Archive for May, 2011

Max Weber: can anarchists be legal scholars? (1913)

“Admittedly, attempts have been made to set certain limits on purely ‘logical’ grounds. One of our leading jurists explained on one occasion, when he was declaring himself against the exclusion of Socialists from university posts, that even he could at least not accept an ‘anarchist’ as a teacher of law, since an anarchist would deny the validity of laws as such; and he clearly thought this argument conclusive. I am of exactly the opposite opinion. An anarchist can certainly be a good legal scholar. And if he is, then it may be precisely that Archimedean point, as it were, outside the conventions and assumptions which seem to us so self-evident, at which his objective convictions (if they are genuine) place him, which equips him to recognise, in the axioms of conventional legal theory, certain fundamental problems which escape the notice of those who take them all too easily for granted. For the most radical doubt is the father of knowledge.”

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from “Value-judgments in Social Science” in Max Weber: Selections in Translation, edited by W. G. Runciman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), p 75. This essay was originally a paper presented in 1913 and first published in 1917.

RADICAL ARCHIVES thanks Dana Williams for finding this quotation, which we had been looking for for years!

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Bookchin on Malatesta and syndicalism (1977)

Syndicalism, to be sure, has many shortcomings, but its Marxian critics were in position to point them out because they were shared by Socialist parties as well. In modeling themselves structurally on the bourgeois economy, the syndicalist unions tended to become the organisational counterparts of the very centralized apparatus they professed to oppose. By pleading the need to deal effectively with the tightly knit bourgeoisie and state machinery, reformist leaders in syndicalist unions often had little difficulty in shifting organisational control from the bottom to the top. Many older anarchists were mindful of these dangers and felt uncomfortable with syndicalist doctrines. Errico Malatesta, fearing the emergence of a bureaucracy in the new union movement, warned that “the official is to the working class a danger only comparable to that provided by the parliamentarian; both lead to corruption and from corruption to death is but a short step” (fn 3) These Anarchists saw in syndicalism a shift in focus from the commune to the trade union, from all of the oppressed to the industrial proletariat alone, from the streets to the factories, and, in emphasis at least, from insurrection to general strike.

footnote 3:  Although Malatesta was to change his attitude toward syndicalism, he accepted the movement with many reservations and never ceased to emphasize that “trade unions are, by their very nature, reformist and never revolutionary.” To this warning he added that the “revolutionary spirit must be introduced, developed and maintained by the constant activities of revolutionaries who work from within their ranks as well as from outside, but it cannot be the normal, natural definition of the Trade Union’s function.”

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Murray Bookchin, The Spanish Anarchists: The Heroic Years 1868-1936 (NY, Hagerstown, SF, London: Harper Colophon Books, 1977), pp 136–37, 156.