Anarchism and the Marxist Critique of Capitalism.

Author:Morris, Brian
Position:The Value of Radical Theory: An Anarchist Introduction to Marx's Critique of Political Economy, Capitalism and Its Discontents - Book review

Anarchism and the Marxist Critique of Capitalism

Wayne Price, The Value of Radical Theory: An Anarchist Introduction to Marx's Critique of Political Economy

Oakland, CA: AK Press 2013; 200pp; ISBN 978-1939202017

Sasha Lilley, Capitalism and its Discontents

Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2011; 320pp; ISBN 978-1604863345

Long ago Peter Kropotkin emphasized that anarchism, or rather, social anarchism (anarchist communism)--or what Malatesta and Landauer described as anarchism without adjectives--had a dual heritage, combining radical liberalism, with its emphasis on the freedom of the individual, as a fundamental premise, and socialism, with its emphasis on equality, social solidarity and voluntary co-operation. Kropotkin therefore, like Murray Bookchin in a later generation, was highly critical of both Marxist socialism, which lacked a libertarian perspective, and what Bookchin later described as lifestyle anarchism, which tended to repudiate socialism, the economy of the commons, and class struggle politics. Life-style anarchism, of course, embraces a variety of individualistic tendencies--Stirnerite egoism, Nietzschean aestheticism, mystical anarchism and right-wing libertarianism.

According to Kropotkin both Marxism and individualist (lifestyle) anarchism were one-sided, or rather lop-sided tendencies. Those who advocate some kind of rapprochement between lifestyle and social anarchism, therefore, misunderstand the nature of social anarchism (or libertarian socialism)--for a libertarian perspective is intrinsic to Kropotkin's conception of social anarchism. They thus also misinterpret or simply ignore Bookchin's critique of lifestyle (individualist) anarchism.

Unfortunately, given his harsh polemics, Bookchin--like those academics who set up a radical (and false) dichotomy between anarchism and anarchy--tended to muddy the conceptual waters!

Words belong to the commons--language has not yet been completely privatised! They can therefore take on a variety of different meanings. As 'anarchism' in the United States had come to signify lifestyle anarchism, primitivism and the libertarian advocacy of free-market capitalism, Bookchin in his last years, in exasperation, ceased to describe himself as an 'anarchist'. But of course, he remained a libertarian socialist, that is, a social anarchist.

Although both Kropotkin and Bookchin (along with most social anarchists) were highly critical of Marxist politics, given its emphasis on the vanguard party and...

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