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Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

Colin Ward
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 Oct 2004 Very Short Introductions
The word 'anarchism' tends to conjure up images of aggressive protest against government, and - recently - of angry demonstrations against bodies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. But is anarchism inevitably linked with violent disorder? Do anarchists adhere to a coherent ideology? What exactly is anarchism? In this Very Short Introduction, Colin Ward considers anarchism from a variety of perspectives: theoretical, historical, and international, and by exploring key anarchist thinkers from Kropotkin to Chomsky. He looks critically at anarchism by evaluating key ideas within it, such as its blanket opposition to incarceration, and policy of 'no compromise' with the apparatus of political decision-making. Among the questions he ponders are: can anarchy ever function effectively as a political force? Is it more 'organized' and 'reasonable' than is currently perceived? Whatever the politics of the reader, Ward's argument ensures that anarchism will be much better understood after reading this book. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (21 Oct 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192804774
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192804778
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 11.2 x 0.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"excellent introduction" -- The Guardian

An excellent introduction. -- The Guardian, April 9, 2005

About the Author

Formerly an editor of his much-translated Anarchy in Action (Freedom Press), and from Five Leaves Books of Nottingham, Cotters and Squatters, and (with David Crouch) The Allotment: Its Landscape and Culture, as well as (with Dennis Hardy) Arcadia for All: The Legacy of a Makeshift Landscape.

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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provocative, 21 Oct 2007
By calmly
Ward quotes Martin Buber: "All forms of government has this in common: each possesses more power than is required by the given conditions." Buber calls this this "political surplus". One only has to look around the world to see how such political surplus is spent.

I was surprised at the extent of anarchist influence. Ward devotes 4 pages to how anarchism functioned practically is Spain in the 1930's, where 3 million people were organized in anarchist communes.

Anarchists have been at the forefront of considering ecological sustainability. Ward cites authors who believe that anarchism is the only approach that can meet the ecological challenges we face.

Given the problems socialism has faced, Ward argues it is too soon to write off anarchism when looking for alternatives to present forms of government. We may have been taught little about anarchism except to be dismissive of it, but Ward's book is an excellent start to understanding what anarchism offers. There are many references to the works of anarchists.

If capitalism seems to work, albeit at a considerable ecological cost, the growing ecological crises may force us within our lifetimes to explore alternative ways of living. Socialism may not be a big enough change, retaining as it does a strong central government with its own political surplus. If you think you can manage more political participation that casting a vote every few years, anarchism may be worth studying.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An ideology whose time has come ? 29 Jan 2009
By L. Davidson VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
At university I studied a lot of "-isms" , but anarchism wasn't one of them.Clearly it was considered to be either of little consequence or too extreme to be taken seriously. This little pocket book is a reasonably good introduction to the topic. After reading it I got the impression that the classic anarchist position of desiring an absence of state power and voluntary co-operation are more ideals than anything else and that anarchists would have more realistic goals today such as the devolution of political and economic power and the support for minorities rights and various social liberation movements.They appear to have a lot in common with socialists apart from their attitude toward state power. Unfortunately anarchism seems to be associated with violence and terrorism, but at heart it appears to be a libertarian, peaceful ideology ;it's just that it's goals of removing the state are inevitably going to provoke confrontation. A lot of anarchist ideas are appealing but it has an optimistic, perhaps naive view of "human nature", thinking that people will co-operate peacefully in the absence of a state, rather than the more likely prospect of the greedy, violent and cunning having a field day.After reading this book I might investigate the topic in more depth.It is a good introduction.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Ideal for living 5 Sep 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Highly informative & well written. Bakukin could have written 1984. Clearly shows the core importance of individual freedom in all things & the all too well known failings of "the system".

Ideas on rehabilitation rather than impisonment make sense to a point, but what would solution be for murder?

A very good brief introduction & it has encouraged me to read more on the subject.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, easy read 6 April 2009
This book is a great addition to the bookshelf of both neophyte anarchists and those who have already read some anarchist classics. Easy to read, the book gives a light, nuanced insight into where anarchists come from. It isn't supposed to be comprehensive but is extremely insightful all the same.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly insightful. Insightfully brilliant. 22 Nov 2012
By M. Shaw
Ward has succeeded in presenting anarchist ideas in a short, digestible form that is quite simply brilliant.

I cannot recommend this book any more highly.

Anarchism is a commonly overlooked and derided philosophy, yet has played and will continue to play a significant part in world history. Arguable to a much greater degree, particularly when you consider the methods of some of the most significant contemporary social movements. This book is a great stepping stone in to the subtle and provocative world of anarchist thought.
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