Introduction to Political Theory

(Marvins-Underground-K-12) #1

The relationship with socialism

In her Using Political Ideas(1997) Barbara Goodwin has a separate chapter on
anarchism and argues that the anarchist is ‘not merely a socialist who happens to
dislike the state’. She concedes, however, that there is much overlap and that many
anarchists have analysed capitalism in a way that resembles that of socialists (1997:
R.N. Berki, however, in his influential book Socialism, treats anarchism as a
current within socialism and notes, for example, that it was Proudhon, a key
anarchist as we shall see later in this chapter, who first called his doctrine ‘scientific
socialism’ (1974: 12), and that Proudhon’s significance for socialism is enormous
(1974: 84). Berki makes many acute observations about anarchism in the context
of his chapter on the evolution of socialism. In a section on socialist thought at the
turn of the century he describes Michel Bakunin as a precursor to both Russian
socialism and anarcho-syndicalism, about which more will be said later (1974:
Andrew Vincent, like Goodwin, has a separate chapter on anarchism in his
Modern Political Ideologies, and makes the point that the doctrine overlaps with
both liberalism and socialism (1995: 114). But whatever the overlap between some
kinds of anarchism and socialism, there is also an anarchism that is explicitly non-
socialist, and in some of its forms even anti-socialist. It will be useful to say
something about these first, since they are dramatically different from ‘socialist’
forms of anarchism.

Philosophical anarchists

We will take the view that although anarchism is a very old theory, it only emerged
in systematic form in the eighteenth century as part of the Enlightenment. We will
begin with what is widely agreed to be the first comprehensive account of anarchist
principles, William Godwin’s classic Enquiry Concerning Political Justice(1793).
Godwin was really a liberal, even though he abandoned the classical liberal view
of natural rights and a state of nature. He argues that humans are social beings,
are moulded by their environment and are imbued with a capacity to reason. True
happiness, as far as Godwin was concerned, lies with the development of individu-
ality. All individuals have a right to private judgement. Everything understood by
organisation is ‘in some degree evil’ and he argued that communal institutions, even
theatre and musical performances, could be seen as an invasion of our individuality.
Society should be regarded as a ‘luxury’, rather than a ‘necessity’, and can never
be more than the sum of its parts (Vincent, 1995: 125). Compulsory restraint
violates a privately determined pursuit of happiness, and it is said that Godwin ends
where Hobbes begins. While Godwin sees the state as vicious, evil and tyrannical,
the premises of his theory are militantly individualistic. If this atomistic and abstract
view of the individual leads to radical insecurity and arbitrariness in Hobbes, in
Godwin it generates the ‘unspeakably beautiful vision of a world’ in which
individuals freely exercise their private judgement (Hoffman, 1995: 114).

240 Part 2 Classical ideologies

Free download pdf