Changing Anarchism

Changing Anarchism: Anarchist Theory and Practice in a Global Age

Jonathan Purkis
James Bowen
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Changing Anarchism
    Book Description:

    The massive protests against globalisation in recent years have re-awoken interest in anarchism. Changing anarchism sets out to reposition anarchist theory and practice by documenting contemporary anarchist practice and providing a viable analytical framework for understanding it. The contributions here, from both academics and activists, raise challenging and sometimes provocative questions about the complex nature of power and resistance to it. The areas covered include: sexuality and identity; psychological dependency on technology; libertarian education; religion and spirituality; protest tactics; mental health and artistic expression; and the ongoing 'metaphorical wars' against drugs and terror. This collection epitomises the rich diversity that exists within contemporary anarchism as well as demonstrating its ongoing relevance as a sociological tool.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-101-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of contributors
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction: why anarchism still matters
    (pp. 1-20)
    James Bowen and Jonathan Purkis

    In February 2002, Commander Brian Paddick, then Police Chief for the (London) Metropolitan Borough of Brixton, posted the following message on the direct action discussion forum

    The concept of anarchism has always appealed to me. The idea of the innate goodness of the individual that is corrupted by society or the system. It is a theoretical argument but I am not sure everyone would behave well if there were no laws and no system. I believe there are many people forced into causing harm to others by the way society operates at the moment.

    These comments, made by a...

  6. Part I Thinking
    • [Part I Introduction]
      (pp. 21-22)

      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 determinants, rather than single sources exercised by the State or the economy....

    • 1 Anti-capitalism and poststructuralist anarchism
      (pp. 23-38)
      Dave Morland

      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, myself included, have taken the view that thereissufficient rigour and coherence within social anarchism to label this as an identifiable ideology (Morland, 1997; Woodcock, 1975). Notwithstanding...

    • 2 Towards an anarchist sociology
      (pp. 39-54)
      Jonathan Purkis

      The ‘politics’ of knowledge has long been a concern of the humanities and social sciences. The decisions taken about which areas of society are regarded as being worthy of study, how they should be researched and the relative usefulness of the findings raise many questions about power and how it is manifested within particular societies. The ideological implications of these issues extend to questioning the role of the academic just as much as the legitimacy of State agencies who might turn research recommendations into potentially harmful social policies. In recent decades such questions have become part of the Marxist project...

    • 3 Lived poetry: Stirner, anarchy, subjectivity and the art of living
      (pp. 55-72)
      John Moore

      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 anarchistsavoir-vivreis 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...

    • 4 Technology is capital: Fifth Estate’s critique of the megamachine
      (pp. 73-98)
      Steve Millett

      ‘How do we begin to discuss something as immense as technology?’, writes T. Fulano at the beginning of his essay ‘Against the megamachine’ (1981a: 4). Indeed, the degree to which the technological apparatus penetrates all elements of contemporary society does make such an undertaking a daunting one. Nevertheless, it is an undertaking that the US journal and collectiveFifth Estatehas attempted. In so doing, it has developed arguably the most sophisticated and challenging anarchist approach to technology currently available.¹

      Starting from the late 1970s, theFifth Estate(hereafterFE) began to put forward the argument that the technologies of...

  7. Part II Doing
    • [Part II Introduction]
      (pp. 99-100)

      The following four chapters provide a snapshot of a number of debates and critical positions which inform contemporary anarchist practice. The specific areas covered offer unique perspectives on aspects of socialisation – sexuality, education, addiction and mental health – and how this can be challenged at a number of different levels. Each of the contributors comes from a specialist professional or activist background (rather than an established academic one), and to varying degrees the chapters bear out points made in Part I, ‘Thinking’ regarding biographical positioning of the author in terms of carrying out research. This is particularly the case...

    • 5 Sexuality/identity/politics
      (pp. 101-116)
      Jamie Heckert

      At an anarchist discussion group, I confessed to working for the council. I explained that I felt justified because the sexual health programme in which I was involved was so incredibly progressive. The person to whom I had made this admission replied, rather haughtily, ‘I hardly think sex education is revolutionary.’ Putting aside the idea that something is only worthwhile if it will bring on ‘the revolution’, I was concerned with the apparent attitude that sex education cannot be ‘anarchist’. Perhaps this is because anarchism has traditionally focused on formal hierarchy, especially in the forms of the State and capital....

    • 6 Moving targets: rethinking anarchist strategies
      (pp. 117-128)
      James Bowen

      In the anarchist movement in Britain and across the world today, there are a number of reasonably prolific publishing projects and a few moderately successful groups and organisations. It is even true that the wordanarchismhas lost much of its popular perception as a source of terror and chaos, particularly in ‘anti-globalisation’ and environmental circles; but anarchismper sesimply does not have an impact on the vast majority of the population. This is not to say thatchangeis not happening all around us at all times, and that there aren’t elements of that change relating to the...

    • 7 What did you do in the Drug War, Daddy?
      (pp. 129-144)
      Colin Craig

      The War on Drugs has been going on since US President Richard Nixon coined the term in the late 1960s. It appears at first sight to be a completely illogical concept: how, we might ask ourselves, can a war be fought against a conceptual term that defies definition? Of course, the War on Drugs refers to those drugs that have been proscribed by law and therefore deemed illegal, and it represents a conflict with the express intention of eradicating illicit substance use from the face of the planet. In actual fact, since the outset of the War on Drugs, there...

    • 8 In the eye of the beholder – child, mad or artist?
      (pp. 145-158)
      Joanna Gore

      In a climate of capitalist control, exercised through education, notions of normality, categorisation, economic structure, inequality and so on, resistance manifests itself in many guises. This discussion concerns the role of art and how artistic expression can challenge dominant constructions of reality; specifically those adhered to by two sometimes remarkably similar institutions, the mental hospital and the school. Within Western societies these institutions are characterised by a structure, function and ideology which is intended to ‘educate’ or ‘cure’ inmates, moving them from invalid categories of ‘negative subject’ into institutional ideas of ‘normality’ and the ‘ideal subject’. Artistic expression is often...

  8. Part III Being
    • [Part III Introduction]
      (pp. 159-162)

      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 develop more ‘spiritual’ aspects of oneself without succumbing to forms of oppression such as organised religion...

    • 9 The anarchist travelling circus: reflections on contemporary anarchism, anti-capitalism and the international scene
      (pp. 163-180)
      Karen Goaman

      The phrase ‘anarchist travelling circus’ was uttered in stern tones by Tony Blair, as, after the European Union summit in Gothenburg, Sweden, in June 2001, he condemned the protests that have converged on every significant such gathering over the last few years. The unintentional note of joyfulness, play and spontaneity captured by this phrase was quickly recuperated by the movement itself, appearing on a banner, and reproduced for May Day 2002 in London. Here the May Day Collective called for an Anarchist Travelling Circus strand, a ‘mobile, spontaneous and collective performance, reclaiming the roots and culture of mayday!’ For future...

    • 10 Good news for Francisco Ferrer – how anarchist ideals in education have survived around the world
      (pp. 181-198)
      David Gribble

      This chapter discusses the educational ideas of Francisco Ferrer, as expressed in his bookThe origin and ideals of the Modern School(1913) and compares these ideas with actual practice in anarchist schools early in the twentieth century. I suggest that a parallel movement grew up during the last century in the progressive or democratic schools which was in many ways closer in spirit to Ferrer than these early anarchist schools. This chapter reviews the fundamental principles of a free education before describing how these may be observed in practice in some of the many schools around the world that...

    • 11 Enchantment and its uses: religion and spirituality in environmental direct action
      (pp. 199-212)
      Bronislaw Szerszynski and Emma Tomalin

      What are the uses of enchantment? From an anarchist perspective, are forms of spiritual belief and practice always to be considered as a surrendering of personal autonomy, an enslavement to irrationality? We will suggest otherwise – that spirituality can be a source of personal empowerment. Our title contains an implicit reference to Bruno Bettelheim, who argued that fairy tales were useful for children, in that they contributed to their psychological development (Bettelheim, 1976). While we will not take a similarly psychological route in defence of eco-spirituality – with the implication that spiritual beliefs cannot be true but only useful –...

  9. Conclusion: how anarchism still matters
    (pp. 213-229)
    Jonathan Purkis and James Bowen

    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 tobe anarchism. In the era that we have called that of ‘global anarchism’, the classical anarchist canon has come under attack from a variety of perspectives which have posited different interpretations of history and the use of power based on narratives of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, environment, technology, social psychology and anthropocentrism....

  10. Glossary
    (pp. 230-238)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-256)
  12. Index
    (pp. 257-260)