Over the last few months a number of people have asked if I can recommend a few texts on anarchism or anarchist political philosophy. Recommending texts is hard, so I’m just going to list a few of my favourites instead. I recognise that these may not be everyone’s cup of tea, so I invite others to share their own favourite anarchist texts in the comments below. If there is a substantial response I’ll compile a short bibliography and post it at a later date. So here’s goes as I like to say:
Errico Malatesta †
1995, The Anarchist Revolution: Polemical Articles 1924-1931.
This would be a wonderful text to start with for someone who hasn’t read anything on anarchism before. It is a short volume of essays and letters in Malatesta’s no-nonsense, stoic style. I love Malatesta’s earnest economy of words more than anything, and his ability to communicate key ideas in plain English with little fuss. (It’s no secret I have a giant mega crush on Malatesta.) I really super love this text.
Prince Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin (aka Peter Kropotkin) ††
1902, Mutual Aid: A factor in evolution.
Epic, earnest and awesome. Kropotkin put forward an alternative view on species survival, beyond claims of competition and ‘natural’ hierarchy presupposed at the time. In a way, Kropotkin is to competitive interpretations of Darwinism what Proudhon is to the competitive presuppositions about human nature that underlie ‘classic’ social contract theory. (Kropotkin also led an amazing life – he was a Prince after all! – and he is worth reading for this reason too.)
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon †††
1851, General idea of the revolution in the Nineteenth Century
This is an odd text, but one of my favourites. It’s odd because it doesn’t necessarily address the ‘revolution’ as one might expect and also because it is quite disjointed. I think of it as a series of essays elaborating his thought and position on key concepts – on key areas or topics of interest anarchists – from the social contract, property relations and the division of labour to social organisation-as-governance, authority and social order. Actually, I think this is my current favourite text at the moment, now I think of it (not least because it is productive to ‘think through’ ethnography with).
Emma Goldman (1869 – 1940). ††††
1931, 1934 Living my life, published in two volumes.
2006  Vision on Fire: Emma Goldman on the Spanish Revolution.
I couldn’t choose just one. I can’t tell you how influential Goldman’s writing has been on my own thought, politics and life. There is not a week goes by where I don’t think of her work in some way for whatever reason. One of the many things I find compelling about her writing is her fierce sense of compassion and uncompromising humanity. She was such an incredible woman – such an admirable anarchist and such an incredibly strong feminist. Both these texts are very accessible and one needn’t have any background knowledge to follow and appreciate them. The first is her autobiography.
† The wiki-entry on Malatesta can be found here.
†† The wiki-entry for Kropotkin can be found here.
††† The wiki-entry for Proudhon can be found here. I’ve written about Proudhon a number of times hereon in the past. A quick search should find the relevant posts.
†††† The wiki-entry for Goldman can be found here.