Paul Eltzbacher (18 February 1868 – 25 October 1928) was a German law student whose professorial appointment was due, largely, to his PhD on anarchism, which became the basis for the present book, first published in English in 1907. ‘Anarchism’ is an overview consisting of seven chapters which deal, principally, with Eltzbacher’s academic take on the various elements and trends of anarchism as defined by the leading anarchist thinkers of the time: Godwin, Proudhon, Stirner, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tucker, Tolstoy.


Every person who examines this book at all will speedily divide its contents into Eltzbacher’s own discussion and his seven chapters of classified quotations from Anarchist leaders; and, if he buys the book, he will buy it for the sake of the quotations. I do not mean that the book might not have a sale if it consisted exclusively of Eltzbacher’s own words, but simply that among ten thousand people who may value Eltzbacher’s discussion there will not be found ten who will not value still more highly the conveniently-arranged reprint of what the Anarchists themselves have said on the cardinal points of Anarchistic thought.

“The collection of quotations, which form three-fourths of the book both in bulk and in importance, is as much the best part as it is the biggest. Here the prime necessity is impartiality, and Eltzbacher has attained this as perfectly as can be expected of any man. Positively, one comes to the end of all this without feeling sure whether Eltzbacher is himself an Anarchist or not; it is not until we come to the last dozen pages of the book that he lets his opposition to Anarchism become evident. To be sure, one feels that he is more journalistic than scientific in selecting for special mention the more sensational points of the schemes proposed (the journalistic temper certainly shows itself in his habit of picking out for his German public the references to Germany in Anarchist writers). Yet it is hard to deny that there is legitimate scientific importance in ascertaining how much of the sensational is involved in Anarchism; and, on the other hand, Eltzbacher recognizes his duty to present the strongest points of the Anarchist side, and does this so faithfully that one often wonders if the man can repeat these words without feeling their cogency. So far as any bias is really felt in this part of the book it is the bias of over-methodicalness; now and then a quotation is made to go into the classification at a place where it will not go in without forcing, and perspective is distorted when some obiter dictum that had never seemed to its author to be worth repeating a second time is made to serve as illuminant now for this division of the “teaching,” now for that, till it seems to the reader like a favorite topic of the Anarchist. However, the bias of methodicalness is as nearly non-partisan as any bias can be, and its effect is to put the matter into a most convenient form for consultation and comparison.”