Politics & Political Theory

Evolution and revolution: Anarchist geographies, modernity and poststructuralism

This paper addresses the recent rediscovery of anarchist geographies and its implications in current debates on the ‘foundations’ of science and knowledge. By interrogating both recent works and original texts by early anarchist geographers who have greater influence on present-day literature such as Elisée Reclus (1830–1905) and Pyotr Kropotkin (1842–1921), I discuss the possible uses of a poststructuralist critique for this line of research by first challenging ‘postanarchist’ claims that so-called ‘classical anarchism’, allegedly biased by essentialist naturalism, should be entirely dismissed by contemporary scholarship. My main argument is that early anarchist geographers used the intellectual tools available in their day to build a completely different ‘discourse’, criticising the ways in which science and knowledge were constructed. As they openly contested ideas of linear progress, racism and European supremacy, as well as anthropocentrism and dichotomised definitions of ‘man’ and ‘nature’, it is hard to make them fit simplistic definitions. The body of work I address stresses their possible contributions to critical, anarchist and radical scholarship through their idea of knowledge, not limited to what is now called ‘discourse analysis’, but engaging with social movements in order to transform society.

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Volume 35 Issue 5

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