Anarchism, violence and social transformation

Gibson, Morgan (2014). Anarchism, violence and social transformation. In: APSA 2014: Australian Political Studies Association Annual Conference. Australian Political Studies Association Annual Conference, Sydney, Australia, (1-26). 28 September - 1 October 2014. doi:10.2139/ssrn.2440300

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Author Gibson, Morgan
Title of paper Anarchism, violence and social transformation
Conference name Australian Political Studies Association Annual Conference
Conference location Sydney, Australia
Conference dates 28 September - 1 October 2014
Convener Richard Frank
Proceedings title APSA 2014: Australian Political Studies Association Annual Conference
Place of Publication Rochester, NY, United States
Publisher Social Science Research Network (SSRN)
Publication Year 2014
Sub-type Fully published paper
DOI 10.2139/ssrn.2440300
Open Access Status
Start page 1
End page 26
Total pages 26
Collection year 2015
Language eng
Formatted Abstract/Summary
Opposed as it is to authority and hierarchy, anarchism is typically associated with chaos and disorder, and thus often connected with violence and terror. The means by which to achieve a nonhierarchical society animate debates within anarchism. While the association of anarchism with violence that pervades the collective imaginary is unfair, this association is not without basis in anarchist praxis, contemporary or historical. Some of anarchism’s canonical figures – foremost amongst them Mikhail Bakunin – posit the necessity and likelihood of violence in a revolutionary context. Others, particularly around the turn of the twentieth century, advocated spontaneous acts of violence – propaganda of the deed – to raise the consciousness of oppressed social groups, particularly the working class, and spur them into revolutionary action. Conversely, however, many anarchists, including Proudhon and Tolstoy, condemn violence in favour of pacifistic social transformation.

In the context of these debates, this paper investigates the connection between violence and anarchism. Owing to its insistence on the inherent moral value of the individual and its rejection of externally imposed hierarchy, violence and terror are ultimately deemed incompatible with anarchist philosophy and praxis. If consistent, the anarchist denunciation of hierarchy is ultimately a denunciation of violence. Violence constitutes the ultimate imposition of hierarchy, violating the sanctity of individual liberty and contravening anarchist notions of justice, order and autonomy. However, this does not imply pacifism, but rather a complex position of ‘non-aggression’, whereby, though ethically unable to initiate violence, anarchists are able to defend themselves and others against tyranny and hierarchy.
Keyword Anarchism
Q-Index Code E1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

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Created: Mon, 20 Oct 2014, 14:55:04 EST by Morgan Gibson on behalf of School of Political Science & Internat'l Studies