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Bibliographie sur la philosophie juridique et politique
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Would you like us to take another look at this review? As he acknowledged in one polemic over syndicalism in , 'I now ask myself if it would not be useful to make a selection of these articles' on the labour movement 'and publish them in a volume'. Direct Struggle Against Capital aims to be, in part, that volume. By drawing together these articles as well as those relating to social revolution and the problems it would face , it should go some way to ending the myth of Kropotkin as 'The Gentle Prince of Co-operation' or the impractical visionary who believed in a painless revolution which would instantly produce a free society.
As the bibliography shows, the reality is that he was a committed practical revolutionary class warrior who had a clear vision of how to create a revolution by anarchist participation in popular movements, particularly trade unionism and how difficult this would be. The re-assessment of Kropotkin's work raises another key question: why bother with Kropotkin? Anarchism is a social movement and some may argue that concentrating on a few bearded dead white-men does the history of anarchism a disservice. The nature of the intellectual contribution Kropotkin describes is borne out by the two most significant anarchist thinkers before Kropotkin.
Workers did not wait for Bakunin but raised these ideas, before he joined the International, at the Brussels conference in and again, after he joined, at the Basle Congress the following year. This is not to deny his importance in developing revolutionary anarchism, it is simply to recognise that he was part of a wider movement and influences flowed both ways.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the fixation on famous thinkers 'sages' flows from the work of a non-anarchist, Paul Eltzbacher This, by necessity, downplayed the anarchist movement and its links with the wider socialist and labour movements. Worse, it gave a distinctly false impression as two chapters covered thinkers Godwin and Stirner who had no impact on the development of anarchism until the s.
Histoire du français: La Révolution française et la langue nationale
Unfortunately, subsequent authors who were libertarians followed this model. The division of 'sage' and 'movement' still placed the focus on the former at the expense of the latter. Yet the political and social context provided by social movements is vital to understand anarchism. While Kropotkin, particularly in his later works notably the article on Anarchism for the Encyclopaedia Britannica presented anarchism as something which has existed as long as hierarchical authority has, anarchism is better understood as being a specific socio-economic theory and movement which was born in the nineteenth century.
Before no theory was called 'anarchism' nor was there any popular movement termed 'anarchist' by its members.
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This does not mean that anarchistic theories and movements did not exist but that they only became retrospectively proclaimed as anarchist once the anarchist movement discovered them — as with, for example, Stirner and Godwin in the s. That Eltzbacher included both because anarchists retroactively made the identification changes does not change the problems inclusion produces and regardless of the merit of the ideas of Godwin and Stirner, it would be anachronistic to discuss them or thinkers in ancient Greece when sketching anarchism.
This was recognised by Kropotkin: 'Within these federations [of the IMWA] developed… what may be described as modern anarchism '. The 'sage' perspective forgets that Kropotkin was, initially, one militant amongst many not signing his contributions to the anarchist press until the s, two decades after joining the movement. He came to prominence for many reasons, some of them personal an ex-aristocrat who escaped a Tsarist prison to go into exile; a brilliant writer; a gifted scientist but mostly political he was part of a wider movement whose ideas he helped shape and champion.
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This can be seen from the two key debates he took part in as a militant: on the benefits of libertarian communism and participation in the labour movement. Neither was invented by him: he simply championed ideas which had already been raised within the IWMA by other libertarians. If, in the s, Kropotkin came to prominence because he helped push anarchists towards libertarian communism and involvement in the labour movement, it was because his work reflected, reinforced and enriched a trend in that direction within the movement.
If in he was isolated, it was precisely because his position was at odds with the bulk of the movement and his personal attributes and ideas correspondingly had no impact. While it may be tempting to proclaim the arrival of an 'Unknown Kropotkin' in listing these articles, we must resist.
A close reading of his general works shows that the Kropotkin of those articles, the one who consistently advocated an International based purely on labour unions committed to ' the direct struggle of Labour against Capital ',  can be found there as well. That far too many commentators on his ideas seem happy to utilise secondary sources should not distract us from this fact.
Part of the problem rests in those who championed Kropotkin after his death. Those who proclaim themselves heir to a thinker inevitably shape how that person is viewed. In terms of Kropotkin, his revolutionary class struggle anarchism became less well known thanks to those in the post-war period who favoured reformism referencing him. He became identified almost exclusively with Mutual Aid , peaceful co-operation and encouraging libertarian tendencies within capitalism. True, Kropotkin was concerned with anarchists applying their principles in the 'here and now' but primarily, although not exclusively, in trade unions and other popular movements.
Kropotkin would have little need to reiterate previous arguments and ideas — whether this was on social revolution he revised articles for The Conquest of Bread in the early s or anarchist involvement in the labour movement the rise of syndicalism showed that this argument had been won within libertarian circles. He did write on the labour movement, for example producing a series of articles in the early s on socialism for Freedom which argued against parliamentarianism and for union direct action which were subsequently reprinted as the pamphlets Socialism and Politics and The Coming Revival of Socialism.
Workers had to maintain their 'trade organisations in full mental and material readiness for war… it is only by the constant menace of a declaration of war, and by real war… that the workers have won any victories; while the tactics of the politicians have always been to weaken the anti-capitalist labour organisations'.
While Kropotkin may have been less optimistic about the prospects for revolution than he had been in the s, the revolutionary class struggle orientation he had expressed since joining the IWMA in the early s remained. The consistency of Kropotkin's politics raises an interesting question about 'propaganda by the deed'. The term 'propaganda by the deed' was first used in anarchist circles in its modern form by Paul Brousse in ,  its verbal support in the movement peaked in the early s and its most famous period was in France from March to June when it became to mean individual acts of violence against representatives of capitalist society.
This bibliography, incomplete as it is, presents the material needed to challenge the all-too-common notion that Kropotkin was a dreamer, presenting enticing visions of a better world but with no idea how to reach it. In reality, he was keenly aware of the need to understand capitalism and the state, to participate in the oppositional movements and struggles within it and to learn the lessons of previous revolutions to ensure the success of the next one. In terms of the interaction between 'sages' and the movement, we must remember that it is all the unknown working class anarchists past, present and future whose hopes and struggles make Kropotkin relevant.
He, like Proudhon and Bakunin, popularised the ideas in the movement and lessons learned from previous revolts in his own, unique, fashion. Yet, without the movement, its struggles and debates, his impact would have been less aas would have been his contribution to anarchism. The fixation on the 'sage' is to be expected in a hierarchical society in which the few rule the many. That the dominant class perspective is ubiquitous does not excuse those who should know better libertarians!
So while reacting to the old school of anarchist history as popularised by Woodcock , we must be wary of an over-reaction and of going too far in the other direction. We must remember our 'sages' while always placing them in the context their writings reflect — the wider movement. Neither can be completely understood without the other. It is by no means complete, but is as comprehensive as possible. It does not attempt to list all the many translations of these works.
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