Anarchism and Political Theory: Contemporary Problems

by Uri Gordon

Contact uri at riseup dot net

Abstract

This thesis explores contemporary anarchism, in its re-emergence as a social movement and political theory over the past decade. The methodology used combines participatory research and philosophical argumentation. The first part, “Explaining Anarchism”, argues that it should be addressed primarily as a political culture, with distinct forms of organisation, campaigning and direct action repertoires, and political discourse and ideology. Largely discontinuous
with the historical workers’ and peasants’ anarchist movement, contemporary anarchism has come together in the intersection of radical direct-action movements in the North since the 1960s: feminism, ecology and resistance to nuclear energy and weapons, war and neoliberal globalisation. Anarchist ideological discourse is analysed with attention to key concepts such as “domination” and “prefigurative politics”, with attention to the avowedly open-ended, experimental nature of the anarchist project. The second part, “Anarchist Anxieties”, is a set of theoretical interventions in four major topics of controversy in anarchism. Leadership in anarchist politics is addressed through sustained attention to the concept of power, proposing an agenda for equalising access to influence among activists, and an “ethic of solidarity” around the wielding of non-coercive power. Violence is approached through a recipient-based definition of the concept, exploring the limits of any attempt to justify violence and offering observations on violent empowerment, revenge and armed struggle. Technology is subject to a strong anarchist critique, which stresses its inherently social nature, leading to the exploration of Luddism, the disillusioned use of ICTs, and the promotion of lo-tech, sustainable human-nature interfaces as strategical directions for an anarchist politics of technology. Finally, questions of nationalism are approached through the lens of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, addressing anarchist dilemmas around statehood, and exploring approaches to “national conflicts” that link multiple forms of oppression and that employ a direct action approach to peacemaking.

 

Table of contents

Front Matter
Introduction
Chapter 1 CULTURE
What moves the movement? Anarchism as a political culture
Chapter 2 HISTORY
Threads of resistance: Tracing the genealogy of contemporary anarchism
Chapter 3 BASICS
What anarchists want: The logic of anti-authoritarian political language
Chapter 4 POWER I
Power and equality: Leadership and power in anarchist organising, part one
Chapter 5 POWER II
Power, invisibility and solidarity: Leadership and power in anarchist organising, part two
Chapter 6 VIOLENCE
Beyond “Diversity of tactics”: Re-assessing the anarchist debate on violence
Chapter 7 TECHNOLOGY
Luddites and hackers: Defining a broad-based anarchist politics of technology
Chapter 8 NATIONALISM
Unholy land: Anarchism, nationalism and Israeli–Palestinian peace
Conclusion
References
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