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Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction 1st Edition

11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192804778
ISBN-10: 0192804774
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Editorial Reviews


excellent introduction The Guardian

About the Author

Colin Ward is former editor of Anarchy. He has published many books, articles, and pamphlets, including Child in the City, Anarchy in Action, and Goodnight Campers.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 126 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (December 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192804774
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192804778
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.4 x 4.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #987,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on January 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
Colin Ward was probably not the ideal person to write this little book on anarchism--not, as another reviewer has said (in what's a very good review, by the way) because he's an anarchist and hence isn't objective so much as because the book reeks of a very specific kind of anarchism: British, urban, secular, and communistic. The first bias makes a good deal of the discussion either arcane or dull for the nonBritish reader; the second virtually ignores intentional community experiments away from city areas; the third incredibly ignores Christian anarchists such as Jacques Ellul or Dorothy Day; and the fourth (although a position I personally endorse) gives shortshrift to libertarianism. To give him his due, Ward does discuss the latter more than he does nonurban or religious anarchism. But his understanding of libertarianism is sketchy. This only makes sense, since it's largely an American phenomenon, and Ward is sketchy on American. (On page 63, he and his editor even misspell "Cincinatti". I mean, really!)

Ward is strongest in discussing three 19th century Euopean giants of anarchism: Proudhon, Bakunin, and Kropotkin. Moreover, his chapter on education's discussion of William Godwin is both interesting and worthy. But on the other hand, much of the rest of the book falls flat. The most potentially interesting and important chapter in the book, on federalism, just doesn't deliver. Ward fails to follow up, in even an introductory way, on the anarchist claim that regionalism/federalism makes more sense than statism. Instead, he just quotes a couple of stirring but inadequate passages from an 1867 Bakunin pamphlet, doing little to refute the standard criticism that anarchist modes of organization are inadequate with large populations.
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50 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Gautner on May 17, 2006
Format: Paperback
Initially, I became interested in reading Colin Ward's book because instances in which I encountered the phrases 'capito-anarchist', and 'minarchist' were growing increasingly frequent. In each of these instances, authors - generally scholarly or pseudo-scholarly authors - were referencing the work of the late Robert Nozick, and others without seeming to appreciate the gravity of the term 'anarchism' as an idea. I should note at the outset that I'm not exceedingly fond of Nozick's "Anarchy, State and Utopia".

Ward does a moderate job of outlining anarchy, and many of the major thinkers that evaluated, promoted, and propagated the idea of anarchy as a challenge to liberalism, to communism, to Tsarism, and to statist socialism. He provides brief reviews of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, William Godwin, Michael Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, and in a moment of genuine humor, Ward reveals his thoughts about Max Stirner's "The Ego and Its Own." Ward, quoting Kropotkin, explains that anarchism is "the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government - harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements, concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilised being." If one were hoping for a definition of anarchism - that's essentially it.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By calmly on March 12, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Valdivielso on May 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
A Very Short Introduction on anarchism by Colin Ward is just what it says. A short history with just enough details to allow the reader to understand the many types of anarchism that are out there. A list of books for further reading and the references allow you to easily expand your knowledge on whatever type of anarchism that you wish to know about. From their ideas about education to the environment, anarchists are everywhere.
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