Anarchist Abolitionism: The Context and Meaning of Kropotkin's Prison Writings

Wells, Deborah Leanne (2013) Anarchist Abolitionism: The Context and Meaning of Kropotkin's Prison Writings. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The use of the prison is a highly debatable topic. Its main aims are to deter and reform criminals, but recent reports show high recidivism rates which suggests that the prison does not work in reducing crime. Penal abolitionists oppose the current use of the prison and wish for its removal. In line with their views, Peter Kropotkin also wished for the removal of the prison. He believed it was a harmful institution just as abolitionists did but Kropotkin further proposed a vision of an ideal society which operated without prison. In contemporary society a world without prison seems unimaginable, however, Kropotkin did not just oppose the operation of the prison but in fact opposed all forms of authority and wished for their removal. He stated that his ideal society without hierarchy and governance would prosper and crime would reduce. This thesis explores Kropotkin’s thoughts on crime and punishment. It aims, by using Skinner’s method, to set a historical context in order to explore if Kropotkin’s anarchist or abolitionist views are reflected within his prison writings. To set such a context, Kropotkin’s life will be explored. The events and influences which would have contributed to his thought will be uncovered and in addition a selection of the literature he read will be examined. This will allow for the reader to develop a similar knowledge-base to that which Kropotkin would have had and therefore will allow for an understanding of where Kropotkin’s thought initially came from. After a close examination of these aspects of Kropotkin’s life and thought, and after an in depth study of his prison writings, it is reasonable to conclude that his work is both anarchist and abolitionist. This shows a great overlap between the two differing schools of thought.

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