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Emma goldman anarchism and other essays sparknotes

For this last sentiment she was arrested, jailed for two years, and in 1919, prefiguring the Palmer raids of the 1920s deported to the USSR. Goldman's thesis Government is bad. No matter what crimes individuals commit, governments carry out and sanction worse crimes. In a sense, then, the government is no different from any other protection racket: She puts this in another way, saying that the government makes you feel small, then offers itself and its supposedly noble cause as a way for you to feel large.

Furthermore, even the best government restricts liberty, uses force, and finally, whether it wants to or not, becomes The State i. Thus anarchism is about liberty from the oppression, both physical and mental, of the State.

Anarchism is thus a critique of this oppression, not a bunch of bomb-throwing radicals. Note that Goldman's essay contains virtually nothing about what sort of order might arise when government is eliminated. How would people coordinate their actions if they disagreed?

In other words, in the picture I gave earlier in the course about the dialectic between construction and critique, Goldman's essay is entirely on the "critique" side. It is an injustice to Goldman to evaluate her critique as a statement of construction. Maybe she really did think that if we just got rid of government, people would magically get along.

One standard argument by anarchists is that without the distortions of the government and the competitive economic system, people's natural cooperativeness would come to the fore, and so disagreements would be settled not through force but rather through mutual good will. Notice that Goldman's critique is not as profound or at least as rigorous and detailed as Marx's, even though she owes much to him.

How would people coordinate their behavior? Can be seen as. Each can be taken on its own merits. Kohlberg's sequence of moral reasoning stages: The naive objection to it, held by many students, is that change is good, that the world progresses and we must adapt to it, etc. But this line of argument assumes that change is automatically good. These assumptions are questionable.

  1. All government rests on force and therefore violates people's freedom and degrades people's value.
  2. The most absurd apology for authority and law is that they serve to diminish crime. How is the ordinary man to know that the most violent element in society is ignorance; that its power of destruction is the very thing Anarchism is combating?
  3. In destroying government and statutory laws, Anarchism proposes to rescue the self-respect and independence of the individual from all restraint and invasion by authority.
  4. Just as religion has fettered the human mind, and as property, or the monopoly of things, has subdued and stifled man's needs, so has the State enslaved his spirit, dictating every phase of conduct. How is the ordinary man to know that the most violent element in society is ignorance; that its power of destruction is the very thing Anarchism is combating?

Not all change is good. Progress may be an illusion. And even if there is such a thing as progress, what we've actually been doing may not be progress. A better objection to reactionary thought is that it does not acknowledge the reasons why people sought change in the first place. Even if we were to grant reactionaries their claim that we have taken a wrong turn in our society, we can't just go back to the good old days. Do we have to go back to the world of the 1950s, where racial segregation was legal and omnipresent, where we lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation, where women's place was in the home?

Now, maybe we chose poorly back then and need to try other choices, but saying that is different from saying that we simply want to go back to the old ways. Note neither is higher than the other. Based on her experience with the Haymarket riots, she sees the State as only, at root, a repressive body. The government makes people afraid, and then it offers to "protect" them.

The government makes people small, and then offers them a cause to believe themselves large. Government commits crimes or what should be crimes in a just society in a variety of ways: We don't need as much as we have thus the crisis of overproduction We'll be compensated by a better life, one that includes sociality, creativity, true freedom. This is true even of regimes supposedly founded on egalitarian principles e.

All leaders try to keep power.


Critique of "human nature" arguments which are often used to criticize anarchist positions, holding that humans are "naturally" competitive with each other: Circular relationship between social structure and character, where each is taken to justify the other. Government is a disease masquerading as a cure. Make people afraid and then offer them a remedy like the deodorant example. Make people small and then offer oneself as a cause to make them large.

Exploitation secured by violence. Goldman notes, correctly, that the defiance of laws is illegal but that this defiance is exactly what is needed to create the new, law-less society. Profound distrust of government. All government rests on force and therefore violates people's freedom and degrades people's value.

It must do so to protect its rule. Paying for the lazy: Inhuman treatment of ordinary labor as with the Marxian "alienation" critique. Conversely, desire for a good life similar to the goals of communism: We will still have plenty, since a major problem of capitalism is overproduction, not scarcity. Crime is only misdirected energy.

A search for meaning, I believe. Certainly the critique is well-taken. This ignores the existential problem of our finiteness.