Anarchy and Political Philosophy

July 12, 2006 at 12:29 am 1 comment

It is unfortunate that very few political philosopher take anarchy seriously enough to comment on it, not to mention defending it. Two prominent examples would be Richard Taylor and Robert Nozick, both of whom comment on anarchism and both ultimately reject it.

Of there are a number of authors who have defended anarchism, such as Colin Ward, and historically Bakunin and Proudhon. But these thinkers are not formally trained as professional philosophers.

The only philosopher who has defended anarchy to my knowledge is Robert Paul Wolff in his In Defense of Anarchism.

This is most unfortunate. If anarchy is wrong (and I am not convinced that it is), its weaknesses may perhaps give us some insight into how government is justified at all. It is commonly thought that the government can be justified quite easily, so easily that many people do not even bother trying. For isn’t it obvious that people are too primative and brutish to be without a ruling power.

Democracy is a case in point. People often assume that consent is a sufficient (perhaps not necessary) condition for governing justifiably. In other words, consent is a sufficient condition for x. But this simply does not follow without further argumentation. Consent may be given my a group of children to perform a sexual act s on them, but this is not a sufficient condition for s being morally justified.

So basically, it is not enough to say that people consent to being government. The question still remains, is that sufficient for the state to rule justifiably? In other words, justification of the power of the state is still lacking. (Of course it also does not follow that the state cannot be justified).

The point being that wrongheaded or not, political philosophy could learn a lot from anarchy.


Entry filed under: social philosophy.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. SAS  |  July 23, 2006 at 1:50 am

    I personally agree: it is unfortunate that very few political philosophers take anarchy seriously enough to comment on it. But we still have the tradition of anarcho capitalism tradition: authors like de Jassay, Bruce Benson, Block, Rothbard, Benegas Lynch (from Argentina), the former David Friedman, etc. Despite the if one is agree or not with their conclusion (which vary form author to author) the analysis of state of nature is always useful as an analytic tool: why and for what means do we really need something so dangerous as Governments?


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