The term “anarchism” usually refers to general principles and fundamental concepts. These aspects often provide for the abolition of the state and the exclusion from the life of the society of any political, economic, spiritual, or moral authority. Unfortunately, to date, there is no consensus and assessment regarding the philosophy of anarchism. Several anarchist figures ultimately agreed only on the idea of the need to eliminate power from people’s lives. Moreover, the activists of this movement, as practice shows, may share the same goals and ideas about their path to them, but the philosophical background and argumentation may be completely different. For example, based on this statement, the famous anarchists Mikhail Bakunin and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon had completely different positions regarding the ideas mentioned above. Thus, Proudhon shared the “pacifist” views on anarchism, while Bakunin shared the revolutionary ones. The main, essential ideas and ideological beliefs about the anarchism of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin are the key ideas to be considered in this paper.
Ideological Beliefs – Definition and Description of “Anarchism”
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin had the following ideas and thoughts about the concept of “anarchism.” For example, the “father of anarchism,” Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, defined the etymology of the particular word as “powerless” and the absence of any master, owner, or possessor (Wiki-Proudhon). This definition is, to some extent, a “golden mean,” a kind of link connecting individualistic concepts with collectivist ideas and anarchism. According to the politician, when a person rules over another, it means only one thing – a manifestation of oppression, humiliation, and oppression (Wiki-Proudhon). Perfection in society is achieved through lawlessness, nihilism, and the synthesis of order with the opposite phenomenon – “chaos,” that is anarchy.
Indeed, Proudhon expounded these thoughts and assumptions in his works. Thus, in the book “What Is Property?” Proudhon defines anarchism as a unique phenomenon, event, and process (Wiki-Proudhon). In this case, all people should be equal, and this is a higher force of justice and orderliness that society seeks to achieve through anarchy (Wiki-Proudhon). In addition, Proudhon also defines anarchy as “self-government” or, in other words, “self-control,” within which social order is achieved through various transactions and exchanges (Wiki-Proudhon). Consequently, man understood the abolition of all forms of human oppression under this thought, replacing a “political constitution” beneficial only to the dominant minority with a “social constitution” corresponding to justice and human nature.
On the contrary, Mikhail Bakunin has a slightly different idea about the meaning of the word “anarchy.” Unlike his “opponent,” the Russian politician denied the positive influence of the state on the people (Wiki-Bakunin). Hence, anarchy is a combination of chaos and confusion and processes aimed at the destruction of the state system and the emergence of freedom and will. Bakunin repeated all his life that any state, even if built on the best principles, is only an instrument of suppression and violence. Most of all, he was afraid of the power of scientists and philosophers – a popular political ideal by Plato to this day.
In turn, Bakunin’s beliefs were largely in contact with neo-Hegelian traditions and elements of other philosophical views. Bakunin noted that a person should obey only the natural laws of nature and not any imposed principles (Wiki-Bakunin). In addition, the Russian thinker strongly denied hierarchical and state systems of power in all respects, forms, and manifestations, regardless of whether the “ruler” is in heaven or on earth (Wiki-Bakunin). The system of power and management, according to man, is the root of the evil of the existing problems.
How Should Revolutionary Changes Take Place in Society
Two anarchist theorists had the following views on what radical changes and modernizations should be in society. For instance, Proudhon considered contradictions generated by the demands of personal and general reason, personality, and society to be the driving force of the development of society. By introducing the development of society into an evolutionary channel through the gradual realization of the rights of an “autonomous personality,” it is possible to transform society peacefully. The capitalist exploitation of labor existing in bourgeois society, according to Proudhon, rests on an unequal exchange that violates the law of labor value. This leads to the robbery of all working classes, including the “working bourgeoisie.” Therefore, not a political but an economic revolution is necessary, impossible without a change in the view of the property.
The French politician argued that social transformations should be carried out gradually and, if possible, without violent shocks. Proudhon insisted on the principles of equality, freedom, and unity. From the man’s point of view, society should strive to ensure that there is no such thing as “property” since it contradicts justice and morality (Wiki-Proudhon). It is believed that property is theft, and the current owners are the heirs of criminals of the past who redistribute national wealth in their favor.
In turn, justice requires an equivalent, natural exchange, and reciprocity. Consequently, owners receive the same as employees give them (Wiki-Proudhon). Economic freedom could be secured not by property but by possession – workers’ right to dispose of production. Everyone should work on equal terms for the benefit of society – this is true freedom for the individual, society, and the state (Wiki-Proudhon). Free workers could organize self-government both in production and in local communes. Communes may voluntarily form unions and federations to resolve common issues. Moreover, Proudhon called such a structure of society, in which decisions are made from below, not by the state elite, but by the workers themselves, anarchy or federalism. In this vein, Pierre-Joseph did not act as an opponent of any statehood since the forms of government are envisaged in the best light from justice and honesty.
In contrast, Mikhail Bakunin held somewhat different views on those aspects that should directly affect the state, the nation, and society. Man saw human freedom in following natural laws – accordingly, this is the task of society in achieving emancipation and humanization (Wiki-Bakunin). Therefore, only based on collective labor activity and solidarity is a just society possible. Additionally, Bakunin’s anarchist concepts about society were formed in the works “Revolutionary Catechism,” “God and the State,” and many others where the Russian thinker outlined his doctrines (Wiki-Bakunin). Hence, his “creeds” are reduced to the following main points.
For instance, the ideal society, according to Mikhail Bakunin, is the state in which individual and collective freedoms are recognized as the only creators of order in humanity. Thus, freedom is an absolute right of all adult men and women, the achievement of which is accomplished with the implementation of equality and unity – this is true justice (Wiki-Bakunin). In this vein, concepts such as class or the position of a person are denied; the unfreedom of a citizen proceeds from the principles of class, and hierarchical systems (Wiki-Bakunin). Freedom is possible for a person only with their recognition of the freedom of another. Accordingly, respect for the human person is the highest law of humanity.
In addition, the state is no less evil than the exploitation of man by man, and everything that the state does is also evil. Regardless of the form, any state seeks to enslave the people by violence and deception. The state corrupts those invested with power, making them ambitious and mercenary despots and those forced to obey the authorities, making them slaves. Therefore, Bakunin justifies the unconditional exclusion of any principle of authority and state necessity. The accomplishment of a social revolution means to destroy all institutions of inequality and violence, first of all, the state. Thus, the social revolution must be accomplished with the help of popular force and popular revolt (Wiki-Bakunin). In Bakunin’s opinion, the proletariat must destroy the state as the eternal prison of the masses (Wiki-Bakunin). According to him, the radical abolition of the state is the return of freedom to absolutely everyone. Consequently, according to the Russian revolutionary, the social organization of the future society presupposes economic equality and social justice because “political equality is unthinkable without economic equality.”
In conclusion, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin are two of the greatest thinkers who have contributed to the development of anarchist views, beliefs, and unique philosophical reflections. Two leaders of a certain movement in some way shared common views regarding the “outer shell” of the meaning of the word “anarchism.” However, each “preached” their way, ideology, and way of thinking. Thus, in a deeper sense, Bakunin was an adherent of revolutionary trends within the framework of anarchism, while Proudhon supported pacifist and humane concepts. Thus, Proudhon’s anarchism eliminated all existing forms of human exploitation and replaced fictitious constitutions with laws corresponding to the social understanding of justice. A fair exchange of labor results and mutually beneficial relations between an “owner” and a “subordinate” are required. On the contrary, Bakunin’s anarchism follows natural human laws, equality, and freedom for every person, regardless of any external or personal criteria. A proletariat must destroy the state because property in the hands of the state gives a huge advantage and power that contradicts the norms of justice.
“Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.” Wikipedia, 2021, Web.
“Mikhail Bakunin.” Wikipedia, 2021, Web.