights; and William Godwin dismissed the notion of an 'original contract' in the course of constructing a rational anarchist philosophy.

But the idea of the contract did not simply disappear; as is frequent with political conceptions, it underwent a series of transformations, ifle notion of individual consent to government, which is intrinsic to tne social contract, has inherently radical implications, as Hobbes [16] was uneasily aware; and as Locke carefully demonstrated in his defence of rebellion. These radical possibilities were developed in three directions. The utilitarian theory of democracy retained the implicit contractual notions of utility as a criterion of the purpose of government, and of individual consent as a criterion of legitimacy, whilst abandoning the legal fiction of the contract. In the radical democratic theory propagated by Paine the historical fiction was transmuted into a present and recurring renewal of the contract between the governed and their chosen government; and sovereignty was transferred from the 'sovereign' monarch to the people. The anarchist conception developed by Godwin went a stage further than Paine. Godwin thought of contracts not between that fictitious entity, the 'people', and the government; but between specific individuals. Whereas Hobbes's society is based on a single compact in the assumed past, Godwin's society is to be built on a series of mutual and constantly renewed compacts between freely contracting individuals; permanent contracts like marriage are an infringement of freedom. This conception of contracts based on the principle of justice, implicit in Godwin, was built systematically into the social theory of Proud-hon, who contrasted voluntary contract with law enforced by superior power.

The impact of Hobbes's theory lies partly in the image he evokes of the violence, chaos and fear which ensue when there is no government to enforce law and order. If his assumptions are reversed, and one argues that men are by nature -- when uncorrupted by the perverting influence of government and evil societies -- co-operative, peace-loving and activated by spontaneous sympathy towards others, then the logic of the situation is also reversed. Government ceases to be a protector of individuals, and a guarantor of their lives and property. Instead, the State is seen as the chief threat to the liberty, security and prosperity of the individual, whom it circumscribes with laws and regulations, jails for infringement of these rules, conscripts to fight in wars, executes for any treason to the State, and robs through exorbitant taxes. Hobbes conceded that governments might harm their subjects, but argued the worst a government could do to people is 'scarce sensible in respect of the miseries, and horrible calamities, that accompany a civil war, or that dissolute condition of masterless men, without subjection to laws, and a coercive power to tie their hands from rapine and revenge' (Leviathan, 120). Anarchists like Godwin and Tolstoy believed that governments are responsible for the greatest crimes, and promote devastating wars between States. It is of course an over-simplification to say that anarchists believe men are always naturally co-operative and peaceable, just as it is misleading to suggest Hobbes thought all men are necessarily competitive [17] and vainglorious. But Hobbes's emphasis led him to the conclusion that government is a necessary evil. The anarchists conclude that government is a great and unnecessary evil, and that anarchy in the literal sense of no government need not mean anarchy in the popular sense of violence and disorder.

Hobbes and Godwin

But apart from the basic image of Hobbes's state of nature in reverse, there are more direct and subtle links between Hobbes and one strand of the anarchist tradition -- that is the individualist and rationalist tradition represented especially by William Godwin. Hobbes's theory contains the ingredients of a consistent theory of anarchism, and these are present in Godwin's writings. The most basic element common to both is the theoretical framework -- the assumption that social analysis starts with the individual, and his personal needs and desires, rather than with society, the Stale, or the pattern of history. Godwin considers it obvious that 'society is nothing more than an aggregate of individuals'. The individual is for purposes of analysis abstracted from society. The importance of education into society is recognized by Hobbes, and even more so by Godwin; but political conclusions are based on deductions from human nature, which is seen as more fundamental than any specific social or cultural influence. Stemming from this individualist position are Hobbes's and Godwin's views on freedom, equality, rationality, and the nature of the State.

Hobbes defines freedom as the absence of external constraints on the individual. The underlying assumption is that freedom to do what one likes is for the individual a fundamental good, and though some social restraints may be necessary for the sake of peace, they are inevitably irksome to the individual. Once Hobbes's overriding emphasis on strong government in the interests of preventing civil disorder has been replaced by a more sanguine reliance on a natural harmony of interests -- for example, through the mechanism of the market -- then the logical consequence is laissez-faire liberalism, in which there is a residual Hobbesian belief in the role of the State in maintaining internal peace and providing defence against external enemies, but the restrictive sphere of the State is reduced to a minimum. If this brand of liberalism is taken to its logical extreme, what results is a kind of laissez-faire anarchism postulating a natural harmoney of individual mterests in all spheres of social life.

Hobbes not only creates a conception of individual freedom ultimately subversive of his own belief in the overriding rights of government; [18] he also espouses a radical egalitarianism. There are three reasons for his emphasis on the basic equality of all men. One is the specific political desire to deny to the nobility a privileged, and hence disruptive, status in the realm: all men are equally obliged to obey the sovereign. Secondly, the basic equality of men in the state of nature is a necessary postulate if all men are to have an equal incentive to live under a sovereign. If in a state of nature some men through superior strength or intelligence could secure permanent power and security, then the logic of the situation would dictate their remaining in a state of anarchy. Hobbes does not argue what is obviously untrue, that men all have exactly the same degree of strength or same degree of intelligence, but that these inherent differences are not significant, since men continuously compete with one another. Above all, men are equal in their vulnerability to violent death. This vulnerability is more significant than accidental personal attributes or artificial social trappings. Here Hobbes takes up his third and most radical argument for equality. He refuses to accept that it is part of the order of the universe (or ordained by God) that some sections of humanity are 'naturally' superior to others; the aristocracy are not superior by nature, but by social convention; and women are not inferior by nature, but by family convention.

Hobbes is undermining with his critical rationality the social traditions of aristocracy and of the patriarchal family. As Burke later saw when trying to maintain the values of tradition -- and appealing to the God-given order of the universe which enshrines the traditional order of society -- abstract and critical reasoning in politics is inherently radical, in the sense of destroying the previously unquestioned beliefs and habits of thought which maintain and shelter social institutions. Once egalitarianism has been posited, in however abstract terms, then the way is open for pursuing the logic of ideas to more radical political conclusions. Godwin takes up the concept of equality. He too accepts that men are not identical in their physical or mental powers. But he argues in his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice: There is no such disparity among the human race, as to enable one man to hold several other men in subjection, except so far as they are willing to be subject' (Vol. I, 145). More importantly, all men and women are morally equal. Therefore, justice demands they should be socially and economically equal.

The role of rationality in Hobbes's philosophy is complex. In his psychology Hobbes stresses that rationality is the servant of the passions: 'For the thoughts are to the desires, as scouts, and spies, to range abroad, and find the way to the things desired' (Leviathan, 46). Even when men decide to leave the state of nature, fear is the spur. [19] On the other hand, man's reason is a crucial bridge between the state f nature and civil society -- the contract assumes both a sophisticated rational awareness of what is necessary, and the temporary dominance of a rational sense of long term self-interest. This excessive reliance on reason in the formation of the social contract stems from the exigencies of the contract fiction, and is dropped when Hobbes comes to consider how far men can be relied on to keep the contract. However, Hobbes's position is further complicated by the rationalist method and commitment of the Leviathan. Its brilliance and persuasive power is partly due to Hobbes's method of rigorously logical deduction from a priori principles on the model of his admired geometry. Hobbes himself is committed to belief in the power of reason in the development of science: both natural and social science.

Faith in the power of science entails a belief in the key role of reason in man's control over his natural and social environment, and is associated with the theory of progress, and with the optimism which characterized the rationalist temper of the Enlightenment. Godwin puts his trust in reason as the basis for a civilized society, and as the guarantor of progress towards a better one. But whilst Hobbes presumed reason can show us how to create a stable society through political science, but cannot guide political life, Godwin relies on reason to direct the passions continuously, and to prescribe day to day rules of behaviour in accordance with the principles of justice. Reason -- which in Godwin has taken on Platonic overtones totally absent from Hobbes -- will be the basis for contracts between free and mutually assenting individuals.

The method of Political Justice is also similar to that of the Leviathan. Godwin himself defined it in a preface to The Enquirer as a process of a priori reasoning by 'laying down one or two simple principles which seem scarcely to be exposed to the hazard of refutation, and then developing them, applying them to a number of points, and following them into a variety of inferences', so constructing a total system which should 'overbear and annihilate all opposition' (H. S. Salt, ed., Political Justice, 12).

It follows from both the individualism and rationalism of the Hobbesian kind of approach that the State is seen as primarily a coercive organization. The State exists to serve the interests of in-ividuals, and to maintain law and order among unruly individuals k requires the use of force. The sovereign enforces the social contact to maintain the security of the commonwealth; for 'covenants Without the sword are but words, and of no strength to secure a man at all (Leviathan, 109). The anarchists agree that the State is distiguished above all by its coercive power. This means that government [20] 'even in its best state is an evil' for Godwin. Later anarchists have stressed this point with greater passion. For Tolstoy the guillotine has superseded the sword as the symbol of government. For Emma Goldman the machinery of government comprises 'the club, the gun, the handcuff, or the prison' (Anarchism and Other Essays, 54).

Primacy of the Individual

At this point I wish to drop the detailed comparison between Hobbes and Godwin and to take up some more tenuous but interesting links between Hobbes and various strands of the anarchist tradition. Earlier in the discussion it was indicated that the Hobbesian assertion of the primacy of the individual is at least potentially subversive of the State. Hobbes is prepared to subordinate the interests of the individual to State power, but only for strictly limited and practical reasons -- to increase general security. Hobbes is not prepared to sacrifice individual interests to any social grouping, to any political cause, moral ideal or religious faith. The Great Leviathan is never in any sense sacred. Hobbes does not appeal to the divinity of kings. Nor does he make any of the modern appeals to the idea of the nation, the motherland, the cause, or the just war. Indeed any kind of unconditional loyalty or fanatical devotion are alien to Hobbes. If the government is losing its grip, then the individual is encouraged to use bis common sense and to look after himself.

Hobbes is opposing two kinds of loyalty and idealism: an aristocratic and heroic code of honour which, because it is heroic, is also very destructive of peace and quiet; and religious or political idealism and devotion to a cause, a more contemporary phenomenon. The first attitude was represented by the Royalists; the second by the Puritans and the Parliamentarians in the Civil War. Hobbes's critique of misguided enthusiasm is based on a strong sense of the political necessity of order. But it is also based on an assumption that fear is a natural -- and therefore healthy and sensible -- emotion. Hobbes used to joke about his own timid disposition. In his own words, at the outbreak of the Civil War he was 'the first of all that fled'. When Cromwell had won, Hobbes was one of the first Royalists to make his peace with the new government. This prudential concern for one's own safety takes in Hobbes the form of political obedience to any strong government, and imposes a political obligation to maintain this obedience unless the government ceases to be effective.

But if this attitude is extended, as it was for example by Hobbes's [21] contemporary Anthony Ascham, who wrote a treatise on The Confusions and Revolutions of Government, then it may become a totally political position, if not an anti-political one. Ascham addressed himself to the mass of ordinary people: 'the Anvill on which all sorts of Hammers discharge themselves' (see Irene Coltman, Private Men and Public Causes, 199). All politics become in this view a dangerous and troublesome interruption of day to day life. And this personal day to day life is all that matters to the individual. So if contending politicians start fighting over one's territory, then one protects oneself as best one can, and co-operates with whoever is winning at a particular time. This attitude makes connections with a popular revolt against the heroism and ambitions of the upper classes; and with elements in the intellectual anarchist tradition -- the appeal to the commonsense and natural instincts of the man in the street against the inflated claims of the State, and the propaganda and ritual of war. The insistence that the individual's first good is his own can be converted back into a subversive kind of 'polities'. Alex Comfort in a review of Herbert Marcuse salutes the idea that 'pig-politics is to be overthrown, not by a revolutionary clique or an irrational mob, but by the weapon of "Irish democracy" -- the withdrawal, resistance and ennui of the ordinary person -- in other words by rational, dogged human bloodymindedness' (The Guardian, 22 May, 1969, 9).

Hobbes's detailed psychological theory links up with another anarchist attitude -- a libertarian approach to the pleasures of life, and, in particular, sex. Hobbes takes the importance of men's desires and passions for granted, and avoids any condemnation of them. There is no hierarchy of higher and lower passions; no puritanism or asceticism. Man is a kind of machine propelled onward by a succession of desires. This view, which has its inherent limitations -- viz. Bentham's famous 'quantity of pleasure being equal, pushpin is as good as poetry' -- is subversive both of social taboos and of a social morality which demands suppression and punishment of vice.

Belief in the naturalness of men's desires can be developed into a positive plea to encourage individuals to satisfy their desires and find happiness. The French Utopian socialist Charles Fourier constructed a picture of a community which would ensure harmony through giving scope to different human passions. Instead of suppressing and perverting these desires, as he believed early nineteenth-century society did, Fourier's communities would provide creative outlets for them in the form of useful work and in free personal relationships. In spite of eccentricities of detail, Fourier's psychological approach has connexions with modern libertarian attitudes. These [22] attitudes have however been greatly influenced by the psychology of Freud, especially as developed by neo-Freudians who have questioned Freud's own pessimistic conclusions. Social and even political evils may in this view be traced to the harmful repression of natural drives -- the word 'repression' taking on a double significance. This approach involves rejection of traditional institutions, conventional moral codes, and religious conceptions of sin. In its iconoclasm, though not in its tone, modern libertarianism still has certain connexions with Hobbesian scepticism.

Law and Government

A more direct agreement between Hobbes and anarchist thinkers is in their view of law. Hobbes is one of those theorists who defines law purely as the will of the sovereign. The authority of the law stems from the fact that the sovereign has willed it, not because it corresponds to the laws of nature or principles of natural justice. If the legitimacy of the sovereign's authority is denied, so is the legitimacy of the law; and if one believes in independent standards of justice and morality -- as anarchists do -- existing laws may be judged morally unjust. Moreover, if government itself is an evil, then the laws promulgated by governments are not only coercive restrictions on individual liberty -- which Hobbes would accept, but an intolerable form of coercion.

An individualist critique of the intrinsic evil of coercive law is usually backed by another anarchist argument: that laws are largely designed to protect property, and therefore are a bastion for the privileges of wealth. Proudhon summed up the idea that the laws protecting property are a form of injustice in his celebrated slogan 'Property is Theft'. This conception had already been put forward forcibly by Godwin:

The fruitful source of crimes consists in this circumstance, one man's possessing in abundance that of which another man is destitute... Accumulated property has fixed its empire (H. S. Salt, ed., Political Justice, 58-9).

If the existing laws are unjust, then breaking the law may be a natural if unwise response to injustice (as Godwin saw it), or a quite legitimate form of rebellion, as some later anarchists, who often tended to romanticize criminals, claimed. An intellectualized view of the criminal as a rebel against an unjust and repressive society gains some colour and depth from the folk traditions in which common [23] people have sometimes respected robbers and bandits as heroic protectors and avengers of the poor.

A second element in the anarchist opposition to laws, and the law courts, police forces, and prisons which enforce them, is the conviction that the evils stemming from judicial and punitive institutions are far greater than the results of occasional crime. This belief is partly a response to the suffering of men and women sent to jail. Emma Goldman wrote in an essay on 'Prisons':

There is not a single penal institution or reformatory in the United States where men are not tortured 'to be made good', by means of the black-jack, the club, the strait-jacket, the water-cure, the 'humming bird' (an electrical contrivance run along the human body), the solitary, the bull-ring, and starvation diet... But prison walls rarely allow the agonized shrieks of the victims to escape -- prison walls are thick, they dull the sound (Anarchism and Other Essays, 83-4).

The related anarchist argument -- that prisons increase crime -- Emma Goldman illustrates from Oscar Wilde's Ballad of Reading Gaol:

The vilest deeds, like poison weeds,
Bloom well in prison air;
It is only what is good in Man
That wastes and withers there.

The third argument here, which is more original to anarchists, is that the whole system of law enforcement creates 'criminals' among those who enforce the law. Kropotkin commented on 'the torrent of depravity let loose in human society by the "informing" which is countenanced by judges, and paid in hard cash by governments', and the corruption entailed in a system which demands men become executioners and jailers (Law and Authority, 22-3). "Wilde observed in The Soul of Man under Socialism that in reading history one is sickened 'not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted' which are in fact far more brutalizing for the community (36).

This type of analysis can be extended to a more central attack on the uses and abuses of power to encompass government as a whole, it may be argued that competition for power and position in government encourages those personalities seeking dominance and prestige, so the vast power and responsibility inherent in government may e put in the hands of those intrinsically least fitted for this role, econdly, even if initially men go into politics with a sense of social esponsibility, the nature of the political system and the means neces-*y to achieve one's goals may over time corrupt political [24] practitioners. A further refinement of this analysis rests on an examination of the role of bureaucracy in eroding any sense of direct responsibility for governmental or judicial actions, by creating an immense psychological distance between those who make decisions and those who carry out orders -- between the head of State and the soldier in the field, between the judge and the hangman. This anarchist concern has been expressed most insistently by contemporary anarchist writers faced with the phenomena of twentieth century technology and the enormous extension of State bureaucracy. Paul Goodman recognizes the scope of the problem in a pamphlet on Drawing The Line. He quotes from a sergeant writing about a bombed area in Germany:

In modern war there are crimes not criminals ... Here, as in many cases, the guilt belonged to the machine. Somewhere in the apparatus of bureaucracy, memoranda, and clean efficient directives, a crime has been committed (5).

Goodman goes on to attack this approach and to argue that individual responsibility must be accepted:

For every one knows moments in which he conforms against his nature, in which he suppresses his best spontaneous impulse, and cowardly takes leave of his heart (5-6).

The behaviour which continues to make war crimes possible can be imputed; why is the sergeant still a sergeant?

Examining the impact of bureaucracy is an exercise in sociological analysis and therefore enters into a realm outside the concerns of Hobbesian, or indeed Godwinian, political theory, which makes its deductions on the basis of purely individual psychology. The limitations of the individualist social theory stemming from Hobbes are the limitations of Hobbes himself. What is missing is the necessary dependence of the individual on a wider social group, and the understanding that a developed sense of individuality is in itself a social product. The Hobbesian conception of freedom as the absence of external restraints on the individual would only be possible in a society with a highly developed sense of individuality and allowing a considerable degree of personal freedom.

Society and the Individual

The missing dimension of 'society' suggests a possible solution to the Hobbesian dilemma of either anarchic competitive individuals or else a coercive Leviathan to keep them in order. Society may create [25] the kind of individuals who have strongly internalized values and can live co-operatively and freely without the threat of force. Secondly, the term 'society' suggests that people already live in some kind of social unit, so social organization is not just imposed artificially by contract and maintained by force. Instead there may be 'natural' social units already existing and maintaining an unforced co-operation.

This solution of looking to 'society' was in fact seized on by some anarchists, for instance Kropotkin. Darwin's theory of evolution had resulted in a revival of Hobbesian social theory stressing individualism and the role of competition. To combat this Kropotkin drew on anthropology and history to show that closely knit communities antedate individual competition. In this nineteenth-century sense society is usually opposed to the State. In Hobbes 'society', in so far as the concept enters into his picture at all, is defined by the State. But for anarchists and many socialists, society becomes the opposite of the State. Society is the repository of all the good aspects of social life and organization -- co-operation, sympathy, affection, initiative and spontaneity. While the State incorporates all the bad aspects of social interaction -- coercion, force and domination; and politics tends to be seen as the arena of force, fraud and trickery. The State is an incubus -upon society -- a distorting factor.

But there are problems in turning to society. The concept of society in itself is empty, and it may be made the repository of differing sets of ideas or differing images. Conservative theorists, like Burke, can draw on society as a product of national history and tradition to defend the existing State and social order. Or Utopian thinkers can draw up pictures of social conditioning in an ideal society which is too narrowly and rigidly defined to allow for a truly anarchist freedom or individualism. Moreover, actual societies, far from filling the bill, may be said to actively foster competition and aggression, or to promote attitudes which support the existing State; while present social institutions and groupings may subordinate the individual further to the State rather than provide the basis for an alternative social order. So 'society' is the answer to the key problem of how to achieve organized co-operation among individuals -- beyond the level of small groups -- without resorting to coercion and the sanctions of force, largely at an ideal and abstract level. Nevertheless it provides an important theoretical advance on the Godwin model of political analysis, and may provide an advance in practice if the anarchist society is seen as a goal to work towards -- i.e. if linked to social activism.

For one limitation in a theoretical approach based on individual self-interest is that in its immediate political application it tends [26] either toward passive obedience -- as it is meant to in Hobbes; or in anarchist versions towards passive disobedience and a purely personal opting out, which is not likely to further the anarchist aims of preventing injustice or changing society. In Godwin .there is the more constructive alternative of social change through persuasion and education. But a method which relies on influencing individuals not only involves a perhaps excessive faith in reason, but ignores the sociological significance of institutions and the political importance of power.

Activism in the anarchist tradition has often been associated with the individual heroic gesture of 'propaganda by deed', or assassination, which Lenin dubbed contemptuously, in What Is To Be Done?, as the 'spontaneity' of the intellectuals, and criticized for its political irrelevance. Many anarchists were unhappy about the image of anarchism which acts of terrorism propagated, and the tendency for this method sometimes to rebound in assassination attempts against some of the leading anarchists. Some, like Tolstoy, objected to violence in principle, and others, like Kropotkin, gave support largely out of loyalty to anarchist comrades.

Other anarchists did not object to violence as such but adopted a more Marxist position, that the only effective violence was the combined and organized force of the working class. Malatesta was spokesman for this view. Organization is necessarily crucial for any movement relying on mass action, and trying to build up support among workers in the teeth of opposition and repression by employers and police. Joe Hill, song writer for the Wobblies, on the eve of his execution for murder in 1915 (it was widely believed he was framed) sent an appropriate farewell telegram urging 'Don't waste time mourning, organize'. But for anarchists the necessity of organization, and the demands of a general strategy for a movement, both seem in danger of undermining the anarchists' own ideals. Problems of organization within the revolutionary movement are also central to the disagreements between anarchists and socialists.

The importance of organization bears on the other key disagreement between anarchists and socialists -- the role of government after a socialist revolution. Socialists have not in general the same intrinsic distrust of government which characterizes anarchists, and many socialists accept the concept of popular sovereignty within the radical democratic tradition espoused by Paine. Anarchists retain a deep distrust of 'democratic' governments. Proudhon argued in 1848 that universal suffrage was a form of counter-revolution; and his slogan that democracy is a form of dictatorship was being repeated by students in Paris in May 1968. For anarchists the legalistic trappings of elections or plebiscites -- the 'mandate' and the expression of the [27] 'will of the people' -- are as fictitious as the 'original social contract', ^d have, like the contract concept, been adapted to the uses of ^litical propaganda. Indeed, in the name of popular sovereignty the ^vernment may arrogate to itself powers not dreamed of in Hobbes's philosophy.