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PORTER, David. "Massachusetts ’Anarchy’ in the 1780s"
Article published on 15 February 2007
last modification on 7 February 2019

by r-c.
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Anarchist Studies Volume 1, 2003 No.2.

" Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts of 1786-7 was the most dramtic and extensive anti-authoritarian insurgency in the United States between the war for independence and establishment of the cenratlizing federal constitution. The very fact of grassroots revolt against an already decentralized political system created conditions equivalent to certain core understandings of presentday anarchism.

This essay exemplifies the value of and approaches for empowering contemporary anarchism through identifying and analysing anarchic phenomena of the pre-19th century past. Specifically, it demonstrates how the coincidence of elite outcries against ’anarchy’, this context’s acknowledged fit with ’state of nature’ political theory and actual anarchic attitudes and behaviour made Shays’ rebellion an important transition between traditional negativistic and modern positive understandings of anarchy. The essay therefore counters previous neglect of grassroots activist roots of American anarchism in the American revolutionary era."

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