Mikhail Bakunin Criticism - Essay

Peter Kropotkin (essay date 1899)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "St. Petersburg—First Journey to Western Europe," in Memoirs of a Revolutionist, 1899. Reprint by Black Rose Books, 1989, pp. 209-319.

[Peter Kropotkin, a Russian of noble descent who lived most of his adult life in London, was the primary anarchist theorist of the late-nineteenth century. His writings include Mutual Aid, a seminal text of anarcho-communism, and the autobiographical Memoirs of a Revolutionist. In the following excerpt from his memoirs, originally published in 1899, Kropotkin recalls the mark Bakunin had made on a group of Swiss radicals.]

Bakúnin was at that time at Locarno. I did not see him, and now regret it very much,...

(The entire section is 596 words.)

Bertrand Russell (essay date 1919)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Bakunin and Anarchism," in Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism, Henry Holt and Company, 1919, pp. 32-55.

[In the excerpt below, Russell praises Bakunin's achievements as an activist, although he finds the anarchist's writings lacking in coherence and thoroughness.]

In the same sense in which Marx may be regarded as the founder of modern Socialism, Bakunin may be regarded as the founder of Anarchist Communism. But Bakunin did not produce, like Marx, a finished and systematic body of doctrine. The nearest approach to this will be found in the writings of his follower, [Peter] Kropotkin. In order to explain modern Anarchism we shall...

(The entire section is 3164 words.)

Isaiah Berlin (essay date 1955)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Herzen and Bakunin on Individual Liberty," in Russian Thinkers, edited by Henry Hardy and Aileen Kelly, Viking Press, 1978, pp. 82-113.

[Berlin is a noted twentieth-century critic of Russian literature, much of whose work has focused on Alexander Herzen. The characterization of Bakunin that follows, excerpted from a 1955 essay comparing him with Herzen, has often supplied later critics with an exemplary devaluation of Bakunin. Although Berlin lauds Bakunin's political motives and spirit, he emphasizes Bakunin's apparent weaknesses as a theorist and a writer.]

Bakunin, as his enemies and followers will equally testify, dedicated his entire life to the struggle...

(The entire section is 2614 words.)

George Woodcock (essay date 1962)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Destructive Urge," in Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements, World Publishing Company, 1962, pp. 145-83.

[George Woodcock is one of the leading anarchist historians of the twentieth century. The following chapter from his book combines a detailed biography with a largely favorable assessment of Bakunin 's political philosophy, as manifested in both his actions and his writings.]

Of all the anarchists, Michael Bakunin most consistently lived and looked the part. With [William] Godwin and [Max] Stirner and [Pierre-Joseph] Proudhon there always seems a division between the logical or passionate extremes of thought and the realities of daily...

(The entire section is 13663 words.)

Arthur P. Mendel (essay date 1981)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Requiem," in Michael Bakunin: Roots of Apocalypse, Praeger, 1981, pp. 418-35.

[In the following excerpt, Mendel conducts a psychoanalytic study of Bakunin, looking primarily at his conflicted relationship with authority. Ultimately, Mendel finds the authoritarian streak in Bakunin's personality definitive, dismissing his Utopian aspirations as "corrupted by narcissistic and oedipal disorders. "]

Of all the voices that sound through Bakunin's words and deeds, it is that of the frightened youth that is the most genuine. Nothing rings more true than his confession of how difficult it was for him to overcome timidity and make those brilliant speeches that won him...

(The entire section is 9977 words.)

Robert M. Cutler (essay date 1985)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to From Out of the Dustbin: Bakunin's Basic Writing, 1869-1871, by Mikhail Bakunin, edited and translated by Robert M. Cutler, Ardis, 1985, pp. 15-29.

[In the excerpt that follows, Cutler examines a selection of Bakunin's writings against the backdrop of Marxist doctrine, in order to delineate certain coherent strands in his anarchist philosophy.]

Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin, the anarchist, was a political thinker; his reputation, based partly on his appetite for action and partly on unsympathetic historiography, obscures this. Bakunin's social milieu influenced the manner in which he expressed his ideas, because he tried always to tailor them...

(The entire section is 8382 words.)

Brian Morris (essay date 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Social Philosophy" and "Theory of Social Revolution," in Bakunin: The Philosophy of Freedom, Black Rose Books, 1993, pp. 85-95, and 136-51.

[In the following chapters from his book, Morris considers Bakunin's writings in-depth in order to recuperate them from the condemnation of previous criticism, which he also reviews in detail.]

Social Philosophy

For Bakunin, human beings, like everything else in nature, are entirely material beings, and the mind, the thinking faculty with the power to receive and reflect on different external and internal sensation, is the property of an animal body. As with all animals, humans, Bakunin writes,...

(The entire section is 9984 words.)