The Progress Pages

Radical Concepts

This is a set of definitions that are designed to briefly explain various political terms, with an emphasis on radical politics.

This document is unfinished, and because of this, has many incomplete cross-references and still includes many unexplained terms. The author, Jason Truesdell, is aware of this, but has limited time and will add definitions and links as possible. If you have anything to add, mail me and I'll put it in when possible.

is a critique of the state which denies the legitimacy of state authority. The state is an essentially violent institution whose existence prevents liberty.
social anarchism
also known as socialist or libertarian anarchism, is the form of anarchism that developed as a result of the materialist method, as developed by Karl Marx. Michael Bakunin was the first widely-known social anarchist.
"Big-name" Anarchists
Bakunin, Mikhail
was the major theoretical rival to Karl Marx in the First International. He rejected the Marxist transitional-state as another form of tyranny, and disagreed that it would naturally go away, arguing that it was an unalterable social law that the state would try to reproduce itself, and that the state by its very nature must have an opressive power over people.
Goldman, Emma
Was one of the best-known anarchists in the US, but because she was an immigrant and a radical, was exiled to the Soviet Union (can't remember the year). She eventually left Russia, both out of a difficulty in working within the confines of a state, and out of a longing to return to the US. Later she worked as a propagandist during the anarchist revolution in Spain in the late 1930s, working both in Spain and England. She eventually moved to Canada, though she was older and never had the glorious large audiences she enjoyed in the US. She was a proponent of "free love", as well as some women's rights issues, though she was a bitter critic of suffragist movement.
Kropotkin, Peter
Nettlau, Max
Contemporary anarchist theorists
Chomsky, Noam
focuses on traditional left-wing issues, particularly political economy, thought control, anti-war, anti-imperialism, and so on. See Manufacturing Consent with Edward Herman, The Chomsky Read abouter, Deterring Democracy.
Ehrlich, Carol
calls herself an anarcha-feminist and stems from the social anarchist tradition with strong roots in radical feminism. She argues that the problems of feminism in anarchist politics stem from practice, as opposed to theory, which she contrasts with the conflicts between marxism and feminism.
Critiques the unequal social, economic, political, and sexual status of women to men. In its radical form critiques a gender hierachy, which is seen as centered upon sexuality. Gender and sexuality are social terms.
liberal feminism
focuses on socialized "myths of women's inferiority", social attitudes, and economic inequality, but offers no critique of the capitalist system and has a rather simplistic view of gender hierarchy. Usually, liberal feminism seeks to gain power for women within existing economic, political, and social structures. Examples: Susan Faludi, Naomi Wolf.
radical feminism
sees male forms of sexuality imposed upon women as a primary means of enforcing women's inequality. Usually includes a critique of the capitalist system, but also often of socialist theory and practice. Often rejects seizing power as a means to ending gender hierarchy--radical feminists are suspicious of power, which distinguishes them from liberal feminists. Examples: Catherine MacKinnon, Mary Daly.
socialist feminism
developed most notably within the New Left movements in the United States but also in Europe and some parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Generally attempts to find ways of justifying feminism in a Marxist framework, or expands or mutates Marxist categories to include women. Many socialist feminists rely heavily on Friedrich Engel's Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State. Examples: Evelyn Reed, Gloria Joseph.
spiritual feminism
related both to cultural feminism and radical feminism, attempts to create a feminist theology. Often examines pre-Christian nature-religions for inspiration, though some spiritual feminists also look in the Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist traditions. Examples: Starhawk, Mary Daly, Carol Christ.
A worldview that developed as a result of increasing middle-class involvement in politics in Europe. Treating liberalism as an ideology may be inappropriate, because it reflects a somewhat pragmatic approach to satisfying the political and economic interests of the middle class. It can be better identified as a belief system or a worldview, because liberal political thought has developed primarily from a group of people with similar socio-economic characteristics and often similar social backgrounds.

Liberalism does not reserve any special criticism for hierarchies in the political or social order; it advocates reform which generally does not seriously threaten the interests of the middle class. Equality is often thought as either comparable power within a competitive power structure, or identical political rights, with a blind-eye to inequalities in power.

In its radical form critiques the economic order, most urgently the capitalist one, although it considers capitalism historically progressive as compared to feudal or "primitive" political-economic organization.
Classic Materialism
based on the theories of Karl Marx, who developed a critique of political economy related philosophically to the "dialectic" of the german philosopher Hegel and to the theory of history developed by Ludwig Feuerbach. Human history progresses because of essential contradictions centered upon the form of production. Literature by Karl Marx and his colleague Friedrich Engels is available on the Internet.
Contemporary materialism
Academic materialism
is found in lots of university sociology courses, as well as in the work of some historians, anthropologists, political scientists, and so on. Academic materialists/marxists have a precarious relationship with political movement, which they often do not directly participate in. Because of this, academic marxists have often been considered by people involved in communist parties, at best unreliable because of their privileged social position and at worst opportunistic.
Political parties
such as the post-trotskyist, Castro-supporting Socialist Workers Party (US, maybe 3000 members) still exist, which gave birth to groups like the still-trotskyist socialist-feminist Freedom Socialist Party (mostly west-coast US), which are also still around. Maoist groups like the tiny Progressive Labor Party and the Revolutionary Communist Party can be found if you look hard enough.
usually used as a perjorative, refers to political practice or ideology that attempts to make gradual changes within exising social and political structures to improve the conditions of people under those structures. Reformism is reformist because it does one of the following 1) rejects revolutionary movement or action 2) limits its activities to traditional political spheres--that is, gaining hegemony within the state 3) considers revolutionary movement to be hopeless, whether approved of or not, and therefore considers movement within the state to be necessary.