Is Thoreau an anarchist?

Is Thoreau an Anarchist?
Karl Marx, in his communist theory stated that the collapse of the governments (all around the world at the same time) would happen when a large oppressed and poor majority, were pushed to the breaking point of discontent by a small portion of society, rich and well off. Since then, communism has been confused and become fragmented. What Marx wrote about is today understood as anarchism. Communism is what he called it, and socialism is when the government makes it policy to work towards workers’ rights, and one day towards “communism”.
Drinnon’s essay peaks (before its plunge) at calling Thoreau an “anarchist decentralist” (551). He means Thoreau didn’t want the American government to go, but he didn’t it to be in charge at all as much as it was. This is, on face value, is consistent with Thoreau’s speech/essay (227) and so we could call Thoreau an anarchist. But I disagree with this idea of putting things into their boxes to make it simple, and so calling Thoreau an anarchist.
Drinnon himself earlier mentions that Thoreau says that he is “unlike those who call themselves no-government men”(228). This means that he is not an anarchist, which by definition means “no-government person”. As I have stated above, and as Drinnon states, the definitions of the left room have been distorted over the last 2 centuries(548). Not only does Thoreau state that he doesn’t want to be identified as an anarchist (228), but says he’d rather a better government than no government. To me, this seems to be more consistent with socialism, the idea of working towards a world as envisioned by Marx, but only slowly. Furthermore, while anarchists are extremists, Thoreau, by saying he’d first rather “a better government than no government” (228).

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3 comments to Is Thoreau an anarchist?

  • John

    Agreed. When it comes to politics, people are so concerned with classifying things that they seem to miss the concrete stances and different issues. I like how you disregard Drinnon’s desire to classify Thoreau and instead point out instances in ‘Civil Disobedience’ that contradict Drinnon’s claim.

  • Callam

    some really good points here David, and i like how you have page referencing to back up all your points. very helpful!

  • David

    Thanks guys ;)))). I too hate how Drinnon tries to classify Thoreau as a left wing figure. Maybe he is simply a humanitarian and a free thinker.

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