This 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 conceptualized. The book compares the major philosophical differences and strategies between the classical period (what Dave Morland calls 'social anarchism') and the contemporary anti-capitalist movements which he regards as being poststructuralist in nature. It also documents the emergence of the now highly influential anti-technological and anti-civilisational strand in anarchist thought. This offers something of a challenge to anarchism as a political philosophy of the Enlightenment, as well as to other contemporary versions of ecological anarchism and, to some extent, anarcho-communism. The book further provides a snapshot of a number of debates and critical positions which inform contemporary anarchist practice. The specific areas covered offer unique perspectives on sexuality, education, addiction and mental health aspects of socialisation and how this can be challenged at a number of different levels. The fact that anarchism has largely premised its critique on a psychological dimension to power relations, not just a material one, has been an advantage in this respect. Ecological anarchism, which has been the driving force behind much contemporary anarchist theory and practice, has been committed to thinking about the relationships between people and 'nature' in new ways.
Although Marxism and even anarchism are sometimes treated as if they
are simply varieties of socialism, we consider that they have
sufficiently distinctive characteristics to warrant separate treatment.
Starting with Marxism, we examine Marx’s theories of history,
economics and politics before discussing the controversies within
Marx-inspired political organisations in the
Anti-capitalism and poststructuralist
Social anarchism has a long reputation as a disparate and incoherent ideology.
Commentators, sympathetic and objective alike, have frequently accused social
anarchism of being too diverse to constitute a singular, recognisable ideology at
all (Chomsky, 1970; Miller, 1984; Ball and Dagger, 1991). To a degree this is true:
social anarchism is a loose and diverse ideology that may be too elusive for some
commentators to categorise neatly and clearly. However, other commentators,
who see the world as an open conflict between different and competing nations (with the invariable threat of anarchism always lurking in the shadows), to modernists more generally who see the world as being threatened by the tensions caused between secularism and religious orthodoxy, and to those liberals who have appropriated Carl Schmitt’s point about politics being all about friends versus enemies. Difference, then, is the problem to be solved or at least safely managed.
Violence results not from violence but from forced homogenisation and the colonisation of
In liberal democracies there is a belief that citizens ought to take an active interest in what is happening in the political world. Political debate in modern Western democracies is a complex and often rowdy affair. There are three fundamental political issues: 'politics', 'power' and 'justice', which feature in almost all political discussions and conflicts. The book assesses the degree to which the state and state sovereignty are disappearing in the modern world of 'globalised' politics, economics and culture and new international institutions. The main features of the nation and the problems of defining it are outlined: population, culture, history, language, religion, and race. Different types of democracy and their most important features are discussed. 'Freedom' is usually claimed to be the prime objective of political activity. The book discusses equality of human rights, distributional equality, equality before the law, the claims for group equality on the grounds of race, gender, class. Rights, obligations and citizenship are closely associated. Ideology is the driving force of political discourse. The book also discusses nationalism's growth and development over the last two centuries with particular reference to its main features and assumptions. It outlines the development of conservatism as a political ideology and movement in Britain during the last two centuries. An overview of liberalism, socialism, Marxism, anarchism, and Fascism follows. Environmentalism and feminism are also discussed. Finally, the book talks about how ideological change occurs and stresses the importance of rationality in politics.
One of the principal reasons for the endurance of anarchism is the fact that
regardless of context it asks challenging questions about the nature of power.
This collection premises itself on the idea that anarchist concepts of power are
changing to reflect the extensive and varied shifts that are taking place in political culture, and on increasingly larger stages. The anarchist critique, as will be
argued in this first section of the book, has deepened in terms of its willingness
to consider power as having multiple and interconnected
Stirner, anarchy, subjectivity and the art of living
Lived poetry: Stirner, anarchy, subjectivity
and the art of living1
At the heart of the new anarchism(s) there lies a concern with developing a whole
new way of being in and acting upon the world.2 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
One of the ongoing attractions of anarchism is that it constantly raises questions
about the nature of being in ways often sidelined or suppressed by other political perspectives. Why do people rebel against authority? Why do they also feel
compelled to offer alternative solutions to collective problems through co-operation? How interrelated or separate are humans from nature, as well as from very
different human cultures? To what extent are technological systems creating new
forms of identity which are not necessarily liberatory? How can one
Jonathan Purkis and James Bowen
Conclusion: how anarchism still matters
As possibly the most idealistic, complicated and contradictory political philosophy to have emerged from the Enlightenment, anarchism occupies a unique and
under-acknowledged place in the history of ideas. The chapters in this volume
have engaged with and critiqued much of what is taken by mainstream academics
and commentators to be anarchism. In the era that we have called that of ‘global
anarchism’, the classical anarchist canon has come under attack from a variety of
this is because anarchism has traditionally
focused on formal hierarchy, especially in the forms of the State and capital.
Academically and politically, my primary interest is sexuality. By this I include
sexual or erotic desires, behaviours and relationships. I often ask myself how I can
justify putting my energy into sexuality. Climate change, nuclear weapons and
other forms of environmental catastrophe could have disastrous effects for all
forms of life on this planet. Capitalism, as a system of institutionalised competition, supports abuse of the individual