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.
this section each address notions of being and becoming within different areas of anarchisttheory and practice. Indeed, it is the ontological dimension of contemporary anarchism – especially the placing of Self
within a wider ecology of global relations, human and non-human – which distinguishes anarchism from radical perspectives that retain too much focus on
materialism and political economy. 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
explore matters that are becoming increasingly central to anarchisttheory and
practice. We live in an era where the politics of information are formulated and
contested in a myriad of real and virtual locations and media, and where ascertaining influence, apportioning blame, conceptualising and co-ordinating strategy has become an almost impossible business. Who knows what the impacts
and influence of Paddick’s remarks have been on the wider milieu?
The resurgence of interest in anarchism, which has been steadily percolating
through often quite different
, as Taylor acknowledges, power is also to do with the position of groups within society and their
capacity to secure their own preferred outcomes. This corresponds to Marshall’s
understanding of the types of power within society: traditional power based on
custom; newly acquired power grounded in the law, the State or the military, for
example; and revolutionary power, frequently associated with vanguard political parties (Marshall, 1992: 45–6). Certainly, power is central to anarchisttheory,
and anarchists, whether old or new, are united in their belief that it
these differences by
looking at the assumptions behind the established sociological literature on social
movements and offering some suggestions as to how anarchisttheory would be
of advantage to developing a more tangible understanding of this area of study.
Problematic assumptions (I) – the natural (social) order of things
In American power and the New Mandarins (1969), Noam Chomsky makes the
point that when bourgeois historians interpret turbulent moments in history
they typically ignore movements that utilise co-operative strategies because they
sociologist trying to understand the
authoritarian and ecologically damaging premises behind sociological theory. He
argues the case for an anarchist sociology which pays much more attention to how
social experience is researched, theorised and represented. Like Morland, he finds
poststructuralist literature a potentially useful tool for understanding power, particularly when theorising contemporary social movements.
The difficulties of doing anarchisttheory is not lost on any of these authors,
particularly when their starting points are sometimes challenging. The
from deterministic theorisation towards more holistic, ecological and complex
visions of reality. As we have suggested in our Introduction to the volume, these
re-emerging views complement much of contemporary anarchisttheory and
practice, which has itself always posed challenging questions about the social
and natural construction of reality. Although acknowledging the role of particular classes and élites within society in the perpetuation of exploitation and
oppression, all these authors explore the complexity of the boundaries of complicity in power
explicitly or implicitly practised, it is necessary
to consider the potential for influence in areas other than those which anarchists
are naturally prepared to consider. This necessitates a greater flexibility about
notions of inclusion and community as well as a preparedness to take part in networks or broad-based coalitions.
What is ‘the anarchist project’?
Any discussion of anarchist strategies must begin with the worldview of its principal protagonists. Given the historical diversity of anarchisttheory and practice, whether in terms of its
provide the opposition necessary to
the norm. Normal cannot exist without queer (or otherwise deviant). A successful radical politics, I suggest, must not rely upon transgression and opposition if
its goal is to reconstruct society around a different set of norms (e.g., co-operative, non-hierarchical, comfortable with sexuality, consensual, etc.). The importance of consistency between ends and means is an important theme in anarchisttheory. Bookchin notes: ‘it is plain that the goal of revolution today must be the
liberation of daily life . . . there can be no
, inclusive one. This must be based upon an adaptability at seeing anarchisttheory and practice as something that engages with as many areas of
society and culture as is practically possible, rather than existing only as a marginalised and somewhat élitist political force.
In order to arrive at this conclusion, we review the different ways that anarchism can be seen in terms of its often under-acknowledged role in political
change. In particular, we suggest that anarchism can serve as a ‘conscience’ to
many non-anarchist or marginally anarchist milieus in terms of the