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Anarchy in Action Hardcover – 5 Jul 1973

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin; First Edition edition (5 July 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0043210155
  • ISBN-13: 978-0043210154
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,581,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
How would you feel if you discovered that the society in which you would really like to live was already here, apart from a few little, local difficulties like exploitation, war, dictatorship and starvation? Read the first page
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By ldxar1 on 15 Sept. 2007
Format: Paperback
This book introduces the anarchism of Britain's leading anarchist sociologist. Ward is an "evolutionary anarchist" who associates anarchism with the practical, everyday pursuit of alternatives to domination - this is not a book about insurrection, or breaking windows. Ward's basic thesis is that anarchy as a form of organisation (as distinct from hierarchy or the state) emerges wherever social relations occur directly, as forms of cooperation or mutual aid to satisfy needs and desires directly. In this sense, anarchy constantly operates below the surface of supposedly state societies such as Britain, creating the density of everyday life so beloved of sociologists, and providing alternatives to the state's way of dealing with social problems. This short book is practically focused, showing examples of anarchist or horizontal practices in a number of areas, and provides an excellent introduction to the anarchist critique of hierarchy, a way into critical scholarship in a number of fields, and a rich empirical counterpoint to the claim that there is no alternative to hierarchic organisation.

Six of the chapters, about half the total, set out Ward's general argument, and explore general issues about anarchic versus hierarchic social organisation. Ward argues that social complexity requires the emergence of complex, networked social forms as opposed to the simplistic forms of hierarchy. Spontaneous order and self-organisation are traced across social experiments, decentralised state systems such as those in Switzerland, insurrectionary situations such as Hungary in 1956, and stateless indigenous societies in these chapters as part of a general argument that hierarchy stunts social life and is inferior in many ways to networks and self-organisation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Hari Hari on 10 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As we can read in the introduction of Colin Ward, another potential title of the book could be "Anarchism as a theory of Organisation" and is talking "about the ways in which people organise themselves in any kind of human society" regardless the political-socioeconomical beliefs.
Personally i find the idea of the book brilliant because it connects theories, practices and examples of autoorganization as a new ethics in everydaylife as well as in particular fields such as economy, town planning, environment. Also I like the way it is written in a simple, precise and communicative language.
If i had to say just one thing i would say that it certainly adds to the contemporary social discourse.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lark TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 2 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback
Read this one, Ward is one of the most reasonable and pragmatic anarchists I know and herein are gathered his writings on Anarchism as a theory of organisation. The book is constructed around his core ideas of a spontaneous order, autonomous groups, workers control and the federative principle and is persuasive, although I did not find it that compelling a read.

What sets this book apart from other Anarchist books I've read isnt simply that its much more contemporary but that its not simply a critical appraisal of government and certain sorts of authority, there is some positive advocacy of an alternative which is already in existence. I agree with Ward that there are powerful unstudied or unacknowledged social forces upon which those that are acknowledged are premised, such as the co-operation which makes competition possible, his idea that an alternative better society exists in embryonic form appealed to me as sensible. Besides Ward the only other anarchistic author I think is worth reading is Paul Goodman, particularly Drawing the Line Once Again and the earlier book "Drawing the Line" in which Goodman says that the objective of social change should be to expand the sphere of individual free action as far as possible. Unlike a lot of anarchist, not to mention general political partisan, authors this isnt a book about preaching to the choir or maintaining or reaffirming a sort of ideological correctness, instead its more open and reaches out the general interested readers.

Ward's other books are as practical and pragmatic as this one but this is probably the best, if you are interested in political ideologies or some interesting social insights this is the book for you.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Compelling and revealing about the degree to which anarchy is already pervasive throughout the world. Interesting journey through recent history that now seems so long ago. Makes you want to pull out old Crass albums and join Class War.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
anarchism by example 25 Aug. 2006
By Phil Myers - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Once you begin to look at human society from an anarchist point of view, you discover that the alternatives are already there in the interstices of the dominant power structure. If you want to build a free society, the parts are all at hand." -Colin Ward

This bright little 150 page gem of a book is densely packed with solid examples of anarchism in practice, and sparkles lucidly with the author's intelligence and hope. It presents an excellent introduction to the anarchist vision of the possible, without getting bogged down in theoretical or historical minutia.

Following in the tradition of Peter Kropotkin and Paul Goodman, Ward argues here for a practical, piecemeal, gradual anarchist revolution. He conceives of anarchist society as "always in existence, like a seed beneath the snow, buried under the weight of the state and...capitalism". With this vision in mind, Ward examines in each chapter various realms of life, from the workplace to the school, the state, the family, and the built environment, and presents an inspiring wealth of examples of the ways the bright tendrils of anarchist life are in every realm constantly pushing up through the frost of authoritarian society.

With eloquent simplicity and brevity, Ward provides a formidable reply to those who would scoff at anarchism as an impractical utopian fantasy.

Ward is certainly Paul Goodman's most worthy heir, and those whose appetites are whetted by this book would do well to seek out Goodman's writings such as Drawing the Line, Communitas, and Utopian Essays and Practical Proposals.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Anarchist classic? 6 Jun. 2001
By Marc - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is one of the first books I read about anarchism. I must have re-read it at least 3 or 4 times. It's a to-the-point and highly entertaining introduction to practical anarchy. How do we move from here to there. It's a little out-dated though, being that it was written in the 70's but it still offers a lot of insight on building a free society. Mr. Ward discusses schooling, hospitals, crime, work, and many other urgent every-day concerns. He argues that anarchy already does exist, in the interstices of hierarchy and domination, in the everyday workings of people and their everyday interactions, in their neighborhoods. It's up to us to widen the spheres of liberty. He argues that many organizations are really quite decentralized (borrowing from the insights of systems theory and anthropology). He also borrows some ideas from Kropotkin; notably that many popular institutions today are run entirely through the voluntary cooperation of its members.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Steven H Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Colin Ward (1924-2010) was a British anarchist writer, and author of books such as Autonomy, Solidarity, Possibility: The Colin Ward Reader, Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions), Cotters and Squatters: The Hidden History of Housing, Social Policy: An Anarchist Response, etc.

This book was first published in 1973. Ward wrote in the Introduction to the Second Edition, "This book... was not intended for people who had spent a lifetime pondering the problems of anarchism, but for those who either had no idea of what the word implied, or who knew exactly what it implied, and had rejected it, considering that it had no relevance for the modern world... It is about the ways in which people organise THEMSELVES in any kind of human society, whether we care to categorise those societies as primitive, traditional, capitalist or communist."

He states that Anarchists are people who make a social and political philosophy "out of the natural and spontaneous tendency of humans to associate together for their mutual benefit." Anarchism is the idea that it is possible and desirable for society to organise itself without government. (Pg. 15)

Ward is critical of Karl Marx, who "is an authoritarian and centralising communist. He wants what we want, the complete triumph of economic and social equality, but he wants it in the State and through the State power, through the dictatorship of a very strong and, so to say, despotic provisional government." (Pg. 17)

When considering the question of an "anarchist approach" to the penal institution, he replies simply, "There is none, except to shut it down." (Pg. 125)

This book is a useful introduction to some of the issues relating by Anarchism.
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