Anarchism: A Collection of Revolutionary Writings
"The need for a new life becomes apparent. The code of established morality, that which governs the greater number of people in their daily life, no longer seems sufficient. What formerly seemed just is now felt to be a crying injustice. The morality of yesterday is today recognized as revolting immorality. The conflict between new ideas and old traditions flames up in every class of society, in every possible environment, in the very bosom of the family. ... Those who long for the triumph of justice, those who would put new ideas into practice, are soon forced to recognize that the realization of their generous, humanitarian and regenerating ideas cannot take place in a society thus constituted; they perceive the necessity of a revolutionary whirlwind which will sweep away all this rottenness, revive sluggish hearts with its breath, and bring to mankind that spirit of devotion, self-denial, and heroism, without which society sinks through degradation and vileness into complete disintegration." - Peter Kropotkin, "The Spirit of Revolt" (1880)
Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) was a member of the Russian aristocracy who became one of the leading theorists of anarchism. He spent most of his adult life in exile, mainly in England. This book is an anthology of his writings on anarchism. His view of anarchism is essentially idealistic , viewing it as a "natural phenomenon" (p 236). He was revolutionary, but opposed the excesses of the Russian Revolution, looking to a future where individuals could work in voluntary groups to accomplish their ends.
ANARCHISM (from the Gr. ἅυ, and άρχη, contrary to authority), the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government — harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being. In a society developed on these lines, the voluntary associations which already now begin to cover all the fields of human activity would take a still greater extension so as to substitute themselves for the state in all its functions. They would represent an interwoven network, composed of an infinite variety of groups and federations of all sizes and degrees, local, regional, national and international temporary or more or less permanent — for all possible purposes: production, consumption and exchange, communications, sanitary arrangements, education, mutual protection, defence of the territory, and so on; and, on the other side, for the satisfaction of an ever-increasing number of scientific, artistic, literary and sociable needs. Moreover, such a society would represent nothing immutable. On the contrary — as is seen in organic life at large — harmony would (it is contended) result from an ever-changing adjustment and readjustment of equilibrium between the multitudes of forces and influences, and this adjustment would be the easier to obtain as none of the forces would enjoy a special protection from the state. (from Kropotkin's entry on "Anarchism" in the Encyclopædia Britannica (1910))
In addition to the excellent statement on anarchism he prepared for the Encyclopedia Britannica the book also includes the essays, "Modern Science and Anarchism", "Law and Authority", and "Prisons and their Moral Influence". The "Spirit of Revolt" is a brief but moving personal statement of belief while the other essays discuss principles, education, and ethics of anarchism. I found this book a valuable contribution to the history of anarchist thought.
Anarchism: A Collection of Revolutionary Writings by Peter Kropotkin. Dover Publications, 2002 (1927)