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16. Altruism and Autonomy

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About this Lecture


In this module, we explore the concepts of altruism and autonomy as they are understood in anarchism, focusing in particular on: (i) the (mistaken) view that anarchist society relies on altruistic behaviour by its individuals in order to work; (ii) the view that while existing organisations (e.g. the state, capitalism, etc.) breed individualism, selfishness and fear, anarchism breeds cooperation, trust, mutual aid and support; and (iii) the definition of autonomy and its importance in anarchism.


In this course, Professor Ruth Kinna (Loughborough University) explores the idea of anarchism. In the first five modules, we introduce five key figures in anarchist thinking: Max Stirner (1806-65), Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-65), Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876), Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921), and Emma Goldman (1869-1940). After that, we spend five modules exploring four key principles in anarchism: rejection of the state, liberty, economic freedom and utopianism. In the eleventh, twelfth and thirteen modules, we think about six different types of anarchism – individualism, collectivism, communism, egoism, social anarchism and syndicalism – before turning in the final four modules to explore seven key concepts in anarchism: power, authority, government, the state, altruism, autonomy and direct action.


Ruth Kinna is Professor of Political Theory in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Loughborough University. She is a political theorist and historian of ideas with research interests in anarchism, nineteenth and early twentieth-century socialist thought, utopianism and contemporary radicalism. Her book William Morris: The Art of Socialism was published in 2000. She has since published The Beginner's Guide to Anarchism (Oneworld, 2005/2009), Kropotkin: Reviewing the Classical Anarchist Tradition (University of Edinburgh, 2016) and The Government of No One (Pelican, 2019).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Kinna, R. (2020, February 17). Anarchism - Altruism and Autonomy [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Kinna, R. "Anarchism – Altruism and Autonomy." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 17 Feb 2020,