Perspectives on
Anarchist Theory

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Vol. 1 - No. 1
Spring 1997

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Recommended Reading

We asked two authors to tell us about their favorite books on a vital topic:
the role of intellectuals in radical social movements.

Janet Biehl, author of Rethinking Ecofeminist Politics (South End, 1991), writes that "in the impoverished political culture of the United States today, public intellectuals of any leftist persuasion, let alone left-libertarian, are few in number. ‘Intellectuals who write with vigor and clarity may be as scarce as low rents in New York or San Francisco’, laments Russell Jacoby in The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1987). Jacoby goes on to analyze the social causes of their decline, tracing the shift from public engagement to academic professionalization, particularly in the present generation. In an earlier time, ‘raised in city streets and cafes before the age of massive universities, 'last' generation intellectuals wrote for the educated reader. They have been supplanted by high-tech intellectuals, consultants and professors — anonymous souls, who may be competent, and more than competent, but who do not enrich public life. Younger intellectuals, whose lives have unfolded almost entirely on campuses, direct themselves to professional colleagues but are inaccessible and unknown to others’. This lucid book is indispensable for any discussion of left intellectual life today."

Elaine Leeder, author of The Gentle General: Rose Pesotta, Anarchist and Labor Organizer (SUNY, 1993), writes that "my favorite is G.D.H. Cole's Marxism and Anarchism: 1850-1890 (McMillian, 1957). The book is old but it clearly delineates the battle between Marx and Bakunin, and explains the issues through real people's lives and relationships. It explains how socialist thinking evolved during that era, what happened in the Paris Commune and the First International, Bakunin's evo-lution, and American com-munism. It looks at anarchism and Kropotkin, and helps me understand the theoretical origins of our ideology. I also look to Cornell West and bell hooks for political analysis. I think they are two of the foremost race relations/feminist theorists, and I have much to learn from them. West's Race Matters (Beacon, 1993) and hook's Black Looks (South End, 1992) and Outlaw Culture (Routledge, 1994) have given me insight into contemporary black critical thinking, and anarchists need to apply some of their analysis of race and gender to our own current theoretical development.