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–2 votes
I am currently trying to incorporate anarchist theory into the syllabus for a class in political philosophy, and though I have a strong background in anarchist activism and political theory in academia, this is proving much harder than I thought. I think it is because I am being quite picky. I am looking for articles that are introductory, namely, they don't assume students have a background in anarchist theory or practice. However, I am definitely not looking for a crimethinc-type manifesto or a grocery list/FAQ account of anarchism. I just read Uri Gordon's "Anarchism Reloaded" which I quite liked, only it was too focused on an anthropologic account of the contemporary global anti-capitalist-anarchist movement and not focused enough on the underlying theoretical or normative principles of contemporary anarchism. I like Colin Ward's work - if only it had been condensed into something smaller than a book (or several). I have also just a read a recent anthology (2009) entitled 'Contemporary Anarchist Studies: an introductory anthology of anarchy in the academy," which is wonderful, however it already assumes a pretty comprehensive background in the history and theory of anarchist thought.

Any help/article suggestions/thoughts would be greatly appreciated!!
In solidarity.

4 Answers

–2 votes
Definitely check out Colin Ward's "Brief Introduction to Anarchism" from the Oxford Press "Brief Introduction..." series, if you haven't already. I'm a fan of his practical approach to non-state/ capital living.

You might also be interested in Uri Gordon's PhD thesis ( or his more accessible published version "Anarchy Alive!"

Anthropology seems to be a pretty popular field among anarchists. Are you familiar with David Graeber's work? ( His background is in anti-globalization activism. He's written a few different things. I find his writings on gift economy most interesting.
by (6.1k points)
edited by
–5 votes
Chomsky on Anarchism

I haven't read it, but Chomsky is usually pretty on point.
by (1.7k points)
Neither of these answers address the academic part of the posed question. Unless I'm missing something?
I haven't read this text either, but I have to disagree with the contention that Chomsky is usually "on point". His anarchism is pretty dubious in the first place. He has a lot to say about 'working within the system' such as advocating voting for Barack Obama, he has many worthwhile critiques of US state and capitalist institutions, but I have yet to see any evidence that he himself identifies as anarchist or even supports anarchy/-ism.From what I've read I can see a case for him being a libertarian socialist, but not an anti-statist.

Furthermore, Chomsky dismisses out of hand anarchist tendencies besides syndicalism and Bakunin-Kropotkin-Goldman style communism. I made sure to include Uri Gordon in my answer because he does make a point of addressing the diverse body of contemporary anarchist theory and practice.
slapfest - I don't know how much more explicitly academic I can get. I pointed, among other texts, to a PhD dissertation. Gordon, Graeber, and Chomsky are all academics; of the individuals whose works have been mentioned so far only Ward was not a professional intellectual, though the book of his I mentioned was published by arguably the most prestigious university in the world.
I could have just as easily recommended "Fire to the Prisons."  I'm really just trolling for down votes here.

Chomsky is an academic, Chomsky wrote a book about anarchism, and the people that run this site and their friends hate Chomsky.  This is the perfect storm for collecting down votes.  I honestly expected to get more.
enkidu - since slapfest never responded...
people being academics doesn't mean that their arguments are academic. you yourself say that colin ward is practical, which to me is almost antithetical to academic. but perhaps there is confusion re: the word.
+1 vote
If your not worried about being absolutely "current," a notion which loses its meaning quickly outside of the constant jiggling illusion of change that has surely been drummed into your student's brains by the media, I would suggest starting with the anti-master himself. Kropotkin wrote a wonderful britannica article about anarchism, as well as many short pamphlets, short enough for a homework assignment, and interesting enough, in the way that they simply do not acknowledge the simplistic oppositions between the "mass" and the "individual" or "freedom" as supposedly opposed to "collectivism" which dominate nearly everyone's way of thinking right now, regardless of class, education, etc. The way he talks about the simplest, most basic human issues has a way of making frustrated and confused people slap themselves and say, "That's what I've been trying to think, and they won't let me!" It is the best possible place to start, I think. It also presents a very much slighted perspective on the very current issue that students will encounter if they move higher up in academia, the "debate," or, " ' "as it were" ' " pile of static, opposed, equally reactionary assumptions about whether human nature and identity is innate or constructed. to Kropotkin, we are innately collective, both radically individual, and incapable of being so without the support of the communities we live in. Nearly a century before anyone talked about "socio-biology," and proceeded immediately to present it in the most reactionary possible terms, Kropotkin was demonstrating that a biological approach to human social behavior in no sense has to be reactionary, and can in fact form the basis of the only truly liberationist philosophy. We don't necessarily have to agree with that completely, but it is important for students entering academia to be familiar with the possibilities of such a perspective, so that they won't pursue meaningless careers as departmental drudges, cranking out "analyses" based on the same old stale, already stated, and utterly uninteresting strings of assumptions. I would also include primary works from Emma Goldman, and perhaps Malatesta's "At the Cafe," which explains the basic principles of syndicalism in For Dummies terms, in the delightfully trite context of a luncheon conversation. If you wan to be more up to date, Bookchin is an obvious source, or for articles that are more properly enless-regress-of-footnotes style academic, there is the journal Anarchist Studies. Its good to know someone is even mentioning this subject to their students
by (140 points)
+1 vote
"Enemies of Society" (available at Little Black Cart) is the best book I've read on Egoist/Individualist Anarchy so far. Others above me have mentioned other worthwhile texts. I mention this one because this strain of anarchy is often merely footnoted or outright ignored.
by (1.6k points)