Changing Anarchism: Anarchist Theory and Practice in a Global Age

By Jonathan Purkis; James Bowen | Go to book overview

Jonathan Purkis and James Bowen


12
Conclusion: how anarchism still matters

Introduction

As possibly the most idealistic, complicated and contradictory political philosophy to have emerged from the Enlightenment, anarchism occupies a unique and under-acknowledged place in the history of ideas. The chapters in this volume have engaged with and critiqued much of what is taken by mainstream academics and commentators to be anarchism. In the era that we have called that of 'global anarchism', the classical anarchist canon has come under attack from a variety of perspectives which have posited different interpretations of history and the use of power based on narratives of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, environment, technology, social psychology and anthropocentrism. The consolidation of these critiques – all of which have long histories – has reinvigorated anarchism and allowed a constructive dialogue with the classical-era theories of Bakunin, Proudhon, Godwin and Kropotkin et al. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, anarchism is extremely theoretically diverse, with considerable fragmentation based on different philosophical premises, each attempting to formulate strategy utilising enduring anarchist principles such as the need for consistency of means and ends and opposition to hierarchy. It is these parallel versions of anarchism that have led to calls for the term anarchisms to be employed instead, or indeed to re-embrace the word anarchy as an idea which many groups work towards but which holds no central organising premise. There is considerable evidence to suggest that, although this may defy consensus, as a description of the practical manifestations of libertarian and antiauthoritarian projects it is hard to fault.

Anarchism has been arguably most recently visible at the many economic and political summits hosted by the rulers of the richest countries and corporate bodies, from Seattle, November 1999, onwards. However, the evidence from this book suggests that we cannot limit our concerns to this particular strand of global anarchism and all of its cross-cultural and cross-continental networks. The variety of anarchist projects on education, media, community activism, ecology, art and literature or sexual liberation is extensive, and these are far from limited to isolated pockets of the West, although there is considerable work still

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