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Anarchism, Utopia and the Future of Radical Politics

Newman, Saul. 2009. Anarchism, Utopia and the Future of Radical Politics. In: Ruth Kinna and Laurence Davis, eds. Anarchism and Utopianism. Manchester University Press, pp. 207-220. [Book Section]

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In this paper I will explore the paradoxical relationship between anarchism and utopianism, and examine the significance of utopian thinking for radical politics more generally. I will suggest that there has always been a utopian dimension in anarchist thought, not only in the more consciously utopian imagination of Le Guin, Morris and Landauer, but even in the ‘scientific’ anarchism of Kropotkin and Bakunin. However, in the case of the latter, I would argue that two opposed understandings of utopianism are at work here: firstly, the utopianism that is to be found in the positivist and rationalist paradigms present in classical anarchism – the idea of a rational social objectivity and an essentialist human subject whose unfolding coincides with a social revolution aimed at liberation of all humanity and the establishment of an anarchist society (this is what I have termed ‘scientific’ utopianism); and secondly, the utopianism that is to be found in the idea of revolutionary spontaneity, Bakunin’s contempt for scientists, and in the critique of certain paradigms central to Marxism – such as the bourgeois and authoritarian ideas of class and party, and Marxism’s unquestioning embrace of industrial technology and factory discipline (this I have called the ‘utopianism of revolt’).

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Date Deposited:

09 Sep 2010 14:49

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2017 12:21


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