For those wanting to gain an insight to the idea of anarchy, a great place to start is Peter Marshall’s book ‘Demanding the Impossible’ (2008, Harper Perennial, London). This tome is very easy to read and quite beautifully organised into easily digested components.
Why do I start with a reference to something that most people will not take the time to read? It is because of that magical little word – ‘time’.
Most of those who have the funds, incentive and interest to sit in front of a computer are quite likely to also be part of the subset of human beings who find that there is never quite enough time to do all of the things that they want to do. Of course, that is just my opinion and I am not going to find authorities to back my theory. Rather, I’d simply as if that statement holds true for you?
Again, why is this important?
It is important because the idea of anarchy is one that requires more than just a cursory thought.
To begin with you will need to shred some of the linguistic shackles that tie the word ‘anarchy’ in the English language to other words or concepts such as violence, reckless dissent or the activities of misdirected youthful enthusiasm.
You will also need to prepare your mind with some of the history that is attached to anarchy. Would you believe that it is a pillar of philosophical thought? If you think I am drawing a long bow on that one then try submitting a first year philosophy assignment on “taxation is theft” by describing it as a toilet wall sound byte… (I did, and my tutor scathingly rebuked my dismissal of a solid body of academic authority on just this point).
There are all sorts of anarchy-based links on the web that can provide you with specific essays, research and opinions on anarchy. Much of it is superficial or clearly influenced by an ideological bias of one sort or another but a little patience will see you rewarded with intriguing and challenging ideas.
This is why I recommend Peter Marshall’s book. It is a handy brick of a book that you can leave laying around – to pick up at your leisure and catch up on such goodies as chapters on “Society and the State”, “German Libertarians”, “Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: The Philosopher of Poverty” and much more. Alternatively, you can continue to leave it around for a more practical use, such as a very handy footrest when playing the guitar.
At some stage, I will update this post with a link – Peter Marshall must surely have a website out there somewhere, so you can gain insight from a fellow that really knows stuff.
Back to my thoughts.
You see, I have been doing exactly that with this book (leaving it around to look through from time to time), and hope that I will never quite finish it. It’s just such a good read… Being a confessed lover of most things historical, I quite enjoy the insights into events of the past that I may have been familiar with but not from the point of view of their anarchistic application.
To put my bias out there – I quite like the concept of anarchy. It seems quite reasonable to conjecture on there being a basic principle of ‘goodness’ in human beings, that would allow us all to live in harmony if only we could get rid of these pesky institutions, powerful individuals and various hegemonic influences that, by their very nature, we are not even aware of.
The idea of the Armchair Anarchist is interesting to me, in that I only recently found that there is a book out there of this title. Truly, the more you see of the world, the clearer it is that there is very little that is new. You and I have probably just not been exposed to it yet. My own ponderings on anarchy had led me to the conclusion that I was an armchair anarchist, and to some extent that is an admission of my lack of desire to ‘man the barricades’ but more importantly it is a statement that confirms my opinion that the most appropriate form of anarchy today is that which is pondered from an armchair.
That simple statement will see me dismissed by any robust thinker on such issues, and rebuked by any man (person?) of action. However, it is a statement of position, and from that base I intend to build quite a bit of basic formwork on how I perceive those armchair ponderings contributing in any meaningful way to the ideas of anarchy.