Alchemy in Clarens: Kropotkin and Reclus and the Origins of Anarcho-Communism

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Between 1876 and 1881 the anarchist geographers Elisée Reclus and Peter Kropotkin lived and worked together in Switzerland. For a brief period, while working on Reclus's monumental 17 volume The Earth and Its Inhabitants: The Universal Geography, they lived in Clarens. This paper explores the relationship between Reclus and Kropotkin during this five year period and argues that it was Reclus, not Kropotkin, who should get the lion's share of credit for developing the idea of anarcho-communism. (Malatesta, who likewise is often credited for developing anarcho-communism was also influenced by Reclus.) Reclus, the foremost geographer of his time, veteran of the Paris Commune, and one of the five to give grave side eulogies for Bakunin, was 14 years Kropotkin's senior and already widely respected in anarchist circles while Kropotkin was at the start of his illustrious career when they met. This paper traces how Kropotkin gradually came to adopt Reclus's perspective.


Keywords: Geography, Anarchism, Reclus, Kropotkin, Anarcho-Communism
Stream: Politics, Public Policy and Law
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Alchemy in Clarens


Dr. Dana Ward

Professor, Political Studies, Pitzer College
Claremont, CA, USA

I am responsible for the largest collection of anarchist material on the internet, Anarchy Archives, which contains the collected works of the classical anarchists as well as bibliographies, commentary and graphics dealing with the theory and practice of anarchism. I have a double Ph.D. in psychology and politics from Yale, and have taught at Pitzer college for 25 years. I have written on a wide variety of topics including: Political Reasoning and Cognition: A Piagetian View; several articles dealing with moral reasoning and politics, works on Kissinger as well as US foreign policy, and several articles on anarchism. All my work is interdisciplinary.

Ref: I08P0378