Changing Anarchism: Anarchist Theory and Practice in a Global Age

By Jonathan Purkis; James Bowen | Go to book overview

Part 1I
Doing

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 with Jamie Heckert's chapter on sexuality (chapter 5), which also demonstrates the sensitivity and ethical dilemmas that must accompany any libertarian sociological method. Whilst this is a background consideration of the other authors in this section, the principal threads which run through this part of the book concern taking action on an everyday basis, and the need to move away from outdated models of change.

In different ways, each of the chapters is indicative of the movement away from deterministic theorisation towards more holistic, ecological and complex visions of reality. As we have suggested in our Introduction to the volume, these re-emerging views complement much of contemporary anarchist theory and practice, which has itself always posed challenging questions about the social and natural construction of reality. Although acknowledging the role of particular classes and élites within society in the perpetuation of exploitation and oppression, all these authors explore the complexity of the boundaries of complicity in power relations. Devising useful political strategies therefore requires breaking with classical dualistic categories that posed revolutionary actions against reformist ones, a model of a political world long departed.

The result is not as clear-cut as one would always want it to be, theoretically, strategically or ethically. For example, despite a challenging look at the social construction of addiction, Colin Craig's chapter (chapter 7) still appears to be supporting 'liberal' local courses of action such as harm reduction through needle exchange schemes. He also suggests that sometimes the positions adopted by the Left tend not always to be the most libertarian ones and we

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