Mikhail Bakunin – The Immorality of the State

You can find a brief biographical account of Mikhail Bakunin [1814–1876] on Wikipedia.

From the text:

Crime — the Privilege of the State.

What is permitted to the State is forbidden to the individual. Such is the maxim of all governments. Machiavelli said it, and history as well as the practice of all contemporary governments bear him out on that point. Crime is the necessary condition of the very existence of the State, and it therefore constitutes its exclusive monopoly, from which it follows that the individual who dares commit a crime is guilty in a two-fold sense: first, he is guilty against human conscience, and, above all, he is guilty against the State in arrogating to himself one of its most precious privileges.

You can download the document as an imposed A5 booklet here.

You can download the document as an A4 PDF from here.

Let us know what you think of this text in the comments!

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One thought on “Mikhail Bakunin – The Immorality of the State

  1. Very nice idea this reading/discussion list.

    However I can not say that the text by Bakunin did very much for me. To criticise the state for being immoral is ok but it does tend to assume that there is only one possible “real” morality. This has obvious dangers. Who is to decide this morality? Does it flow naturally from the “folk” with their obvious right to subjugate women, torment gays and the rest I wonder. This is not helped much by the intrusion of the ethical. I am equally unhappy with the secular religion of “humanity” that gets thrown into the mix. I tend to believe that the altruism of the individual always leads to the egotism of the group – be that a patriotic nation state or an amorphous “humanity”. I suspect that the result will always be oppressive of the individual.

    Finally I find it strange that there is lacking anything very much of a class outlook in the text. By taking the social contract and original sin as the bedrock of the state rather than the necessity (for the rulers) to quell the antagonism of those who actually do the work seems to me a strange direction of attack. But this would move the argument away from morality and towards interest and capability.

    Can an individual revolt against society? Well I would certainly hope so. If the society that surrounds him/her is so debased as to be unworthy then revolt follows nausea as a healthful response.

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