Perspectives on
Anarchist Theory

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Vol. 1 - No. 2
Fall 1997


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Recommended Reading

We asked two authors to tell us about their favorite books on a vital topic:
the relationship between radical social theory and political opposition.

Kathryn Addelson, author of Impure Thoughts; Essays on Philosophy, Feminism and Ethics (Temple, 1992) and Moral Passages: Toward a Collectivist Moral Theory (Routledge, 1994) writes: "Anarchism is a philosophy of how we might live in freedom and respect, and practically transform everyday life in the face of opposition. For this reason, I like Ursula LeGuin's The Dispossessed (Avon,1974).

The novel tells the story of two worlds: Annares, the arid planet where exiled Odonians put anarchism into practice; and Urras, the parent globe that includes a capitalist democracy among its hostile states. Shevek, a brilliant physicist from Annares, makes the trip to Urras. There we see the anarchist and capitalist demo-cratic societies, the conflicts and resistances, and the failings and successes as they emerge in practice, not merely theory. LeGuin imagines the anarchist society in detail, helping us see an anarchist life inside a capitalist democracy.

Another book, Images for Change: The Transformation of Society by Rosemary Luling Haughton (Paulist Press, 1997), suggests we see our world and communities as homes and suggests ways we might change these homes. Haughton and others have spent years putting imagination into practice through community organizing at Wellspring House in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Her earlier book, Song in a Strange Land (Templegate, 1990), tells of those experiments and how opposition was overcome. The basic politics of Wellspring House is called 'hospitality' and resembles the politics of Annares where there is no property and people's needs are filled in common. As when Shevek arrives among the 'propertarians' of Urras he tells them, 'I come like a good Odonian, with empty hands.' They must care for him with 'hospitality', not by profit or exchange."

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L. Susan Brown, author of The Politics of Individualism: Liberalism, Liberal Feminism and Anarchism (Montreal: Black Rose, 1993) writes: "A dear friend and former teacher of mine, Luiz Costa-Pinto, once said, ‘If violence is the midwife of history, then it is ideas that make history pregnant.’ This statement captures the relation-ship between ideas and action for me: meaningful political action must be based on sound ideas. As an anarchist, I have grounded my political oppo-sition to power and domination in the ideas of writers of radical social theory.

Through Anarchism and Other Essays (Dover, 1969) Emma Goldman welcomed me into the anarchist family, showing me how in anarchism, communist and feminist principles could be transformed into a humanism where we all can live in freedom.

The Ethics of Ambiguity (Citadel, 1948) by Simone de Beauvoir showed me how it is possible to base anti-authoritarianism in freedom and still maintain the ability to critique: a freedom which is interested only in denying freedom must be denied. Friedrich Sixel’s Crisis and Critique: On the Logic of Late Capitalism (EJ Brill, 1988) helped me understand why I couldn’t seem to make sense of much of what is ‘new’ in sociology, politics, and philosophy: despite its supposed allegiance to the left, post-modernism, with its nonsensical, self-referential meta-theories, is both compatible with and essential to the continuation of a capitalism that no longer makes sense itself.

Through these and other books, I have found that I am not alone in my opposition to hierarchy, power and domination; rather, I am in good company when I question the right of the boss, the father, the legislator, the king, the despot and the priest to tell me or anyone else how to live our lives.

The gift of their words has supported me in my on-going struggle for freedom.