Colin Ward provides answers to these questions by considering anarchism from a variety of perspectives: theoretical, historical, and international, and by exploring key anarchist thinkers, from Kropotkin through to Chomsky. He looks critically at anarchism by evaluating key ideas within it, such as its blanket opposition to incarceration, and the policy of 'no compromise' with the apparatus of political decision-making. Can anarchy ever function effectively as a political force? Is it more "organized" and "reasonable" than is currently perceived? Whatever the politics of the listener, Ward's argument ensures that anarchism will be much better understood after experiencing this book.
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Ward quotes Martin Buber: "All forms of government has this in common: each possesses more power than is required by the given conditions." Buber calls this this "political surplus". One only has to look around the world to see how such political surplus is spent.
I was surprised at the extent of anarchist influence. Ward devotes 4 pages to how anarchism functioned practically is Spain in the 1930's, where 3 million people were organized in anarchist communes.
Anarchists have been at the forefront of considering ecological sustainability. Ward cites authors who believe that anarchism is the only approach that can meet the ecological challenges we face.
Given the problems socialism has faced, Ward argues it is too soon to write off anarchism when looking for alternatives to present forms of government. We may have been taught little about anarchism except to be dismissive of it, but Ward's book is an excellent start to understanding what anarchism offers. There are many references to the works of anarchists.
If capitalism seems to work, albeit at a considerable ecological cost, the growing ecological crises may force us within our lifetimes to explore alternative ways of living. Socialism may not be a big enough change, retaining as it does a strong central government with its own political surplus. If you think you can manage more political participation that casting a vote every few years, anarchism may be worth studying.
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