By Kevin Carson, Center for a Stateless Society
Written by anarchist scholar Ruth Kinna (professor of Political Theory at Loughborough University and editor of Anarchist Studies) and illustrated by Ralph Harper (most famous for the illustrations in Radical Technology), this book is a collection of essays on ten anarchists that were originally published as stand-alone pamphlets.
The essays — not presented in chronological order, or any apparent topical order — are all, despite being comparatively short, substantive introductions to the life and work of their respective subjects, to their involvement in the major issues of their day, and to their subsequent influence and significance for anarchism.
The first essay — appropriately enough in my view, considering he’s my favorite of the ten — is on Kropotkin. It can be taken as typical of the general approach of all the essays in the book. It presents Kropotkin very much in the context of his time, rather than (the title notwithstanding) as one of a pantheon of “Great Anarchists.” For example, it mentions that, although he’s misleadingly referred to as the “father of anarchist communism,” communism already existed as an anarchist tendency in his day. He did, however, contribute to its visibility; he motivated a significant number of Bakuninist collectivists to convert to communism, and arguably played the leading role in communism becoming the dominant anarchist tendency for the next few decades.