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Against the State: An Introduction to Anarchist Political Theory Paperback – May 22, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0791474488 ISBN-10: 0791474488

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 138 pages
  • Publisher: State University of New York Press (May 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0791474488
  • ISBN-13: 978-0791474488
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,021,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

In Against the State, Crispin Sartwell unleashes a quick and brutal rejection of the traditional arguments for state legitimacy. Sartwell considers the classics of Western political philosophy--Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hegel, Hume, Bentham, Rawls, and Habermas, among others--and argues that their positions are not only wrong but also embarrassingly bad. He separates the traditional pro-state arguments into three classes: social contract theories, utilitarian justifications, and justicial views, all while attacking both general strategies and particular formulations. Sartwell argues that the state rests on nothing but deadly force and its accompanying coercion, and that no one is under any obligation to obey the law merely because it is the law. He concludes by articulating a positive vision of an anarchist future, based on the "individualism" of such figures as Emerson and Thoreau. Against the State provides a rigorous and provocative foil to the classic texts, and also serves as a concise statement of the anarchist challenge.

"Sartwell's work stands in the Thoreauvian tradition he admires--simultaneously lyrical and plainspoken, intensely personal yet theoretically compelling. Transcending the hackneyed opposition between individualist and communitarian approaches to politics, Sartwell's spirited, engaging, and insightful critique of the state reminds us of the essentially barbarous nature of that institution, forcefully engages the classic arguments on its behalf, and makes a vigorous and inspiring case for a humane anarchist alternative." -- Roderick T. Long, Auburn University

"Sartwell is unabashed and unrelenting in pointing out the unquestioned absurdities at the foundation of the state's legitimacy. His refusal to accept any assumption on faith or to turn away from logical conclusions is the book's greatest strength." -- Dana Ward, coauthor of Political Reasoning and Cognition: A Piagetian View --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Crispin Sartwell is Associate Professor of Political Science at Dickinson College and the author of several books, including Obscenity, Anarchy, Reality and Extreme Virtue: Truth and Leadership in Five Great American Lives, both also published by SUNY Press.

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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on July 21, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
So says author Crispin Sartwell in the Introduction to his Against the State: An Introduction to Anarchist Political Theory. In asserting this, he intends at least three things: to deflate the canard that anarchism is merely wanton destruction; to distinguish anarchism from ideologies which prescribe detailed blueprints for human behavior; and to gesture, in a typical bit of wit, at the irony of writing a book on anarchist "political theory," since the latter term typically suggests a systemization that seems incompatible with the free spiritedness of anarchism.

"Mindful destruction" is also primarily what Against the State indulges in. Sartwell promises a future book on his positive anarchist vision. Here, his concern is to argue against conventional legitimations of the state. He goes after the three strongest defenses of what he takes to be the most legitimate kind of government, democracy: social contract, utilitarianism, and justicial (the position that the state is legitimated as the guarantor of social justice). Sartwell ultimately concludes that social contract models (Hobbes & Locke, primarily) rest on submission rather than consent, utilitarian models (Hume & Bentham) have no basis for claiming that the state produces more good than harm, and justicial models (Rawls, communitarianism, Habermas, with a side order of Randy Barnett), which frequently embrace elements of social contract, are legalisms that are perfectly compatible with repressive states.

Sartwell's "mindful destruction" of state-legitimations is sandwiched between an opening chapter in which he clarifies what he means by terms like "coercion," "force," "government," and "state," and a concluding one in which he provides an outline of the positive anarchism he embraces.
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There's a lot of nonsense used to support social-systems of slavery, Crispin Sartwell does an excellent job of pointing it out. (And the nonsense just keeps on coming, like the 1 star comment on this book that makes the irrational conclusion that anarchy can't work because we can't have universal consensus.) For those not so deluded, give this book a read with an open mind.
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Crispin Sartwell gives a excellent overview why government is contigent on force and coercion. However he does not give reason why force and coercion are not necessary for an orderly society. Like most anarchists, he does not give the ways an anarchist society could come about and be maintained.
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