This chapter considers the possibility of developing an anarchist sociology. It suggests that some of the founding rationales behind sociology in the nineteenth century might have negative impact on those being studied and their environment. One of the founding rationales behind sociology is the instrumental attitudes towards pursuing research in the name of industrial progress and social cohesion. Anarchism and sociology share something of a common intellectual background as ideas shaped by Enlightenment developments in philosophy, science and technology during the late eighteenth century. It is through the controversial discourses of postmodernism and poststructuralism that anarchism has been referenced in the social and philosophical sciences, sometimes as an argument for relativism. The chapter looks at the assumptions behind the established sociological literature on social movements. It offers some suggestions as to how anarchist theory would be of advantage to developing a more tangible understanding of this area of study.
This book attempts to convey the different sociological contexts for how contemporary anarchist theory and practice is to be understood. It concentrates on the issue of broadening the parameters of how anarchist theory and practice is conceptualized. The book compares the major philosophical differences and strategies between the classical period (what Dave Morland calls 'social anarchism') and the contemporary anti-capitalist movements which he regards as being poststructuralist in nature. It also documents the emergence of the now highly influential anti-technological and anti-civilisational strand in anarchist thought. This offers something of a challenge to anarchism as a political philosophy of the Enlightenment, as well as to other contemporary versions of ecological anarchism and, to some extent, anarcho-communism. The book further provides a snapshot of a number of debates and critical positions which inform contemporary anarchist practice. The specific areas covered offer unique perspectives on sexuality, education, addiction and mental health aspects of socialisation and how this can be challenged at a number of different levels. The fact that anarchism has largely premised its critique on a psychological dimension to power relations, not just a material one, has been an advantage in this respect. Ecological anarchism, which has been the driving force behind much contemporary anarchist theory and practice, has been committed to thinking about the relationships between people and 'nature' in new ways.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book attempts to convey the different sociological contexts for how contemporary anarchist theory and practice is to be understood. It concentrates on the issue of broadening the parameters of how anarchist theory and practice is conceptualised. The question of individual liberty and collective needs raises an equally important anarchist principle: equating the means of an action with its ends. The book compares the major philosophical differences and strategies between the classical period and the contemporary anti-capitalist movements. It assesses the viability of libertarian education, a century on from the life and work of Spanish writer and activist Francisco Ferrer and finds considerable evidence for the endurance of these ideals.
This part outlines the philosophical shifts that have occurred within anarchism and shows how different political voices have emerged to mobilise around an increasing plurality of injustices. It identifies a psychological and psychoanalytic dimension to understand authority, alienation and history, which is a powerful and still under acknowledged aspect of contemporary anarchism. The chapter presents poststructuralist literature, a potentially useful tool for understanding power, particularly when theorising contemporary social movements.
This part provides a snapshot of a number of debates and critical positions which inform about the contemporary anarchist practice. It offers unique perspectives on the aspects of socialisation such as sexuality, education, addiction and mental health. The part demonstrates the sensitivity and ethical dilemmas that must accompany any libertarian sociological method. It concentrates on education, age, communication and the importance of art and creativity in the libertarian struggle, something that places them in the tradition of writers like Herbert Read.
This part addresses the notions of being and becoming within different areas of anarchist theory and practice. Ecological anarchism, which has been the driving force behind much contemporary anarchist theory and practice, has been committed to think about the relationships between people and 'nature' in new ways. The part discusses some of the psychological strategies taken by political activists to cope with the burdens which contemporary Western societies bestow upon the individual.
This chapter reviews the different ways that anarchism can be seen in terms of its often under-acknowledged role in political change. It suggests that anarchism can serve as a 'conscience' to many non-anarchist or marginally anarchist milieus in terms of the influence of its central ideas. The chapter also suggests that the possibilities for the resistance to power and the construction of what Dennis Hardy have called 'practical utopias' are actually increasing. These possibilities are increasing in the wake of the post-11th September, 2001 clampdowns and repression, despite the anecdotal evidence to the contrary. A classical anarchist position has been to organise regardless of what institutional forces are doing; perhaps this is an opportunity to develop a consistent yet unpopular anarchist realpolitik. The chapter also presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in this book.