Methodological Anarchism

In Gary Chartier & Chad Van Schoelandt (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Anarchy and Anarchist Thought. Routledge. pp. 53-75 (2020)
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Abstract

There is a basic methodological difference in the way anarchists and non-anarchists think about politics, often more implicit than explicit. Anarchists see politics and justice as being concerns of social institutions, norms, and relations generally – both inside and outside the state. Much of academic political philosophy talks of politics and justice as if they are definitionally concerns about what states should do, or our relationships with each other through the state. In this chapter, we argue that the anarchists are on the right side of this difference. We call the insight that undergirds the anarchists’ understanding of politics and justice “methodological anarchism.” We seek to exorcise the policy framework in favor of methodological anarchism. Indeed, we believe it should be embraced by all political philosophers, not only the anarchists among their ranks. Political philosophers ought to abstain from the policy framework for two reasons. Firstly, it is analytically impoverished inasmuch as, when followed to its logical conclusion, it is unable to engage with enormous areas of analysis that are relevant to what makes a society just or unjust. Secondly, it instills subtle prejudice against other important approaches to mitigating injustice that are unconcerned with public policy. This also carries the danger of lending ideological support for existing injustices and thereby entrenching them. Accepting our critique of the policy framework and adopting methodological anarchism does not necessarily require the acceptance of any kind of substantive political anarchism. But it does mean thinking a bit more like an anarchist about how to make society more just – thus our characterization of it as “methodological.”

Author Profiles

Jason Byas
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Billy Christmas
King's College London

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