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HARAWAY, Sam. Kropotkin, Power, and the State
Article published on 10 May 2013

by r-c.
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Published by Institute for Anarchist Studies

Anarchist political theory is perhaps one of the most neglected traditions in contemporary political science. In a world created by the existence of the state, this makes sense. Nonetheless, thinking beyond the state paradigm is essential. Here we explore a work by one of the most influential anarchist thinkers, Peter Kropotkin, looking at the argument presented in Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Ideal, in terms of its sweeping rejection of capitalism and state. We examine interpretations of Kropotkin’s argument by notable poststructuralist anarchists—postanarchists, for short—Saul Newman, Todd May, and Uri Gordon. We also consider Ruth Kinna’s attempt to revise Kropotkin, in light of the postanarchist critique, and conclude with a brief commentary on the strengths and weaknesses of Kropotkin’s argument and its interpretations.

Kropotkin and Anarchism
Kropotkin rejects capitalism, and advocates revolution rather than reform. Interestingly, Kropotkin’s grievance is similar to that of Marx—for this reason he has sometimes been referred to as an anarchocommunist. Kropotkin, unlike Marx, also rejects the existence of the state. There are two interrelated reasons for his rejection of the state: first, the consolidation of power by the state exploits the individual; and second, the state facilitates a false division between people. In so arguing, Kropotkin distinguishes the anarchist strategy from that of the communist: because the state is the source of the problem, it is thus incapable of solving it. Thus, in contrast to Marxists, anarchists do not seek to seize state power.

While the arguments are presented separately for clarification, Kropotkin argues that the existence of the state and capitalism both exploit the individual and divide society along false lines, and further, that this exploitation is selfperpetuating. The realization of anarchism therefore relies on the abolishment of both capitalism and the state.


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