Changing Anarchism: Anarchist Theory and Practice in a Global Age

By Jonathan Purkis; James Bowen | Go to book overview

James Bowen and Jonathan Purkis


Introduction: why anarchism still matters

Global matters

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 www.urban75.com:

The concept of anarchism has always appealed to me. The idea of the innate good-
ness 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 senior British police officer already controversial for being openly gay and for extremely liberal drug enforcement policies, created something of a sensation in the mainstream media (where he also repeated them). The incident also prompted some sections of the slightly bemused alternative media to react with outrage that a policeman was wasting valuable anarchist discussion time on 'their' medium!

The controversy surrounding Paddick's comments provides a touchstone to explore matters that are becoming increasingly central to anarchist theory and practice. We live in an era where the politics of information are formulated and contested in a myriad of real and virtual locations and media, and where ascertaining influence, apportioning blame, conceptualising and co-ordinating strategy has become an almost impossible business. Who knows what the impacts and influence of Paddick's remarks have been on the wider milieu?

The resurgence of interest in anarchism, which has been steadily percolating through often quite different social movements in the West over the last few decades, has now begun to form significant waves on a much wider scale, linking First and Third World struggles. This has resulted in the formation of a diversity of political alliances coalescing around the politics of globalisation. The socalled anti-globalisation movement (sometimes called the 'alternative globalisation movement') that emerged in the mid-1990s includes indigenous peoples'

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