Anarchism Today

By Graham, Robert | Anarchist Studies, July 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Anarchism Today


Graham, Robert, Anarchist Studies


Randall Amster, Anarchism Today Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2012; 230 pp; ISBN-13: 978-0313398728

Randall Amster teaches at Prescott College in Arizona. He has been active in the anarchist movement for many years. In Anarchism Today, he presents an overview of contemporary anarchist theory and practice, showing the continuing appeal and coherence of anarchist ideas. His survey of various anarchist currents, from more traditional forms of class struggle anarchism to primitivist and post-modernist approaches, is balanced and comprehensive. For the most part, he lets each perspec- tive speak for itself, but occasionally presents some critiques of these various and sometimes opposing currents.

It is a very ecumenical approach, which has the advantage of emphasising the positive aspects of contemporary anarchism, presenting a clear picture for people unfamiliar with anarchist ideas, helping to dispel common misconceptions and to rebut more facile criticisms of anarchist ideas and movements. The book is an easy read.

Amster is generous with his quotations, with various anarchist perspec- tives being expressed in the words of their proponents. Occasionally, he presents muted criticisms of some contemporary anarchist currents, but generally tries to emphasise common ground rather than to focusing on sometimes divisive issues. By downplaying the differences between competing schools of anarchist thought, there is a risk that contemporary anarchism may appear to be more unified than it really is, making disputes between various currents difficult to understand, and the actions of one faction unfairly attributable to another. On the other hand, focusing on the differences and disputes would tend to obscure the anarchist forest for the trees and would probably be even more confusing. This book is, after all, an introduction to contemporary anarchist theory and practice, such that Amster's focus on common themes, emphasising the general coherence of anarchism, far better serves that purpose.

Instead of coming up with 57 varieties of anarchist thought, Amster strives for 'a synthesis that weaves together past and present incarnations of anarchism', a project similar to that of earlier anarchists, such as Sébastien Faure and Voline, who also tried to develop an 'anarchist synthesis', taking what was best from the various schools of anarchist thought and combining it into a coherent whole (see Voline, Anarchist Synthesis', Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Volume One: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE-1939), ed. R. Graham). Amster's approach is also reminiscent of Alan Ritter's sadly neglected attempt to develop a conceptually coherent anarchist theory around the notion of 'communal individuality', which he defined as 'the greatest individual develop- ment with the greatest communal unity' (Ritter, Anarchy, Law and Freedom', in Anarchism, Volume Three: The New Anarchism (1974-2012), ed. R. Graham). Similarly, Amster sees anarchism as 'a theory of radical egalitarianism as much as one of individual autonomy'.

Amster develops his own framework for analysing anarchism using several sometimes interrelated, sometimes seemingly conflicting, concepts: anti-author- itarianism, voluntarism, mutualism, 'autonomism', egalitarianism, naturalism, anti-capitalism, 'dynamism', pragmatism, utopianism and decentralism. While I had a little trouble getting used to the neologism, 'autonomism' (my brain keeps wanting to read 'automatism', which is pretty much the opposite), Amster clearly explains the concept of autonomy as both individual and social self-governance or self-rule, which for him implies both freedom and responsibility: the freedom to determine one's own actions and values, and the responsibility to do so. The other concept that requires some explanation is 'dynamism', which Amster uses to refer to the 'creative, spontaneous, and playful actions' often advocated and practised by anarchists, as well as revolutionary direct action and so-called 'propaganda by the deed'. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Anarchism Today
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.