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Anarchism: Arguments For and Against Paperback – July 1, 2001
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Top Customer Reviews
1. It introduces readers to anarchism in a way that disabuses them of the usual myths about anarchism and anticipates the common fears people have about anarchism.
2. It provides anarchists with quick answers to objections about anarchism (assuming, of course, that anarchists agree with Meltzer's formulations of the answers).
Meltzer deftly handles the kinds of criticisms of anarchism made by social democrats, liberal democrats, Marxists, fascists, trade unionists, feminists and capitalists. He also explores ways people could organize themselves in an anarchistic society. In my view, the book's sole weakness is its somewhat vague discussion about the transition to an anarchist society. It adequately addresses the core values of all anarchists.
The book exceptionally adresses the criticism that individuals would be imperiled in societies that operate without the coercive force of law. Meltzer rightly argues that individuals would in fact be safer in an anarchist society and that governments actually reduce personal safety by assigning that responsibility to a set of experts (e.g. the police): "Unfortunately, having a police force atrophies the ability of society to defend itself. People [lose] all sense of social organization and control" (p. 43).
The book contains a helpful, if somewhat limited, list of anarchist organizations at the end. It is worth reading.
On the positive side, this book is small, compact, and a concise reader to many of the basic properties of anarchism. It offers interesting arguments for libertarian socialism, as well as attempts to counter common arguments against anarchism (Chaos! Disorder! Et cetera!) Ultimately the counterarguments against the Marxist critique are the most convincing and accurate from my personal experience, as well as probably the most useful for the average fellow traveler of anarchism. When Mr. Meltzer refers to anarchism, rest assured that he is referring to a very specific type of anarchism; early on in the book he pretty much excommunicates famous anti authoritarians and libertarian socialists such as Tolstoy, Tucker, and Proudhon. Meltzer seems to embrace the Malatesta tradition of anarchism.
Ultimately, if you're someone who already knows a fair bit about anarchism and want to have an interesting primer to refer to once in awhile, you might want to pick this one up. However, if you're new to anarchism and want an overview of where the ideology has been and where it's going, look elsewhere.