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Anarchist theory and practice in a global age

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.

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this section each address notions of being and becoming within different areas of anarchist theory 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

in Changing anarchism
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Why anarchism still matters

touchstone to explore matters that are becoming increasingly central to anarchist theory 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

in Changing anarchism

, 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 anarchist theory, and anarchists, whether old or new, are united in their belief that it

in Changing anarchism

these differences by looking at the assumptions behind the established sociological literature on social movements and offering some suggestions as to how anarchist theory 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 44 Part I

in Changing anarchism
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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 anarchist theory is not lost on any of these authors, particularly when their starting points are sometimes challenging. The

in Changing anarchism
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movement away 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 anarchist theory 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

in Changing anarchism
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Rethinking anarchist strategies

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. 118 Part II Doing What is ‘the anarchist project’? Any discussion of anarchist strategies must begin with the worldview of its principal protagonists. Given the historical diversity of anarchist theory and practice, whether in terms of its

in Changing anarchism

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 anarchist theory. Bookchin notes: ‘it is plain that the goal of revolution today must be the liberation of daily life . . . there can be no

in Changing anarchism
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How anarchism still matters

, inclusive one. This must be based upon an adaptability at seeing anarchist theory 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

in Changing anarchism