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What do you think of Robert Paul Wolff?

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I've been recently reading in defence of anarchism and, although you can tell his libertarian, free-market views here and then I found it quite engaging. What do people think of his writings and of philosophical anarchism more in general, compared to other kids of anarchism (more practical, down to earth maybe)? Do you think autonomy and authority are genuinely incompatible?

I know it's a lot of questions, but I just wanted to engage the most people possible
asked Jul 13, 2015 by cyborg (250 points)
edited Jul 26, 2015 by cyborg
i have never read him or even heard him discussed.

perhaps you could take some of the ideas or some quotations you think are particularly controversial/relevant, and include them here? what do you think he writes about that is different/better than what anarchists have written... what insight does he have on topics of the day... that kind of thing, perhaps?
So my question has different angles,

First, on a philosophical level, do people think that moral autonomy (freedom and responsibility) are incompatible with political authority (normally in the form of the state, but could be in some other form in which laws are coming from an institution which is not the individual)?

Second, do you think that there can be a 'high theory' of anarchism such as this one, which establishes what anarchism is and is not?

Third, how do people feel about the different ways of approaching anarchism: philosophical theory (Wolff and others), historical accounts (Grubacic), sociological theory, anthropology (Graeber)? Is there anyone that appeals most to you and why? Do you feel some are more insightful than others? I personally feel that the approach taken by David Graeber in his Direct Action book, that is an ethnography on the global justice movement, is really insightful and valuable. On the other hand, I feel that books like Wolff's are engaging theoretically but do not contribute that much to what anarchism is- a practice rather than a theory. Or at least for me.

Edit: he also mentions that direct democracy is the best political system, and argues for having 'home voting machines' so that people could vote on any matter that concerns them (the book was written in the late 60s). What do people think of this idea? how crazy do you think it is? would it make our living any easier?
first: yes

second: not sure what "high theory" means here. how would "establishing what anarchism is and is not" differ from the commonly understood tenets of anarchism (anti-state, anti-capitalist, for mutual assistance, direct action, voluntary association)? also, why would i trust a non-anarchist to attempt defining anarchism?

third: to the extent that you're talking about people who have made anarchist thinking a part of their professional lives/advancement, i am extremely wary of them. not saying they don't have insight but i don't trust their intentions or conclusions, nor would i want to be part of them fitting into a structure that is my enemy.

fourth: home voting machines have happened already (spectators voting in media contests), and entirely fit into the mythology of a) democracy, b) the u.s. as a democratic system.
What he's doing doesn't seem that interesting to me -- Marx plus Kant basically.... (-_-) zzz . As far as philosophy goes, I feel like he should at least be somewhat aware of what happened in the 70s. He spoke at my school once and he had to shut down even the most basic questions b/c he couldn't understand them. Not kidding.

I'm curious why you're interested in him, to be honest.

I stole his book from the college book store I worked at many years ago. I don't remember objecting to his arguments exactly at the time I read it, but I also don't remember feeling particularly persuaded, except in the , "Duh..." way when he made assertions I'd implicitly understood for some time.

This book was originally published in 1970, so it is reasonable that it is grounded in that era, but even then, it feels like the work of an academic who had no real connection to the contemporary anarchism(s) that were around, and he doesn't seem to have kept up on any of the things that anarchists have been up to since.


Not sure that I get your third point. Are you basically saying that you oppose anyone who is an 'academic' (or intellectual) on anarchism?


A teacher recommended the book, because it became quite popular after publication and led to a lot of responses.

It is true that he was pretty much disconnected from the contemporary anarchism(s) that were around, does that make it less valuable/interesting and why?
first i'm not saying i "oppose" anyone. i said what i meant. since i'm not sure how to put it more clearly, perhaps you could ask a question that doesn't put  words in my mouth?

second, intellectual is not the same thing as academic. i am pro anarchist intellectual.

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