This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book attempts to convey the different sociological contexts for how contemporary anarchist theory and practice is to be understood. It concentrates on the issue of broadening the parameters of how anarchist theory and practice is conceptualised. The question of individual liberty and collective needs raises an equally important anarchist principle: equating the means of an action with its ends. The book compares the major philosophical differences and strategies between the classical period and the contemporary anti-capitalist movements. It assesses the viability of libertarian education, a century on from the life and work of Spanish writer and activist Francisco Ferrer and finds considerable evidence for the endurance of these ideals.
This chapter illustrates the importance of broadening the understanding of social anarchism. Social anarchism has shifted its ground as it has embraced some elements of poststructuralist philosophy. This shift in territory from social to poststructuralist anarchism is most noticeable and particularly important at two levels of theory. The first, and the one that underscores the others, is the poststructuralist denunciation of foundationalist discourses or narratives. The second shift in theoretical territory is less pronounced but nonetheless real. The chapter suggests that, when situated alongside the practices of new social movements associated with the anticapitalist protests, the poststructuralist perspective affords insight into how new modes of anarchist practice are emerging. It also highlights how anarchist theory and practice is evolving into something distinct and is, at the same time, nurturing contemporary modes of resistance against traditional social, political and economic forms of oppression.
Contemporary revolutionary anarchism is not merely interested in effecting changes in socioeconomic relations or dismantling the State, but in developing an entire art of living, which is simultaneously anti-authoritarian, anti-ideological and antipolitical. The development of a distinctively anarchist savoir-vivre is a profoundly existential and ontological concern and one rich in implication for the definition of contemporary anarchist practice, activity and projects. Central to this process is the issue of anarchist subjectivity and intersubjectivity, as well as related concerns about language and creativity. Developing his perspective from this epistemological premise, Hakim Bey identifies a distinctively anarchist mode of being: ontological anarchy. Anarchy, in short, remains a condition of embodied or lived poetry. In order to understand the significance of Max Stirner to both modernist anarchism and the new anarchism(s), the nature and significance of his thought needs to be radically revised.