Long regarded as a dated school of political thought, anarchism has been rejuvenated in the last decade or so. My central purpose in this article is to explore the variety of ideological orientations found in the contemporary anarchist movement, as expressed by several of its theorists—from Chomsky and Bookchin, on the one hand, to Zerzan, Bey, and Black, on the other.
What happens when anarchists run a country? History has an answer.
The article highlights a few of the metaphysical issues raised by today's anarchism—rationalism versus anti-rationalism, technology versus nature, creeds versus deeds—and concludes by identifying the fundamental principles characteristic of contemporary anarchism. Skip to Main Content. Search in: This Journal Anywhere.
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- Epistemological anarchism.
- Attaining to the Out-resurrection.
- See a Problem?.
Parsons, another American anarchist, similarly called anarchism "the usher of science," setting it in opposition to schools of thought that "considered [some ideas] too sacred to be disturbed by a close investigation. None of the standard prevailing caricatures about anarchists are any more accurate in characterizing them than are similarly uninformed Reader's Digest versions of other philosophical persuasions.
There are, to be sure, anomalous and unrepresentative nutcases and genuine criminals circulating among the ranks of all the various "-isms," yet special derision is reserved for anarchists.
Anarchism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
But again, why? Market anarchists simply believe that relationships between people ought to be consensual and based upon a foundation of mutual respect, that a true free market means that no person or group has special privileges fashioned by coercion and violence. But while history has vindicated the likes of Copernicus and Galileo with respect to their judgments of that model, we nevertheless think it impossible that anarchists could be correct in their criticisms of the current system.
The anarchists I know, quite contrary to the conventional wisdom, do not oppose the state out of some erratic, unformed reflex reaction against authority.
But, you might be surprised to learn what happened when Anarchy reigned in Spain.
This scientism is seen in all sorts of debates on public policy today; one side claims to hold a monopoly on truth, by which means all dissent is crushed. Evidence is used not to support an argument, but rather to shape it. One example is in the recent EU EcoDesign Directive , in which studies were cited to support the restriction of hand-dryer use in public places.
One of the studies conducted involved people placing their hands in a vial of bacteria and then drying them to prove that hand-dryers spread bacteria. The fact that the study was conducted, and resulted in policy citations, shows the means by which scientism can capture policy.
The data itself reveals nothing about policy goals, the methodology needed to analyse the issue, or the question that needs to be asked.
These pre-scientific concerns affect the outcomes of scientific investigation. Beyond the false narrative of scientific objectivity, is the myth of scientific unity. Feyerabend showed that at no point was there ever a complete scientific consensus on a topic, and that there are no settled questions.
The very notion of settling a question goes against the grain of a progressive science, where everything should be challenged, and competing hypotheses proposed. The notion of scientific unity damages the pursuit of knowledge by resisting the paradigm-shifts that are fundamental to new discovery and progress. Such a poor understanding and communication of scientific claims can easily close off the majority from participation in the democratic decisions of the day. Such a view of the world would deprive those who did not operate within narrow bounds of theoretical knowledge from having decision-making autonomy.
While it may be a liberating force guiding by our desire to innovate and serve the needs of people, a highly restricted form of scientific investigation that limits scientists to a particular method would have prevented the greatest discoveries in history from coming about. What is needed then is a renewal of the creative spirit in the enterprise of science which would direct it to the goals of people.