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.
-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. Millett,
like Moore, identifies a psychological and psychoanalytic dimension to understanding authority, alienation and history, which is a powerful and still underacknowledged aspect of contemporary anarchism. Purkis addresses similar issues
in his chapter, but from the perspective of the
more ‘spiritual’ aspects of oneself without succumbing to forms of oppression
such as organised religion or personality cults? Such questions have led anarchists into many different directions, embracing existentialism, Taoism, paganism to extreme forms of isolationism and even hedonism. Yet, for most, the
process of being in the world is inextricably linked to that of becoming and
linked to questions of strategy developed in the previous section of the book.
Moreover, the question of being must be part of a holistic and integrated critique.
The contributions in
existence of an authoritarian (as opposed to democratic) ‘technics’ that organised all human relationships in the period of the early civilisations. It has been through such systems that societies have internalised and
reproduced alienated power relationships.
Why anarchism still matters
Whilst clearly enjoying considerable appeal during an age of globalisation
and American supremacy, these ideas can be seen to form the backbone of the
contemporary anti-civilisational and anti-technological anarchistcritique. In
particular, they raise questions about human
Reflections on contemporary anarchism, anti-capitalism and the international scene
Estate such as David Watson (1996, 1999). This
strand is growing in importance in the anarchist movement, and looks to the lives
of people living in small-scale societies, including primitive and rural village/
peasant societies, to learn how to reclaim autonomous ways of life with a low
impact on the earth. A crucial aspect of this anti-technological and anti-civilisationalcritique is the need to reclaim a relationship with the land and local economies, not only in the global South as a means of alleviating poverty, but also in
the global North
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
state’s interference. To anarchists its
taxes rob the citizen and its agents and laws oppress him.
Basically, then, the state is
‘anti-human’. Its ultimate expression is war. This is not merely
a critique of totalitarian states: even liberal democracies constitute a
systematic oppression of individuals. Indeed, liberal and representative
democracy is especially reviled as fraudulent. Democratic majorities are
. Finally, I conclude with a call for an anarchist, issue-based politics of sexuality.
Opposites and sex
In structuralism, following Levi-Strauss, ‘binary oppositions were thought to
structure psychic and social life in a patterned, universal way’ (Seidman, 1998:
221). Thus, those who were among the first to challenge dualist thought (e.g.,
Derrida, 1976) provided the basis for poststructuralism. Criticism of dualist
thought has since become central to much feminist theory (especially critiques
of the division between public and private), postcolonial theory (in that the
’. Ideologies were abstract systems
Fifth Estate’s critique of the megamachine
that ended up telling people what they could or could not do or think, and tended
to become ossified and not receptive to changing historical conditions.
Consequently the FE rejected anarchism, but not anarchy as a goal. As it stated
in ‘Renew the earthly paradise’ in 1986: ‘We are not anarchists per se but rather
pro-anarchy, which is for us a living, integral experience, incommensurate with
Power and refusing all ideology’(Fifth Estate, 1986: 10). As their perspective
developed, FE staff
(London: Fontana, 1973), 258.
Quoted in Hal Draper, Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution,
Volume IV Critique of Other Socialisms (New York: Monthly Review Press,
Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring (London:
Lawrence and Wishart, 1943), 126, 161.