Anarchism and Education: A Philosophical Perspective, 2nd Edition

By DeLeon, Abraham | Anarchist Studies, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Anarchism and Education: A Philosophical Perspective, 2nd Edition


DeLeon, Abraham, Anarchist Studies


Judith Suissa, Anarchism and Education: A Philosophical Perspective, 2nd edition Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2010; 164pp, $19.95 ISBN: 978-1-60486-114-3

Anarchist theory. The words alone are enough to strike fear in most that hear them, making anarchism often maligned and misunderstood. In education, radical theories have been centered in Marxism in the works of scholars like Paulo Freiré and Peter McLaren. Interestingly, anarchism has been heavily invested with educational projects globally but has not been sufficiently theorized in the educational context. Luckily, Judith Suissa explores what she calls a 'social anarchist' engagement with anarchist theory and education. Originally published in 2006 (Routledge), this second edition has now been published by PM Press. There has been recent work since its initial publication, which should have been covered in a more thorough introduction that places the book within its historical conjuncture (see, for example, Antliff, 2007; DeLeon, 2008). Despite this, the book produces a critical and informative narrative about what social anarchism can mean for education. Suissa highlights five important claims that can be gleaned from the social anarchist literature: mutualism, federalism, collectivism, communism and syndicalism. It is through these that I will position this book and its implications.

Mutualism is an important feature of social anarchist thought, and supports the notion that 'society should be organized not on the basis of a hierarchical, centralist, top-down structure such as the state, but on the basis of reciprocal voluntary agreements between individuals' (p.l 1). Cooperation and the ideal of mutual community building lies at the heart of many anarchist projects, especially when we think about the role(s) that anarchists envision education to assume. According to Suissa, it can be the role of education to 'systematically promote and emphasize cooperation, solidarity, and mutual aid', which will 'undermine the values underlying the capitalist state' (p.32). Suissa speaks to several historical examples, specifically an excellent treatment of the Escuela Moderna project of Francisco Ferrer in Spain (p.80).

She also points to anarchist conceptions of federalism. This is envisioned as a loosely organized series of communities and networked through councils - 'established spontaneously to meet specific economic or organizational needs of the communities; they would have no central authority, no permanent bureaucratic structure, and their delegates would have no executive authority' (p.

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