Anarchism and Political Theory: Contemporary Problems

By Uri Gordon

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.



Contemporary Anarchism: A first look

Two Agendas

Between Philosophy and Participatory Research


Part I. Explaining Anarchism

Chapter 1: What Moves the Movement?

Anarchism as a Political Culture

The A-word

From Networks to Political Culture

Forms of organisation

Campaigning and direct action repertoires

Discursive aspects

Broader cultural attributes

The Role of Identity

Old-school and New-school

Chapter 2: Threads of Resistance

Tracing the Genealogy of Contemporary Anarchism

Defeat and Stagnation

An Haphazard Rebirth

An International Movement

Chapter 3: What Anarchists Want

The Logic of Anti-Authoritarian Political Language

Struggle Against Domination

Prefigurative politics

Open — Ended Politics

Part II: Anarchist Anxieties

Chapter 4: Power and Equality

Leadership and Power in Anarchist Organising, Part One

“But we don’t have leaders…”

From Leadership to Power

Power-over as Domination

Power-to and Power as Influence

Power-with or power-among

Equality and “Activist Resources”

Chapter 5: Power, Invisibility and Solidarity

Leadership and Power in Anarchist Organising, Part Two


Between Enforcement and Coercion

Anarchism and Democracy

The Tyranny of Structurelessness Reconsidered


The Forum and the Campfire

Power and Solidarity

Chapter 6: Beyond “Diversity of Tactics”

Re-assessing the Anarchist Debate on Violence

Contextualising the Present Debate

Messy Definitions

Limits to Justification

Empowerment, Revenge and Armed Struggle

Chapter 7: Luddites and Hackers

Defining a Broad-Based Anarchist Politics of Technology

Anarchists and Technology

Domination and the Technological Complex

Anarchist Concerns

The Case of Nanotechnology

Actualising the Critique


Hacking, Cracking and E-Piracy

Reviving Creativity, Lo-Tech

Chapter 8: Unholy Land

Anarchism, Nationalism and Israeli-Palestinian Peace

Anarchism and Nationalism

“Supporting” Statehood?

Three Threads of Intervention

Linking Issues

Non-violent Direct Action

Grassroots Peace-making



Categories: Anarchism/Anti-State

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