Anarchism and political science: history and anti-science in radical thought
chapterposted on 22.06.2015, 14:27 by Ruth KinnaRuth Kinna
In a book called Free Speech for Radicals, Herber Newton, a heretical priest active in New York in the late nineteenth century, claimed that 'Anarchism is in reality the ideal of political and social science, and also the idea of religion' (in Schroeder 1916: 14). Newton's assertion, that anarchism is fundamentally religious, is deeply contested but from a twenty-first century perspective his coupling of anarchism and political science is also striking. Even accepting that the link he makes between these two terms is mediated by the reference to an ideal, hinting at a utopian aspiration that many anarchists would embrace, the conjunction jars. This chapter considers some reasons why, looking within both at conceptions of political science adopted in American and British academia in the course of the twentieth century and at anarchist literatures. The discussion considers how debates about the relationship between the analysis of politics and the legitimation of established power relations contextualize anarchist engagements with political science, how differences about the scope, application and character of scientific method have complicated this engagement and how overlaps between these two currents of argument help explain some very different anarchist approaches to the field. My argument is that Newton's view is a productive one, from which anarchists have much to gain. And the final section of the chapter examines some examples of anarchist political science, drawing on the work of C. Wright Mills and Peter Kropotkin.
- Social Sciences
- Politics and International Studies