Tolstoy’s Christian anarcho-pacifism: an exposition

2020-02-24T16:10:39Z (GMT) by Alexandre Christoyannopoulos
In the last thirty years of his life, Leo Tolstoy wrote many books, essays and pamphlets expounding his maturing views on violence, the state, the church, and how to improve the human condition. Since then, these ‘Christian anarchist’ and pacifist views have often been dismissed as utopian or naive, and despite inspiring numerous activists, often forgotten or ignored. This chapter seeks to examine them in greater detail. Tolstoy’s political thought is divided into four main themes: pacifism, anarchism, anticlericalism, and activist methods. For each theme, Tolstoy’s main contentions are first summed up, then some of their criticisms are discussed, and then some reflections are offered on their ongoing relevance today. The chapter concludes that despite being an odd Christian, an odd pacifist, an odd anarchist and an odd activist, Tolstoy put forward: a compelling denunciation of violence which influenced numerous thinkers and activists; a condemnation of state violence and deception which can be extended to today’s globalised political economy; a bitter critique of the church which can be extended to religious institutions of our time; and a method of activism through withdrawal which continues to generate debate and is increasingly adopted by a variety of activists today. In short: Tolstoy’s Christian anarcho-pacifist political thought continues to deserve to be taken seriously.

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