Some quick ideas for an Analytic Anarchism program

I’ll be writing up a consideration of Alan Carter’s much more developed approach to the same topic soon.

I’ve argued previously that analytic philosophy has a lot to give anarchism and vice-versa. Naturally this is a project that’s already begun to some extent. There are small cells of people who call themselves analytical anarchists but many of them are either capitalist, or neutral on economic questions. Others are only interested in anarchism as a thesis about the legitimacy of the law (legal anarchism) and not as interested in anarchism proper. There are definitely a few solidly anarchist analytic philosophers, Alan Carter is pretty brilliant for example. What I really want for Christmas though is a proper, full fledged, movement of Analytical Anarchists, much like the Analytic Marxists, interested in applying analytic philosophy to anarchism.

Building a philosophical project around something like this is easy. You simply gather up the philosophically interesting claims, attempt to make precise their meaning and consider whether they are true. So let’s try and work out what the philosophical interesting claims of anarchists are. The answer, I think, is practically all of them, so we’ll need some place to in particular to hone in on. What is the central claim of anarchism? My best guess is this:

Thesis A) We must overthrow the state & capitalism, and in their place we must build a society free of all unjustifiable hierarchy.

Now Thesis A isn’t all there is to anarchism’s philosophical core, but it is perhaps the core of the core. So what philosophical questions does it pose?

1. Who are we? Is this claim, if true, binding on all, or merely upon the oppressed?
2. In what sense is the word must being used here? Is it pragmatic, moral, not quite either? Some from the Marxist tradition have even tried to argue that it’s primarily a modal claim about possibility- it is necessary that we will overthrow… whatever our opinion on the matter.
3. What is the state? This question is important because it determines what alternative structures are acceptable replacements, and what are simply alternate state forms.
4. What is capitalism? Again, we need to know so we can know what it is permissible to replace it with.
5. What is hierarchy and when is it unjustifiable?

And even these are merely what I take to be the most interesting questions philosophically. We could just as easily wonder what is meant by “overthrow” in this context as well. Many have also asked provocative questions about what “society” might mean here.

There’s also clearly a lot Thesis A doesn’t capture. For example, most anarchist have an enormous range of commitments about what should be done before the prospect of overthrowing state & capital is even in sight. There’s much work that could be done examining these.


About timothyscriven

I study philosophy at Sydney University. In the grand scheme, I'm not very important.
This entry was posted in Philosophy, Political & far left theory, Things that are both philosophy AND politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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