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+5 votes

What novels, movies, poems, etc. portray anarchic interactions positively?

I have this idea that people are uncomfortable acting in ways that they can't emulate from stories, either historical or fictional.  I want to have some titles available to offer friends and family, especially children.

I'll start off with Terry Pratchett's Wee Free Men.  What else can you think of?

by (480 points)
the movie Harold and Maude portrays some anarchic interactions, including the two characters' relationship. i recommend it for ruth gordon's performance alone, and i think some kids would like it too (i watched it originally at about age 11).
Hella hella Harold and Maude.

you may find interest in reading Things as They Are; or The Adventures of Caleb Williams by William Godwin. i've only read the first volume.
edit: reread question. it may not be what you're seeking as it doesn't depict an anarchic society.

"slow apocalypse" was an interesting look at how people deal with the breakdown of society (takes place in los angeles). not explicitly anarchist at all, but i found aspects rather thought provoking. i actually think it is the most realistic "mainstream" depiction of that situation i have read. which may not be saying much.
harold and maude is great movie, i've watched most of it, very funny too! Definetly instructive for learning how to navigate this weird world we live least for those who are not familiar with anarchist concepts.

7 Answers

+4 votes

Crimethinc actually put out some things I think are alright on these terms: 

Expect Resistance is both polemic (in the spirit of Days of War Nights of Love) that is a little more, well, polemic than I like, but has three (or four? I would have to re-read..) narratives that nicely tie in the recycled and sometimes bludgeonsome bits of theory through the stories of some folks coming together at a university occupation, and then shooting off from there. This book engaged me in a way that their earlier books hadn't.

They also put out two children's books, The Secret World of Terijen and the Secret World of Duvbo that I found delightful.

Someone will mention Bolo'Bolo so it might as well be me (still haven't read it, but many people do like it),

Aragorn! has written a couple zines (Story of the Bear People Story of the Racoon People) that I enjoyed, don't know if they give much of a vision, so much as serving as allegory.

There are more things... this is what I can think of right now (meaning I will edit or comment to add more).

by (22.1k points)
edited by
+2 votes

i'm gonna take a shot at my first answer, so bear with me. there are a few movies that depict anarchist interactions or societies.

- Rebellion in Patagonia - it's about anarcho-syndicalist workers who are allied with other workers against the transnational wool company. the rebellion of the workers was brutally put down. the movie takes place in argentina and i believe is based on the massacre in Patagonia in 1821. 

- Alexander The Great - it depicts an anarchist named Alexander and others attempt to overthrow a monarch. Alexander later betrays the people and sides with the monarchy. 

- Zero For Conduct - it's about a student rebellion at a boarding school.

- Salt of the Earth - depicts a collective of miners and their struggles to work freely and live their lives freely.

- Behold a Pale Horse - about the spanish civil war and a bandit. it's somewhat based on an anarchist guerrilla named Francesc Sabate Llopart 

- Viva Zapata! - it's about Emiliano Zapata and set during mexico's revolution. 

i provided the imdb links to make them easier to find. there are other films like Land and Freedom and a few more i can't think of. hope that was somewhat useful

edit: fixed formatting and wording

by (4.7k points)
edited by
+2 votes

I can't believe no one has mentioned Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed. It's a bust read for any anarchist. Also, William Morris' News From Nowhere is somewhat libertarian socialist response to Bellamy's Looking Backwards. Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is also good, but it has been an inspiration for ancaps and other right libertarians, so be warned. Nonetheless it is a depiction of a society free of government force. For movies I suggest LIbertarias, which depicts the Mujeres LIbres of spain (Free Women of Spain). 

by (220 points)
+1 vote

i'm on the last book of the terra ignota trilogy, by ada palmer, who has a very interesting, confusing, philosophical take on a sort of bolo'bolo style society (barring the extremely significant size limitation, among other things) that includes two different groups i would call anarchic (the blacklaws and the utopians), within a larger context that could also be called meta-anarchy or some fucking thing. don't quote me on that. 

kinda reads like a philosophy doctoral thesis in fiction form, which isn't to say it's dry, although it is at times. anyway, if you have some time and brainspace, i think it's worthwhile.

edit: to include some other science fiction pieces, because i feel this list so far is seriously lacking--
iain banks' culture novels
"the last of the masters" by PK dick

always coming home by UK le guin (if i recall correctly) (i mean, it's definitely by ursula, and i think it has an anarchist society. it's been decades since reading)

walkaway by cory doctorow

woman on the edge of time by marge piercy

the city, not long after by pat murphy

by (53.1k points)
edited by
sounds potentially interesting. except the "philosophy doctoral thesis" aspect. i have such an aversion to academic philosophical texts - not least because of my relatively limited vocabulary that requires me to look up every third word - that i may not be capable of giving it a fair chance. (edit: though in reality, it is the opaque, elistist tenor of the text more than the words per se) but maybe this winter, once i'm done all my winter priorities and stuck inside for 3 months, i would check it out. primarily because i really want to know what "meta-anarchy" might be. :-)
yea, it's not academic. it is kind of the opposite of that, although it would probably make more sense for people who are grounded in folks like voltaire and hobbs (definitely not me). but it might be more fun for folks who are not (less checking references, more imagination).

my housemate didn't make it through the second one, but agrees that it's an interesting effort. the writing is oddly... can't think of the word for it. gothic, maybe? i look forward to your thoughts come spring.

edit:ok - not meta-anarchy. just unreliable narrator and a very gradual explanation curve, i guess.
definitely addressing questions about government, society, and religion in an interesting and aggressively non-anti-civ way.

coolest treatment of gender, i think. fwtw. have fun!
+3 votes

There are a series of books by Iain M. Banks known as the "Culture Series" that's about space anarcho-communists known as 'The Culture' that have colonized the galaxy. The Culture is comprised of many different alien species, post-humans humans, and A.I. A lot of the books deal with the dilemmas faced when interacting with authoritarian planets. There are 10 or 11 books in all.

Voyage From Yesteryear by James P. Morgan could be considered to be depicting an anarchist society. It deals with a first generation of humans born on some planet that are completely disconnected from humans on earth and are raised by robots who teach them about true freedom. Then the fascists arrive and try enslave them

Eumeswil by Ernest Junger. It's not about an anarchist society, but the main character is a Max Stirner type of individual anarch living in a society eerily similar to today's society.

Aaaaaand this is a bit of a stretch, but if you're into that Kevin Tucker primal anarchy stuff then Monkey Planet aka Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle. The human like species in that book 'rewild', undomesticated, and devolved themselves into hunter gatherers that can't talk, per se, but can make noises. There are a few movies based off the book, but they're a wee bit different.

by (4.7k points)
edited by
i had to upvote you just for your ending understatement

maybe similar to what z said about "Eumeswil", and at the risk of straying a bit close to an-cap style libertarianism, i found the main character of ayn rand's "the fountainhead" to be similarly stirner-esque. it has been quite a few years since i read it. now that i think of it, i remember a passage in "anthem" (also by rand) that struck me as a virtual egoist stump speech. :-)

rand is a perfect example of someone whose ideas (as i take them from my readings) are overall far from my own, but there are elements that i find useful.

i would take that as a reason to doubt stirner, rather than as a credit to ayn! ;)
i doubt em both, believe me.

but i take what makes sense for me, from both.
That's interesting. The most famous and oldest planet of the apes movie is somewhat of a sci-fi/christian (just thinking of charlton heston as jesus like in the matrix and the monkey's as the pharisees and sadduccees) tale about how humans ruined their own civilizations. I think i saw that around 15 years ago, definetly inspired me at the time.

Fountainhead is definetly a boring "libertarian" polemic before it was cool. The main character was clearly Ayn Rand IMHO like in Atlas Shrugged too. Glad she saved me from reading that one.

Any novel about philosophers smoking cigars is definetly about max many books.

Here's a hot take: so phillip k. dick was certainly a christian anarchist. He had a lot of wierd drug induced visions about christianity and the romans, and his protagonists were always basically anti-hero cogs in machines. Think "Scanner Darkly". The one story dot posted on here was extremely anti-civilization in character, and in fact he wasn't entirely a sci-fi writer either. "Confessions of a crap artist" was a realist novel about his time period, and the husband who murdered his pets at the end of the novel has an eerie resemblence to the american wave of mass shooters.

funkyanarchy, i've never read an ayn rand book all the way through so I'm not sure if Eumeswil is similar. I've tried to read the one about who john galt is, but never finished it. I've seen people compare the book to lolbertarianism, but I don't see how those folk came to that conclusion.

Anyways, I was trying to limit spoilers. Thus the vague description. Eumeswil is set sometime after a apocalypse. In the book the society is set in an liberal-like democracy. Most of the book is the main character's thoughts on his disdain for the society he lives, his desires for his own internal freedom, and just random stuff. Ernest Junger wrote book called Der Waldgang that's supposed to be read first, but I have not read it.

Nihilist the first Planet of the Apes movie is great. The sequels and reboots/remake are not great sad. In the book, the Taylor character and his fellow astronauts actually do go to another planet and not a future earth. It's basically the same as earth in the 1970s with humans and other earth animals. The book has move of an anti-technology message rather than the anti-nuke like in the movie and sequels. I saw the movie A Scanner Darkly. and It was pretty interesting and weird.

+2 votes

I'll add a few more into the mix.

Momo by Michael Ende is a children's novel that is also very readable for adults. The main character is a child who lives totally independent of family, school, state et al, and forms anarchic relations with other free spirits of various ages. Then the men in gray come... Awesome story.

Less explicitly anarchist, but The Neverending Story, also by Ende, is also very good.

Genet's Our Lady of the Flowers describes a social formation that is anarchic of the queer criminal variety, and the book itself was a kind of prison escape. The language is beautiful to float in.

Dhalgren is just an incredible story. It's about countercultural communities in a weird post-collapse environment with no government or social structures. Not for kids, and not exactly a positive portrayal, but also not a negative one.

The Invisibles is a comic book series (but for adults) where the superheroes are a time-traveling insurgent anarchist conspiracy. It's just great.

And of course Letters of Insurgents. Fredy does an incredible job of showing anarchist communities as they exist in and try to escape the capitalist world, warts and all. Again not really a children's book at all.

by (20.5k points)

I didn't get an anarchist vibe from The Neverending Story, but then again I haven't read in over 25+ years and I likely would've been unaware of noticing something like that. I'll have download the Neverending Story and read it again and along with the other book you mentioned that was wrote by the same guy. The Invisibles by Grant Morrison is pretty good, but I haven't read them all. I've read the first 24 comics Part of the Arcadia storyline was censored by the UK (comics 6 & 7). I think it was because of what's depicted when they were transported to France and then into the 120 Days of Sodom book. It makes me wonder if that caused Grant Morrison and the artists to tone down the depiction of violence a bit after those two issues.

There was a comic series called Anarchy Comics that had a variety of strips focused on historical anarchist events, mocking Lenin and other satire concerning the Soviets, and just random stuff. Libcom has copies of them.

There are quite a few underground comix that have an anarchist bent to, but they're hard to find. Like Trashman for example.

Ende was some kind of anarchist for sure. I can't remember the details but there's a nice little bio at the end of the Messing Around edition of Momo. Some of the anarchic stuff in The Neverending Story:

Reading as an escape from the shittiness of society. The transformation of Bastian from being a simple reader to being a co-creator of the story. The inscription "Do What You Wish" on Auryn and Bastian's search for his true desires.

+3 votes
pippi fucking longstocking.

mic drop.

by (53.1k points)
LOL, yeah that has basically been my own reaction to this whole thread, is that a lot of fictional books and movies portray battles against authority, parsing out which one's are anarchist or not is largely subjective...but not stupid...
double upvote for the mic drop!
I'd agree to a certain extent up until the stuff about her vat of gold coins and all the insinuations related to the vat of gold coins.

Harold and the Purple Crayon is better. Harold is aware of the power of his autonomy and his abilities. He rejects the status quo and through his own creativity, he decides to fuck it and leave the status quo behind to make his own reality by drawing it. He never returns to the status quo.
@zubaz...hahaha...i think it's great that none of the three letter agencies in washington have been about to take down pirate bay even though they have wasted so much effort trying.