Customer Review

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anarchy as living alternative for a welfare state society, 15 Sept. 2007
This review is from: Anarchy in Action (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. The argument is then specified in terms of a range of sociological or "social policy" issues setting out objections to hierarchy and examples of anarchic/non-hierarchic practice in a number of areas: planning, employment, play, education, housing, welfare institutions, the family and deviance. These short chapters cover a huge amount of material in a very short space and in a very accessible way, linking classical anarchist theories to modern sociological critiques, social experiments and alternative approaches (with an emphasis on alternatives within industrial societies). The chapter on education for example criticises compulsory education for its links to nationalism and social conformity and for anti-educational effects, and also discusses Rousseau, Godwin and Bakunin on education, Goodman, Illich, Freire, deschooling, Free Schools, itinerant pedagogues, alternative schools in historic Spain, Ruskin College, and the student revolts of 1968, all in a mere eight pages. The chapters are short, accessible pieces replete with empirical examples and attempts to capture the imagination of the reader; they read almost like newspaper editorials or commentaries.

For its accessibility, empirical richness, constant relevance and detailed argument, this book cannot be faulted. It is in many respects prophetic, prefiguring more recent turns to horizontalism, post-representation and complexity. It reads like a Mutual Aid for the welfare state society. It serves several distinct functions. It can be read as a detailed case for anarchism today based on its relevance to practical problems of social welfare. It can be read as an application of anarchism to sociology, a kind of supplement to introductions to sociological approaches giving a distinct anarchist perspective on these issues. It can be read as an argument within anarchism for a focus on building everyday alternatives to social hierarchies. Or it can be read as a series of essays on contemporary social problems, bringing specialist critiques to a more general audience. It manages to do an awful lot in a very short space and has the potential to really open minds to the possibility of other ways of living.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in

Review Details


4.8 out of 5 stars (4 customer reviews)
5 star:
4 star:
3 star:    (0)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
Add to basket Add to wishlist

Location: UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 10,341