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    Examining the political theory of anarchism from a philosophical and historical

    perspective, Paul McLaughlin relates anarchism to the fundamental ethical and

    political problem of authority. The book pays particular attention to the authority of

    the state and the anarchist rejection of all traditional claims made for the legitimacy

    of state authority, the author both explaining and defending the central tenets of the

    anarchist critique of the state.

    The founding works of anarchist thought, by Godwin, Proudhon and Stirner, are

    explored and anarchism is examined in its historical context, including the influence

    of such events as the Enlightenment and the French Revolution on anarchist thought.

    Finally, the major theoretical developments of anarchism from the late-nineteenth

    century to the present are summarized and evaluated.

    This book is both a highly readable account of the development of anarchist thinking

    and a lucid and well-reasoned defence of the anarchist philosophy.


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    takes contemporary philosophical research into new directions and debate.

    Series Editorial Board:

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    Simon Critchley, New School for Social Research, USA; University of Essex, UK

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    Alan Goldman, College of William and Mary, USA

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    Graham Priest, University of Melbourne, Australia; University of St Andrews, UK

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  • Anarchism and AuthorityA Philosophical Introduction to Classical Anarchism


    University of Tartu, Estonia

  • Paul McLaughlin 2007

    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system

    or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording

    or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher.

    Paul McLaughlin has asserted his moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act,

    1988, to be identified as the author of this work.

    Published by

    Ashgate Publishing Limited Ashgate Publishing Company

    Gower House Suite 420

    Croft Road 101 Cherry Street

    Aldershot Burlington, VT 05401-4405

    Hampshire GU11 3HR USA


    Ashgate website:

    British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

    McLaughlin, Paul

    Anarchism and authority : a philosophical introduction to

    classical anarchism. - (Ashgate new critical thinking in


    1. Anarchism 2. Authority

    I. Title


    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

    McLaughlin, Paul.

    Anarchism and authority : a philosophical introduction to classical anarchism / Paul


    p. cm. -- (Ashgate new critical thinking in philosophy)

    Includes bibliographical references and index.

    ISBN 978-0-7546-6196-2 (hardcover) 1. Anarchism. I. Title.

    HX833.M35 2007



    ISBN 978-0-7546-6196-2

    Printed and bound in Great Britain by Antony Rowe Ltd, Chippenham, Wiltshire.

  • Contents

    Acknowledgements vii

    Introduction 1

    Part 1 Anarchism and the Problem of Authority

    1 Defining Anarchism 25

    2 The Nature of Authority 37

    3 Forms of Authority 61

    4 The Legitimacy of the State 81

    Part 2 Anarchism and the History of Ideas

    5 The Historical Foundations of Anarchism 101

    6 Foundational Texts of Anarchism 117

    7 Theoretical Developments of Anarchism 155

    Conclusion 169

    Bibliography 185

    Index 197

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  • Acknowledgements

    Many individuals deserve thanks for their help over the last five years.

    Prof. John Cleary of NUI Maynooth and Boston College supervised my work

    with an open yet critical mind, and continued to support the project in a time of

    personal tragedy. I am most grateful to him.

    Two employers, Prof. Roman Bcker of Nicolaus Copernicus University and

    Prof. Margit Sutrop of the University of Tartu, allowed me to give courses on

    anarchism. I have found that there is no better basis for my research than teaching,

    and am thankful to them for the opportunities they offered to me.

    Heartfelt thanks must go, as always, to family, friends, colleagues, and students,

    wherever they may be: Ireland, England, Belgium, Poland, Germany, Estonia,

    Finland. You know who you are! However, two people should be singled out for

    special thanks: my mother, Maura McLaughlin, and my partner, Marta Majdecka.

    This book is dedicated to them.

  • This page intentionally left blank

  • Introduction

    A Philosophical Approach to Anarchism

    This book aims to define or to re-define anarchism in relation to the fundamental

    ethico-political problem of authority. Authority is defined in terms of the right to

    exercise social control (as explored in the sociology of power) and the correlative

    duty to obey (as explored in the philosophy of practical reason). Anarchism is

    distinguished, philosophically, by its scepticism towards such moral relations by

    its questioning of the claims made for such normative power and, practically, by

    its challenge to those authoritative powers which cannot justify their claims and

    which are therefore deemed illegitimate or without moral foundation.

    Part 1 of the book analyzes both the nature of anarchist scepticism (Chapter

    1) and the nature of authority itself (Chapter 2). It pays particular attention to the

    authority of the state and the anarchist rejection of all traditional claims made for

    the legitimacy of state authority (Chapter 4). However, it also seeks to establish that

    anarchism cannot be defined simply in terms of its rejection of the state, still less

    in terms of its supposed rejection of authority as such. The anarchist sceptic must,

    in principle, be open to the possibility that authority of every kind can be justified.

    Indeed, a comprehensive treatment of authority (moral, theoretical, and practical)

    demonstrates that there are forms of authority that all but the most absolutist or

    abstract of anarchists (so-called philosophical anarchists) believe to be legitimate

    (Chapter 3).

    Part 2 places anarchism in historical context, attempting to locate the origins

    of the political philosophy outlined in Part 1. It is argued that the three most

    important influences on the development of anarchism were the eighteenth century

    Enlightenment, the French Revolution of 17891793, and the radical enlightenment

    philosophy of Left Hegelianism that flourished in the 1830s and 1840s (Chapter

    5). The three foundational texts of anarchism William Godwins An Enquiry

    Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness

    (1793), Pierre-Joseph Proudhons What is Property? (1840), and Max Stirners

    The Ego and Its Own (1844) are studied in some detail (Chapter 6). Finally, the

    major theoretical developments of anarchism from the late-nineteenth century to the

    present are summarized (Chapter 7).

    This book is, therefore, largely a work of conceptual analysis. However, it is

    premised on the understanding that political ideas are products of history. The

    intellectual aspect of this history is central to the study. We will attempt to frame our

    analysis of the problem of authority within this intellectual history, thus blending

    conceptual analysis (in Part 1) with the history of ideas (in Part 2).

    In Part 1, we will analyze anarchism as a critical social philosophy and investigate

    its philosophy of authority: its conceptualization of authority, its scepticism towards

    the notion of its legitimacy, and its critique of claims made for the legitimacy of

  • Anarchism and Authority2

    various forms of authority. Particular attention will be paid to the issue of political

    authority and the anarchist critique of the claims made for the legitimacy of the state.

    Of course, anarchism as an ideology involves a good deal more than this, including

    diverse visions of anarchy and interpretations of the means required to realize it.

    It is these aspects of the ideology t