:"Not to be confused with the concept of "popular illegalisms" created by Michel Foucault in "Discipline and Punish"."

Illegalism is an anarchist philosophy that developed primarily in France, Italy, Belgium, and Switzerland during the early 1900s as an outgrowth of anarchist individualism. The illegalists openly embraced criminality as a lifestyle.

Illegalism first rose to prominence among a generation of Europeans inspired by the unrest of the 1890s, during which Ravachol, Émile Henry, Auguste Vaillant, and Caserio committed daring crimes in the name of anarchism, in what is known as propaganda of the deed.

Influenced by theorist Max Stirner's egoism, the illegalists broke from anarchists like Clément Duval and Marius Jacob who justified theft with a theory of la reprise individuelle ("Eng: individual reclamation"). Instead, the illegalists argued that their actions required no moral basis - illegal acts were taken not in the name of a higher ideal, but in pursuit of one's own desires.

France's Bonnot Gang was the most famous group to embrace illegalism.


Advocacy of illegalism proved to be highly controversial and was contested within the anarchist milieu, particularly by those who favored anarcho-syndicalism over individual actions disconnected from the labor movement. Many socialists argued that illegalism replicated the mentality of capitalism and represented a turn towards nihilism.

Following his arrest for harbouring members of the Bonnot Gang, Victor Serge, once a forceful defender of illegalism became a sharp critic. In "Memoirs of a Revolutionary", he describes illegalism as "a collective suicide". [" [ Memoirs of a Revolutionary] ", by Victor Serge] Similarly, Marius Jacob reflected in 1948, "I don't think that illegalism can free the individual in present-day society... Basically, illegalism, considered as an act of revolt, is more a matter of temperament than of doctrine." [ [ The "Illegalists"] , by Doug Imrie (published by )]

Contemporary individualist and egoist anarchists such as Fred Woodworth (editor and publisher of the journal "The Match!"), Joe Peacott and Larry Gambone are also highly critical of illegalism on grounds that it is unethical.


See also

* Insurrectionary anarchism
* Post-left anarchy
* Propaganda of the deed

Further reading

* " [ On Illegalism and Ultra-Leftism] ". Philippe Gavi, J-P Sartre, & Pierre Victor. Gallimard, Paris, 1974
* [ "The Bonnot Gang: The Story of the French Illegalists"]

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