The aim of my project is to formulate and develop an ethic by which anarchists should act. To do this, I will look at the life and works of Benjamin Tucker and Emma Goldman, two prominent American anarchists active during the final decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth. Through reconstructing and further developing their proposed ethical theories, I can come closer to developing a suitable ethic for anarchists. My conclusion is that Emma Goldman’s personality and emphasis on personal development and empowerment, reflected in her proposed virtue consequentialist approach to acting as an anarchist, is superior to other approaches.

In the first chapter, I establish a working philosophical definition of anarchism as the rejection of all claims to the right of authority. Also, I give an overview of the history and historiography of anarchism and how anarchism in the United States arose because of the societal forces shaping the country at the time.

In the second and third chapters, I give biographical sketches of both Benjamin Tucker and Emma Goldman, respectively, and show how the differences between the two figures are best reflected in their personalities instead of their philosophies. Those two chapters also contain reconstructions of the two thinkers’ proposed ethical systems.

In the fourth and final chapter, I determine that Emma Goldman’s proposed virtue ethic is better than the other proposed ethical systems. Furthermore, I develop this virtue approach by creating a non-exhaustive list of virtues inspired by and complementary to the anarchist movement and run through how an anarchist following the virtue approach would act in a difficult situation.


Ng, Margaret

Second Advisor

Wells, Mark


History; Philosophy


Ethics and Political Philosophy | History | History of Philosophy | Intellectual History | Philosophy | Political History | United States History


Anarchism, Benjamin Tucker, Emma Goldman, Virtue Ethics

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2016 Michael S. Long