Recommend your favourite Anarchist texts

 

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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 [1983]  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.

35 Comments

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35 responses to “Recommend your favourite Anarchist texts

  1. christian.doehler

    just to throw some german names of the late 19th and early 20th century in the ring: Erich Mühsam wrote some beautiful poems, Gustav Landauer somewhat hopelessly tries to marry anarchism with mysticism, Rudolf Rocker wrote a wonderful biography of Johann Most, Max Nettlau compiled a 7-volume history of anarchist thought, John Henry Mackay brought american individual anarchism to europe, Silvio Gesell developed as a anarchist economist a model of the free-economy.

    • “Max Nettlau compiled a 7-volume history of anarchist thought” – SEVEN volumes! Now that’s keen! I’d never heard of Erich Mühsam, thank you, I’ll look him up.

      Can I ask, do you have a favourite out of all these? – a favourite anarchist text in general?

      • christian.doehler

        my favorite pieces of texts are Erich Mühsam’s poems. They sum up the agitated athmosphere of the 1920’s in Germany. Especially “Die Republikanische Nationalhymne” and in a more ironic way “Der Revoluzzer” (http://tinyurl.com/cso38yj). The latter would be my personal favourite. Unfortunately there is no English translation for either one of them.

        But I just found a translated collection of his prose/texts here > http://tinyurl.com/pe6lepn. I would recommend that.

        btw: “Mühsam” means “arduous, laborious, cumbersome” in German. hehehe…

  2. he he! Thanks so much Christian, a new anarchist poet I can now look forward to reading! ❤

  3. Yay!

    Different texts suit different people. In my short few years traversing this political territory, I’ve found generally though that more contemporary, easy to read recommendations are the ones that get read and inspire. Here’s a few that work to recommend to the new…

    Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction, Colin Ward (2004)
    Anarchism: A Beginners Guide, Ruth Kinna (2005)
    The Floodgates of Anarchy, Stewart Christie & Albert Meltzer
    Everything you ever wanted to know about anarchism but were too afraid to ask, Cardiff anarchists (1980)

    Then to recommend histories…
    Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism, Peter Marshall (1992)
    Anarchism: A history of libertarian ideas and movements, George Woodcock (1962/04)
    Anarchist Voices: An oral history of anarchism in America, Paul Avrich (1995)

    And art & music…
    Realizing the Impossible: Art Against Authority, Josh Macphee & Erik Reuland (2007)
    Anarchy and Art, Allan Antliff (2007)
    How to Make Trouble and Influence People, zine (1996), How to Stop Whining and Start Living, zine (1999) & Revenge of the Troublemakers, zine (2003)
    Sounding Off: Music as subversion/resistance/revolution, Ron Sakolsky & Fred Wei-han Ho (1995)

    & Education…
    Anarchist Pedagogies: Collective actions, theories and critical reflections on education, Robert H. Haworth

  4. I note also that there is a Malatesta Reader in press, which I can’t wait to read: http://www.akpress.org/the-method-of-freedom.html

  5. johnmansfield

    I’ve never read any classic anarchist texts, but I read “Days of War, Nights of Love” in my early twenties and was much influenced by it. I even quit my job, moved out of my house and started living out or a car + tent!
    I noticed recently this this book inspires an interesting mix of love and hate.

    • Awesome story and evidence of a great text to recommend. People who like to think they’re “all grown up and too mature for that stuff” love to criticise Crimethinc but, as your story suggests, they have their place and their literature can be really important and powerful. Thanx John. x

      • SourDough

        Also, Crimethinc have evolved – actually they probably themselves become “all grown up and too mature for that stuff” by now – and some of their recent stuff is quite good i reckon. A pamphlet called ‘Terror Incognita’ is really good and their journal ‘Rolling Thunder’ is decent.

        And i’ve been meaning to read one of their more recent books ‘Work: capitalism, economics and resistance’ which looks interesting and who woulda thunk they’d be all up and writing about having to work?

        ps – have been meaning to leave a comment for awhile, just saying this blog is great… have linked to it.

      • I subscribed to Rolling Thunder for a time and, similarly, found it decent. I’ll have a search and read for Terror Incognita and check reviews for Work: capitalism, economics and resistance. (Look forward to one day having an income so I can just order #rad books as I hear of them!)

        Thanx heaps for sharing those titles, and thanks also for the kind words.

        x
        Bree

  6. Social Anarchism by Giovanni Baldelli and more recently The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism by Todd May.

  7. weeble

    The ego and its own

  8. I asked people to recommend their favourite books at last year’s Anarchist Bookfair. I think the winner was Kim Stanley Robinson!

    There’s a list of recommended reads here: http://plantowin.net.au/2012/08/rec-reading/

    My own favourites are George Orwell and Emma Goldman. I also recommend Colin Ward’s Anarchy in Action, it’s a fairly accessible read that covers key principles.

  9. B

    I need to read more theory so I have hell of bookmarked this post. Emma Goldman is a personal hero of mine and I think she is friggin’ amazing.

    George Orwell is a complicated fellow and I love him for it. I suspect that a lot of anarchists have problems with him but it was ‘Homage to Catalonia’ which got me interested in Anarchism in the first place. ‘Road to Wigan Pier’ should, in this age of British austerity measures and post-Thatcher’s destruction of the North, be required reading.

    (I said something similar on Twitter, you may recall).

  10. Although I don’t agree totally with Max Stirner’s view it is rewarding and challenging to read The Ego and It’s Own alongside Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid. The tension is still there and I suspect is unlikely to be resolved. Two important sides to the same coin.

    Demanding the Impossible by Peter Marshall is an excellent introduction on many of the strains of anachism [and anarchism does have many strains, in every sense of the word, such a rich and challenging philosophy / approach]

    Berkman’s “What is Anarchy” is a classic as is Rudolf Rocker’s work on anarcho syndicalism. I also like Bakunin’s God and State. It’s worth having a read of Daniel Guerin’s anthology too.

    And you’ve named the other major ones I’d have gone for

  11. And Albert Metzler’s autobiography. It’s not exactly a classic text of anarchist theory but a reflection on an activist’s life and a great view on much of 20th century anarchist history

  12. Ross

    The best thing about anarchism is the free books. Here, quickly, are a couple of my favorites.

    (1) Bertrand Russell. Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism (Cornwall: Cornwall Press, 1917).
    The online version can be found here: http://www.zpub.com/notes/rfree10.html
    Here the famous analytic philosopher B. Russell goes through all the basics of revolutionary politics beginning with K. Marx; Russell overviews the major tenets of Marxism and then moves on to explain the intellectual rift b/t Marx and Bakunin.
    If anything, just read the final couple of paragraphs about “The world we must seek…”

    (2) Daniel Guérin. Anarchism: From Theory to Practice (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970).
    Online version here: http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/daniel-guerin-anarchism-from-theory-to-practice
    Note: the online version does not include the introduction by N. Chomsky in the version cited. That intro can be found here: http://www.chomsky.info/articles/1970—-.htm
    For better or worse, anarchism as a political theory doesn’t have the solid theoretical foundations that something like Marxism has, but in this short book historian of anarchism D. Guérin outlines anarchism’s most salient features. A good read.

  13. I read Anarchism and Education last year and got a lot out of it.

  14. Everyone’s favourite Australian fash watching anarchist, Slackbastard, has shared his favourites dhipala: http://slackbastard.anarchobase.com/?p=34051

  15. I recommend reading two commentators work of Bakunin:

    – Mikhail Bakunin: The Philosophical Basis of His Anarchism. Paul MacLaughlin.

    http://www.mediafire.com/view/?96x2w85k1fp2kxm

    – Bakunin: The Creative Passion- A Biography. Mark Leier

    http://books.google.com.br/books?id=vSp6NmJvTswC&printsec=frontcover&hl=pt-BR&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

  16. I found these two histories of British anarchism great when writing about the far left in Britain:

    Benjamin Franks Rebel Alliances: The Means and Ends of Contemporary British Anarchisms (Edinburgh: AK Press, 2006)
    David Goodway Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow: Left-Libertarian Thought and British Writers from William Morris to Colin Ward (Oakland: PM Press, 2012)

    These two autobiographies of British anarchists were also highly readable:

    Ian Bone Bash the Rich (London: Tangent, 2007)
    Stuart Christie Granny Made Me an Anarchist: General Franco, the Angry Brigade and Me (London: Scribner, 2004)

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