Marshall Shatz

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199238804
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728365 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy


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Anarchism rejects the state as an inherently despotic institution that must be abolished in order for human nature to flower. This does not mean the absence of social order, however, for anarchism also contains a positive vision of the kind of community it expects to arise when political authority is eliminated. Although it shares liberalism's commitment to individual autonomy and Marxism's commitment to social justice, anarchism claims that it can implement those principles more fully and effectively without utilizing the mechanism of the state. Anarchism as a secular political philosophy originated as a product of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, and anarchist thought was the cumulative product of a number of different individuals in different countries who elaborated its basic principles. This article examines the views of several thinkers on anarchism, including William Godwin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Michael Bakunin, and Prince Peter Kropotkin. It also considers the link between anarchism and terrorism.

Keywords: William Godwin; Pierre-Joseph Proudhon; Michael Bakunin; Prince Peter Kropotkin; anarchism; terrorism; autonomy; social justice; political philosophy; Enlightenment

Article.  5550 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

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