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Introduction [Kropotkin: reviewing the classical anarchist tradition]

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posted on 02.03.2016, 15:03 by Ruth KinnaRuth Kinna
The primary aim of this book is to rescue Kropotkin from the framework of classical anarchism and to highlight aspects of his political thought that have been lost as a result of the interest that his science has generated, particularly the theory of mutual aid. The chapters situate his thought in the context of late nineteenth-century debates and show how he helped shape anarchism as a distinctive politics which was quite different to the philosophy ascribed to him. Like his friend Elisée Reclus, Kropotkin was part of a European movement that, as Marie Fleming argues, ‘developed in response to specific social-economic grievances in given historical circumstances’. Kropotkin contributed enthusiastically to the formation of an anarchist tradition and even endorsed Paul Eltzbacher’s dispassionate, analytical study Anarchism: Seven Exponents of the Anarchist Philosophy. However, his understanding of anarchism was more fluid and open than Elzbacher's and instead of seeking to define set of characteristic core concepts, Kropotkin identified anarchism with a tradition of political thought and a set of political practices. By presenting an analysis of Kropotkin's work that does not treat the science of mutual aid as the key to this anarchism, the discussion shows how he understood this tradition and located himself within it. A second aim of this book is to explain Kropotkin's politics. As well as being regarded as one of the key theorists of classical anarchism, Kropotkin is remembered for his controversial decision to support the Entente powers against Germany. This choice is often described as a betrayal of principle which reflects his virulent Germanophobia, on the one hand, and potent Russian nationalism on the other. I argue that Kropotkin's alignment, and his subsequent defence of constitutionalism in Russia in 1917 is explicable in terms of his anarchism and that his consistent application of principle exposes some important differences within anarchism about internationalism and the idea of the state. These differences support very different ideas about the nature of solidarity and anti-militarism, for example, as well competing conceptions of class. The analysis builds on the existing political biographies and studies of Kropotkin’s political thought to contextualise Kropotkin's thought and provides a textual analysis of published and unpublished work to offer an interpretation that highlights the revolutionary impetus and political thrust of his writing.



  • Social Sciences


  • Politics and International Studies

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Kropotkin: reviewing the classical anarchist tradition




KINNA, R., 2016. Introduction. IN: Kropotkin: reviewing the classical anarchist tradition. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp 1-5.


Edinburgh University Press


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Permission is strictly limited for personal use only and the material is not to be re-published or distributed for commercial purposes without prior permission of the author and the publisher. This work is part of a collection titled Kropotkin: Reviewing the classical anarchist tradition. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016)

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