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A sociological analysis of movement anarchism

The black flag means negation, anger, outrage, mourning, beauty, hope, and the fostering and sheltering of new forms of human life and relationship on and with the earth. This book aims to destroy many of the assumptions and stereotypes about anarchism, anarchists, and anarchist movements. It introduces Mario Diani's definition of a social movement: networks of individuals and organizations, united by some shared identity, that engage in extra-institutional action with the interest of changing society. Social movements must be composed of individuals. The book provides new insights into individual participants in anarchist movements by investigating what the micro-level characteristics of contemporary anarchists are, and how these characteristics differ from those of anarchists in past movements. The anarchist movement can be interrogated from many vantage points (especially macro- and meso-analyses), in both longitudinal and cross-sectional contexts. The book explores the usefulness (or lack thereof) of social movement theories for understanding anarchist movements. It challenges the assumption that the state is a strategic location of opportunity from the perspective of radical, anti-state movements. The essential dimensions of "new social movement" (NSM) theories are discussed, with highlights on the differences between the contemporary anarchist movement and other NSMs. The book also explores ideas from major social capital theorists, and considers the value of social capital. Whereas most sociological research on anti-authoritarian diffusion and isomorphism has focused on mainstream organizations or reformist social movements, anarchist movements pose a particular challenge to the earlier findings focused on the non-anarchists.

Anarchism as a unique example

This chapter introduces the essential characteristics of social movements and their sociological study. It also introduces the central issues relevant to the sociological study of anarchist movements. The chapter presents an overview of certain attributes of anarchism. Anarchist movements internally organize themselves without leadership or authority figures. A core prerequisite to studying anarchist movements is to distinguish between that which is actually anarchist and that which is not, as well as between what identifies an anarchist and what does not. By viewing anarchist movements as networks, it is possible to account for their flexibility, distribution, overlap, and fluidity. The chapter concludes by modeling the anti-anarchist counter-network, considering the various levels of analysis of anarchism that could be investigated, and describing the helpful comparisons worth making to better understand anarchist movements.

in Black flags and social movements
A micro-structural analysis

This chapter attempts to provide new insights into individual participants in anarchist movements. It explores the socio-demographics, identities, and behaviors, actions, and experiences of anarchists. The chapter provides a brief overview of past anarchist movements, which were strongly rooted in working-class and intellectual communities, prioritized a certain political focus, and worked through a variety of organizations. It further assesses anarchist participation within "old" social movement organizations of the past: labor unions. Social class has always been a central focus of anarchist movements, particularly due to anarchism's concern about the oppression of disadvantaged groups. It is clear that when anarchists identify specifically with an economic ideology they are more likely to belong to labor unions. There is a large and statistically significant difference between the percentage of economic anarchist union members and non-union members.

in Black flags and social movements

This chapter explores organizational-level data sources featuring international anarchist organizations. Using the Anarchist Yellow Pages (AYP) directory and the International Blacklist (IBL), it offers a systematic description of the types of organizations that comprise the contemporary anarchist movement, as well as its international geographic patterns. The chapter provides an initial descriptive and analytical account of the geographic clustering of types of anarchist organizations. Anarchist organizations are often small by design, prefer decentralized action, and are disconnected from the power structures that corporations use to control their environments. The concentrations of anarchist organizations found in the AYP suggest that the movement tends to be strongly European-centered. The chapter suggests that the information that the AYP provides on anarchist organizations allows us to at least establish a baseline for discussion. The discussion is about the larger social forces that shape the distribution of organizational forms in the anarchist movement throughout the world.

in Black flags and social movements

This chapter explores the usefulness of social movement theories for understanding anarchist movements. It focuses on structural strain or value-added theory, class or Marxian theories, world-systems analysis, the Eros Effect, relative deprivation and grievances, resource mobilization, frame alignment, Charles Tilly's work, and the dynamics of contention. John Lofland, an American sociologist, has claimed that continual back-and-forth arguments around social movement theory are counterproductive; he argues that "theory-bashing" is far less important than "question answering". Lofland describes some questions, which he claims are central for social movement students to understand; he focuses specifically on social movement organizations (SMOs) as the unit of analysis. The focus of the questions includes beliefs, organization, causes, membership, strategies, reactions, and effects. The chapter re-states each of Lofland's questions and then provides a general answer for contemporary anarchist movements.

in Black flags and social movements

This chapter challenges the assumption that the state is a strategic location of opportunity from the perspective of radical, anti-state movements. Political opportunities (PO) constitute conditions conducive for action, thereby helping social movement organizations to achieve goals. Using historical narratives from present-day anarchist movement literature, the chapter focuses on various events and phenomena in the last two centuries and their relevance to the mobilization and demobilization of anarchist movements throughout the world. It assesses some of these elements by using a number of measures for broader political environment of countries with anarchist organization, such as civil liberties, political rights, trade union rights, media rights, democracy, and human development. The chapter examines country-level movement case studies that are built on the arguments and analyses of anarchists themselves, discussing opportunities that each movement encountered.

in Black flags and social movements

Few sociological perspectives excel at summarizing the character of anarchist movements, with the exception of those grouped under the moniker of "new social movement" (NSM) theories. This chapter presents the essential dimensions of these theories, paying close attention to how each dimension may be applied. It scrutinises the examples and characteristics drawn from anarchist movements, including ideology, organizations, and strategy, with the NSM framework. The chapter describes differences between the contemporary anarchist movement and other NSMs. In their summary of NSM ideas, Philip W. Sutton and Stephen Vertigans suggested six key features: post-industrial and post-material politics, new social constituencies, anti-hierarchical organization, symbolic direct actions, self-limiting radicalism, and new identities. The chapter argues that anarchism closely follows Sutton and Vertigans' six NSM characteristics and describes these connections in detail, noting important areas of divergence from their NSM typology.

in Black flags and social movements

This chapter explores ideas from major social capital theorists, including Pierre Bourdieu and Robert Putnam, and considers the value of social capital for anarchist movements. It focuses on a number of issues and questions pertaining to trust. While the combination of trust and distrust may superficially appear to be contradictory or confused, from the vantage point of anarchist movements, it is very sensible and compatible with anarchist values and history. Therefore, these two sentiments are combined in the exploration of those who possess social and political trust. Among contemporary anarchist movements, social capital bonding and bridging takes a variety of forms. Strategies for fostering social capital bonding include creating more opportunities for social activities that take place outside of pure political action, and trying to enhance the respect and tolerance that participants have for each other. Social capital bridging requires the establishment and nurturing of connections between anarchists and non-anarchists.

in Black flags and social movements

This chapter focuses on anti-authoritarian approaches for spreading anarchist ideas and organizational strategies. It also focuses on diffusion and institutional isomorphism to the organizational forms and tactics often chosen by contemporary anarchist movements. The pathways of diffusion along relationships can be relational, non-relational, or mediated. The chapter investigates a number of organizational templates that have spread globally, which are not only replete with active anarchist participation, but also infused with anarchistic values, objectives, and organizational strategies. It discusses four specific leaderless organizations, which is termed as "anarchistic franchise organizations" (AFOs). These organizations include Anti-Racist Action (ARA), Critical Mass (CM), Earth First! (EF!), and Food Not Bombs (FNB). These AFOs possess anarchistic values, aesthetics, and strategies. All these AFOs are founded on strong anarchist principles, a main component being direct action: providing for and addressing a very specific need or creating visible protest of current societal problems.

in Black flags and social movements
Abstract only
Revisiting the epistemology of anarchist movements

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on concepts discussed in this book. The book proposes a set of goals and objectives for scholars of anarchist movements and anarchist movements' scholars. A variety of sociological movement theories can be deployed to explain the prevalence and activities of anarchist movements. Social movement scholars' consistent avoidance of anarchist movement analyses illustrates both a preference for state-oriented subject matter and a confusion and frustration with explaining anti-state movements via typical frameworks. Like other movements, anarchist movements are composed of individuals and organizations that are embedded in dense and diffused networks, who share collective identities, who are definitely involved in extra-institutional actions. Additionally, even though a large, active domination counter-network exists that opposes anarchist efforts, the regular, popular framing of anarchism is flagrantly and undeniably incorrect.

in Black flags and social movements