Steven Pinker on anarchism

“As a young teenager in proudly peaceable Canada during the romantic 1960s, I was a true believer in Bakunin’s anarchism. I laughed off my parents’ argument that if the government ever laid down its arms all hell would break loose. Our competing predictions were put to the test at 8:00 A.M. on October 17, 1969, when the Montreal police went on strike… This decisive empirical test left my politics in tatters (and offered a foretaste of life as a scientist).” 

Pinker, Steven (2002), The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, Penguin Putnam, ISBN 0-670-03151-8.

There have also been other police strikes with severe consequences for law and order. One that resulted in immediate anarchy and violence was in Melbourne, Australia in 1923.


Filed under Quotations

5 responses to “Steven Pinker on anarchism

  1. We are often a little foolish when young it goes with the territory. Many Christians believe if we all converted the law would be unnecessary since we would love our neighbors just as we should. I have my doubts about that believing religion is only skin deep when it comes to the crunch, besides we all have a moral nature the trouble is alongside it we have a self-centred ambitious nature with a desire to look after our own.


    • Indeed, there is no evidence that the people who riot and loot during police strikes are all atheists.


      • Yes left wing Christian Socialists may well argue they have a right to help themselves. It’s an interesting point as to when it is moral to break the existing law and it is fraught with difficulties since it will depend on your moral standpoint.


  2. Pinker’s argument seems a little simplistic. I clicked on the link in the post. If the Wikipedia page is accurate, it sounds like the area was undergoing major upheaval and systematic issues, even before the strike. The strike may have just been the proverbial last straw.


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