Some contemporary anarchist scholarship has rejected the Enlightenment-inspired reliance on reason that was supposedly central to classical anarchist thought and expanded the anarchist critique to address issues ignored by their classical predecessors. In making reason the object of critique, some contemporary anarchists expanded the anarchist framework to include critiques of domination residing outside the traditional power centers of the state, the capitalist firm, and the church thereby shedding light on the authoritarian tendencies inherent in the intellect itself.
Though contemporary anarchist scholarship has sought to apply this anti-authoritarian ethos to the realms of epistemology and ontology (by employing Michel Foucault’s analysis of power and other postfoundational thinkers), their own framework of analysis is glaringly susceptible to what Habermas called a “performative contradiction.” In questioning the authority of aspects of even our own intellect (and the epistemological and ontological presuppositions that accompany it) we call into question even the authority of our own argumentation.
I answer this “contradiction” by interrogating two intellectual traditions. Firstly, I question a key postfoundational anarchist premise. Namely, I assess whether an understanding of classical anarchist thinkers as quintessential children of the Enlightenment is justified. Secondly, I offer an alternative path to reconciliation between the anti-authoritarian values of the anarchists and the anti-metaphysical values of the postfoundationalists (that I think mirrors anarchist anti-authoritarian concerns) by suggesting we are better served to think of an anti-authoritarianism of the intellect by employing three key twentieth century thinkers: Richard Rorty, Paul Feyerabend, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. I do so while anchoring Rorty’s, Feyerabend’s, and Wittgenstein’s philosophies in the 19th century anti-metaphysical thought of Friedrich Nietzsche and the philosophical anarchism of Max Stirner.