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Title: The interplay of politics and science in the making of Petr Kropotkin's Modern Anarchism
Author: Morgan, R. J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5355 8008
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis examines the political thought of Petr Kropotkin as a site of interplay between anarchism and science. It explores a dialogue between the diagnostic and remedial aspirations of revolutionary anarchism and certain epistemologies and methodologies of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century scientific thought. On the one hand, I argue that this meeting led to the scientisation of Kropotkin’s anarchist politics, transforming conventional anarchist ideas on the state, capitalism, and revolution. On the other hand, I consider how Kropotkin politicised science, that is, how he inflected certain scientific theories and concepts and turned them into powerful revolutionary devices that equipped his brand of anarchism with new ways to identify political problems and solutions. Kropotkin’s bio-political worldview, his enthusiasm for statistics as a means to visualise society and social law, and his understanding of the ‘social’ as a field for the application of rational and scientific forms of knowledge for the improvement of human populations, had far-reaching implications for the ways he conceptualised and articulated traditional anarchist notions of power, domination, moral corruption, order, and the dissemination of knowledge. I show that in contrast to political philosophers who employ scientific ideas metaphorically to represent political concepts such as sovereignty, stability, and resistance, Kropotkin’s absorption of science was literal. Notions of health, sickness, insanity, degeneration, medicine, and hygiene, for example, did not function analogically in his thought, but were, in fact, some of his key political concerns. The intersection of anarchism and science is presented as an agency stimulating a deep ambivalence in Kropotkin’s thought. This thesis does not portray Kropotkin as an optimist, but as a thinker who wavered between fears of decline and hopes for progress. I bring to light Kropotkin’s anxieties, uncertainties, paradoxes, and contradictions, revealing the oscillation between pessimism and optimism that haunted his scientific and political modernity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available