Front Page Titles (by Subject) Community vs. State - Literature of Liberty, January/March 1978, vol. 1, No. 1
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Community vs. State - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, January/March 1978, vol. 1, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Community vs. State
“The Modern State and the Search for Community: The Anarchist Critique of Peter Kropotkin.” International Philosophical Quarterly (USA), 16 (1976): 3–32.
Recent scholarship has evidenced a revived interest in examining the merits of anarchism, as witness Robert Paul Wolff's In Defense of Anarchism (New York: Harper and Row, 1970). To further this revival, we can survey the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin's (1842–1921) case against the legitimacy of the state.
Kropotkin understood the state as a centralized power which controls the life of a society within a territorial limit by placing vital social functions in the hands of a few people. This centralized power uses coercion to allow certain social classes to dominate others. He denied that the state (even the praised parliamentary or representative variety) is the most humane way to organize a good human society.
Overall, Kropotkin's argument challenges us by its claim that the state causes the decline of a fraternal community. He reasoned that the quest for the human values of liberty, equality, fraternity, and justice will succeed only to the extent that mankind substitutes the alternative of communal life for the centralized state. Anticipating Hannah Arendt's views in On Revolution (New York: Viking, 1965), he underlined how state centralism inhibits the public's communal involvement and participation by entrusting public issues to an oligarchy of representatives and bureaucrats. Similarly, Kropotkin warned against the centralized control which Lenin's Communist Party imposed on the Russian Revolution. He believed that such state socialists were engaged in a self-defeating project. They were at cross-purposes by using the hierarchical structures of the anticommunal state to develop communal control of the means of production. It would result inevitably in an economy controlled by a clique of strategically placed government bureaucrats.
The state thus involves the loss of true community. Kropotkin rejected the statist implications of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century political theorists' appeal to the “state of nature.” Postulating an imaginary state of nature in which individuals were in perpetual conflict with one another, these theorists portrayed an equally imaginary political state as peacefully issuing from a social contract. Thus, they imagined the state serving as the stabilizing savior of men from anarchistic chaos.
Kropotkin sought to invalidate a Social Darwinist reading of human nature's penchant for narrow self-interest and violent struggle. He appealed to ethological evidence from the study of animal life, together with a reflective, historical analysis of human society. He did this to prove the naturalness of human beings establishing a decent community without needing state coercion.
Sociability and mutual support, he maintained, rather than cutthroat competition, are central elements in the evolutionary struggle for human survival. Human life by its very nature is not narrowly individualistic or brutally competitive. A communitarian ethics is a natural device for insuring mankind's biological survival. His ethics of community affirm how such a system promotes justice and freedom. Sociability (as an evolutionary “instinct” developed in the lives of humans and animals) constitutes a biological root of moral behavior. Reason, subsequently, developed the “instinct” of sociability to lead to justice and maganimity as corollaries for decent survival.
Kropotkin also argued that a nonstatist community can handle the problem of criminal behavior. Society must shift from the state's primarily punitive to a primarily preventative approach to crime. What is needed is mutual aid and a sense of unity within society. To prevent crime we must encourage truly communal relations among human beings. We must come to know one another fraternally and provide moral support and mutual aid to one other.
Only the future can determine whether Kropotkin's antistatist beliefs are realistic. Can humanity voluntarily develop social structures other than the centralized state to deal humanely with modern problems? We must acknowledge the evils intrinsic to the state and meet the challenge of devising alternative nonstatist solutions to combat crime, poverty, disease, and ignorance. Finally, we must test the possibility of a social order wherein all members can directly and significantly determine public policy.