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Rules without rulers: the possibilities and limits of anarchism

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posted on 17.10.2012, 12:58 by Matthew Wilson
Freedom is a fundamental concept for anarchism; but what does that mean, exactly? What sort of freedom do anarchists seek, and how do they hope to realise this freedom? Starting with the premise that such questions, though vital to the anarchist project, have mostly been ignored, this thesis argues that the basic libertarian impulse of anarchism is in need of a critical analysis. Such an analysis, however, highlights a number of problems with the anarchist demand for a world without domination, so anarchist understandings of ethics, and of power, are explored in search for answers. However, anarchist approaches to ethics and power prove to be equally problematic, and serious doubts are raised about the potential for anarchism to provide a world where freedom is absolute, and, conversely, where all forms of coercion are rejected. One possible response to this is to be found in the contemporary support for consensus-decision making, which many anarchists argue has the potential to resolve conflict; however, it is argued that far from offering a response to the concerns raised in previous chapters, the possibilities of consensus must be seen to be greatly reduced, once such concerns are properly taken into account. Unable to live up to its libertarian promises, anarchism may appear to have reached a dead-end. However, the thesis concludes by arguing that anarchism s prefigurative approach to politics, as well as its sustained critique of hierarchy, offer both radical and realisable possibilities for creating a world of much greater equality and freedom even if such freedom can never be absolute. In accepting the limits of anarchism, its possibilities can be seen more clearly.



  • Social Sciences


  • Politics and International Studies


© Matthew Wilson

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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Politics and International Studies Theses