Mikhail Bakunin: The Philosophical Basis of His Anarchism
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The first English-language philosophical study of Mikhail Bakunin, this book examines the philosophical foundations of Bakunin?
unethical, if theoretically impressive, in the attempt to mediate rather than to fully resolve contradiction.) People may also object (and it is a common objection) that Mediators at least seek some progress (through “piecemeal reform”, say) and contribute more to it (if only by degrees) than Negatives do. Yet, Bakunin retorts, “the stifling of the only vital principle of our present time, otherwise so poor [die Erstickung des einzig lebendigen Prinzips unserer sonst so armen Gegenwart]”, can
should be unoriginal and unpenetrating is not surprising in any event since, evidently, he has not read Bakunin and depends entirely on secondary material: there are no first-hand references to original texts of Bakunin in the chapter — never mind references to any philosophical texts which might entitle Wheen to dismiss Bakunin’s ideas. Thus Wheen’s account lacks any scholarly merit. Liberal Analysis We turn now to liberal analysis of Bakunin. Remarkably, this is even more hostile than Marxist
that “he is not a serious thinker”, that “what is to be looked for in him is not social theory or political doctrine, but an outlook and a temperament”. He repeats, “There are no coherent ideas to be extracted from his writings of any period, only fire and imagination, violence and poetry”. (Quite where the poetry is in Bakunin’s work is anyone’s guess. Alexander Herzen, whom Berlin champions, is much more the poet — and Bakunin, despite what he says, much more the political thinker. In this
[the] faculties of animals and the corresponding faculties of man [including the faculties of animal and human language], there is only a quantitative difference, a difference of degree”35; arguing, “The dim choices that animals exercise in their own evolution should not be confused with the will and degree of intentionality that human beings exhibit in their social lives. Nor is the nascent freedom that is rendered possible by natural complexity comparable to the ability of humans to make
sounds more sinister). Hence the realm of freedom collapses into, at best, a realm of partial freedom, or, more likely, as history confirms, into a realm of all-pervasive authority. Bookchin concludes that “To structure a revolutionary project around . . . a harsh opposition between “man” and nature”, and to make “domination . . . a precondition for freedom, debase[s] the concept of freedom and assimilate[s] it to its opposite”.161 Of course, this authoritarian rationale is not uniquely Marxist.