Contemporary anarchism

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Contemporary anarchism within the history of anarchism is the period of the anarchist movement continuing from the end of World War II and into the present. Since the last third of the 20th century, anarchists have been involved in anti-globalisation, peace, squatter and student protest movements. Anarchists have participated in violent revolutions such as in the Free Territory and Revolutionary Catalonia and anarchist political organizations such as the International Workers' Association and the Industrial Workers of the World exist since the 20th century. Within contemporary anarchism, the anti-capitalism of classical anarchism has remained prominent.[1][2]

Anarchist principles undergird contemporary radical social movements of the left. Interest in the anarchist movement developed alongside momentum in the anti-globalisation movement,[3] whose leading activist networks were anarchist in orientation.[4] As the movement shaped 21st century radicalism, wider embrace of anarchist principles signaled a revival of interest.[4] Various anarchist groups, tendencies and schools of thought exist today, making it difficult to describe the contemporary anarchist movement.[5] While theorists and activists have established "relatively stable constellations of anarchist principles", there is no consensus on which principles are core and commentators describe multiple "anarchisms" (rather than a singular "anarchism") in which common principles are shared between schools of anarchism while each group prioritizes those principles differently. Gender equality can be a common principle, although it ranks as a higher priority to anarcha-feminists than anarcho-communists.[6]

Anarchists are generally committed against coercive authority in all forms, namely "all centralized and hierarchical forms of government (e.g., monarchy, representative democracy, state socialism, etc.), economic class systems (e.g., capitalism, Bolshevism, feudalism, slavery, etc.), autocratic religions (e.g., fundamentalist Islam, Roman Catholicism, etc.), patriarchy, heterosexism, white supremacy, and imperialism".[7] However, anarchist schools disagree on the methods by which these forms should be opposed.[8] The principle of equal liberty is closer to anarchist political ethics in that it transcends both the liberal and socialist traditions. This entails that liberty and equality cannot be implemented within the state, resulting in the questioning of all forms of domination and hierarchy.[9] Contemporary news coverage which emphasizes black bloc demonstrations has reinforced anarchism's historical association with chaos and violence. However, its publicity has also led more scholars to engage with the anarchist movement, although contemporary anarchism favours actions over academic theory.[3][10]


New anarchism[edit]

New anarchism is a term that has been notably used by several authors to describe the most recent reinvention of the anarchist thought and practice. What distinguishes the new anarchism of today from the new anarchism of the 1960s and 1970s, or from the work of Anglo-American based authors such as Murray Bookchin, Alex Comfort, Paul Goodman, Herbert Read and Colin Ward, is its emphasis on the global perspective. Essays on new anarchism[11] include David Graeber's "New Anarchists"[12] and Andrej Grubačić's "Towards Another Anarchism".[13][14] Other authors have criticized the term for being too vague.[15]


Post-anarchism is a revision of classical anarchism through influence of Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan and Friedrich Nietzsche. Critics argue that this theory work ignores principles of class warfare and economic exploitation, not producing political action. Post-anarchism is a theoretical move towards a synthesis of classical anarchist theory and poststructuralist thought, drawing from diverse ideas including autonomism, postcolonialism, postcolonial anarchism,[16] post-left anarchy, post-modernism and Situationism.[17]

Analytical anarchism partly began as a response to analytical Marxism, being a recent development in academia that uses the methods of analytic philosophy to clarify or defend anarchist theory.[18][19] Analytical anarchists include Alan Carter,[20] Michael Taylor[21] and Robert Paul Wolff.[22] Carter argues that the state cannot be trusted to liberate the people[23] while Taylor uses game theory to argue that cooperation is possible without the state[24][25] and Wolff argues that we have no obligation to obey the state.[26]

Post-left anarchy[edit]

Post-left anarchy is a recent current in anarchist thought that promotes a critique of anarchism's relationship to traditional left-wing politics such as its emphasis on class struggle, labor unions, social revolution and the working class. Influenced by anti-authoritarian postmodern philosophy, post-leftists reject Enlightenment rationality and deconstruct topics such as gender. While a few advocate for armed insurrection, most advocate for creating spaces and affinity groups to act freely within current society rather than fighting for utopian ideal. In the United States, Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, CrimethInc. and Green Anarchy are associated with post-leftism as many post-left anarchists advocate for anarcho-primitivism. Influenced by anarcho-punk, green anarchy and Situationism, CrimethInc. argues for a DIY folk approach to everyday life, including refusal of work, escaping gender roles and straight edge lifestyle.[27]


Members of the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist trade union CNT marching in Madrid in 2010

Anarchism was influential in the counterculture of the 1960s[28][29][30] and anarchists actively participated in the protests of 1968 involving students and workers revolts.[31] In 1968, the International of Anarchist Federations was founded during an international anarchist conference held in Carrara by the three existing European federations, namely the French Anarchist Federation, the Iberian Anarchist Federation and the Italian Anarchist Federation as well as the Bulgarian Anarchist Federation in French exile.[32] In the United Kingdom during the 1970s, this was associated with the punk rock movement as exemplified by bands such as Crass (pioneers of the anarcho-punk subgenre) and the Sex Pistols.[33]

The housing and employment crisis in most of Western Europe led to the formation of communes, intentional communities and squatter movements like that of Barcelona. In Denmark, squatters occupied a disused military base and declared the Freetown Christiania, an autonomous haven in central Copenhagen. The relationship between anarchism and punk as well as squatting has carried on into the 21st century. In Infinitely Demanding, Simon Critchley wrote: "There is no doubt that 60s anarchism was libertarian and linked to the sexual revolution, liberation of the erotic instincts and what Herbert Marcuse called 'nonrepressive sublimation'. Yet, contemporary anarchism can be seen as a powerful critique of the pseudo-libertarianism of contemporary neo-liberalism, where the sexual revolution has turned the culture industry into the sex industry – ask yourself, is there today anything less transgressive and more normalizing than pornography? One might say that contemporary anarchism is about responsibility, whether sexual, ecological or socio-economic; it flows from an experience of conscience about the manifold ways in which the West ravages the rest; it is an ethical outrage at the yawning inequality, impoverishment and disenfranchisment that is so palpable locally and globally."[34]

Since the revival of anarchism in the mid-20th century,[35] a number of new movements and schools of thought emerged, well documented in Robert Graham's Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Volume Two: The Emergence of the New Anarchism (1939–1977).[36] Although feminist tendencies have always been a part of the anarchist movement in the form of anarcha-feminism, they returned with vigour during the second wave of feminism in the 1960s. The American civil rights movement and the movement in opposition to the Vietnam War also contributed to the revival of North American anarchism. European anarchism of the late 20th century drew much of its strength from the labour movement and both have incorporated animal rights activism. Anarchist anthropologist David Graeber and anarchist historian Andrej Grubačić have posited a rupture between generations of anarchism, with those "who often still have not shaken the sectarian habits" of the 19th century contrasted with the younger activists who are "much more informed, among other elements, by indigenous, feminist, ecological and cultural-critical ideas" and who by the turn of the 21st century formed "by far the majority" of anarchists.[11]

Contemporary members of the Italian Anarchist Federation marching in Rome in 2008 in an anti-Catholic manifestation (the text translates as "free from dogmas, always heretics")

Around the turn of the 21st century, anarchism grew in popularity and influence as part of the anti-war, anti-capitalist and anti-globalisation movements.[37] Anarchists became known for their involvement in protests against the meetings of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Group of Eight and the World Economic Forum. Some anarchist factions at these protests engaged in rioting, property destruction and violent confrontations with police. These actions were precipitated by ad hoc, leaderless and anonymous cadres known as black blocs, although other peaceful organisational tactics pioneered in this time include affinity groups, security culture and the use of decentralised technologies such as the Internet.[37] A significant event of this period was the 1999 Seattle WTO protests.[37]

International anarchist federations in existence include the International of Anarchist Federations, the International Libertarian Solidarity and the International Workers' Association. The largest organised anarchist movement today is in Spain in the form of the CGT and the CNT, with the CGT membership being estimated at around 100,000 for 2003.[38] Other active anarcho-syndicalist movements include the CNT–AIT in France, the Union Sindicale Italiana in Italy, the Central Organisation of the Workers of Sweden and the Swedish Anarcho-syndicalist Youth Federation in Sweden, the Workers Solidarity Alliance in the United States and the Solidarity Federation in the United Kingdom. The revolutionary industrial unionist Industrial Workers of the World claiming 10,000 paying members and the International Workers Association, an anarcho-syndicalist successor to the First International, also remain active. The International of Anarchist Federations was founded in 1968 during an international anarchist conference in Carrara by the three existing European anarchist federations of Bulgaria, France, Italy and Spain. These organizations were also inspired on synthesis anarchist principles.[39] Currently alongside the previously mentioned federations, the International of Anarchist Federations includes the Argentine Libertarian Federation, the Anarchist Federation of Belarus, the Federation of Anarchists in Bulgaria, the Czech-Slovak Anarchist Federation, the Federation of German speaking Anarchists in Germany and Switzerland and the Anarchist Federation in the United Kingdom and Ireland.[40]

Platformism is an important current in international anarchism. Around thirty platformists and specifists are linked together in the Anarkismo project, including groups from Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America.[41] At least in terms of the number of affiliated organisations, the Anarkismo network is larger than other anarchist international bodies such as the International of Anarchist Federations and the International Workers' Association. However, it is not a formal international and has no intention of competing with these other formations. Today, there are organisations inspired by Dielo Truda's Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft) in many countries, including Federación Anarco-Comunista de Argentina and Línea Anarco-Comunista in Argentina, the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group and Sydney Anarchist Communist Trajectory in Australia, Fórum do Anarquismo Organizado in Brazil, Common Cause (Ontario) and Union Communiste Libertaire (Quebec) in Canada, Federación Comunista Libertaria and Organización Comunista Libertaria (OCL) in Chile, Libertære Socialister in Denmark, Alternative Libertaire and Organisation Communiste Libertaire in France, the Workers Solidarity Movement in Ireland, Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici in Italy, Alianza de los Comunistas Libertarios in Mexico, Motmakt in Norway, Unión Socialista Libertaria in Peru, the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front in South Africa, Collective Action in the United Kingdom, Common Struggle/Lucha Común in the United States and the Revolutionary Confederation of Anarcho-Syndicalists by the name of N. I. Makhno which is an international anarcho-syndicalist and platformist confederation with sections and individual members in Bulgaria, Georgia, Germany, Israel, Latvia, Russia and Ukraine. Organisations inspired by platformism were also among the founders of the now-defunct International Libertarian Solidarity network and its successor Anarkismo network which is run collaboratively by roughly thirty platformist and specifists organisations around the world.[41]

Rojava is supporting efforts for workers to form cooperatives such as this sewing cooperative

Anarchist ideas have been influential in the development of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, more commonly known as Rojava, a de facto autonomous region in northern Syria.[42] Abdullah Öcalan, a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers' Party who is currently imprisoned in Turkey, is an iconic and popular figure in Rojava and whose ideas shaped the region's society and politics.[43]

While in prison, Öcalan corresponded with and was influenced by Murray Bookchin, an social anarchist theorist and philosopher who developed communalism and libertarian municipalism.[43] Modelled after Bookchin's ideas, Öcalan developed the theory of democratic confederalism. In March 2005, Öcalan issued his "Declaration of Democratic Confederalism in Kurdistan", calling upon citizens "to stop attacking the government and instead create municipal assemblies, which he called 'democracy without the state'".[43]

About anarcho-syndicalism, a classical anarchist school of thought that remains popular and relevant to contemporary anarchism, Noam Chomsky stated that it is "highly relevant to advanced industrial societies".[44] Anarchism continues to generate many philosophies and movements, at times eclectic, drawing upon various sources and syncretic, combining disparate concepts to create new philosophical approaches.[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jun, Nathan (September 2009). "Anarchist Philosophy and Working Class Struggle: A Brief History and Commentary". WorkingUSA. 12 (3): 505–519. doi:10.1111/j.1743-4580.2009.00251.x. ISSN 1089-7011.
  2. ^ Williams, Dana M. (2018). "Contemporary Anarchist and Anarchistic Movements". Sociology Compass. Wiley. 12 (6): 4. doi:10.1111/soc4.12582. ISSN 1751-9020.
  3. ^ a b Evren, Süreyyya (2011). "How New Anarchism Changed the World (of Opposition) after Seattle and Gave Birth to Post-Anarchism". In Rousselle, Duane; Evren, Süreyyya (eds.). Post-Anarchism: A Reader. London: Pluto Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-7453-3086-0.
  4. ^ a b Evren, Süreyyya (2011). "How New Anarchism Changed the World (of Opposition) after Seattle and Gave Birth to Post-Anarchism". In Rousselle, Duane; Evren, Süreyyya (eds.). Post-Anarchism: A Reader. London: Pluto Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-7453-3086-0.
  5. ^ Franks, Benjamin (August 2013). Freeden, Michael; Stears, Marc (eds.). "Anarchism". The Oxford Handbook of Political Ideologies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 385–386. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199585977.013.0001.
  6. ^ Franks, Benjamin (August 2013). Freeden, Michael; Stears, Marc (eds.). "Anarchism". The Oxford Handbook of Political Ideologies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 386. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199585977.013.0001.
  7. ^ Jun, Nathan (September 2009). "Anarchist Philosophy and Working Class Struggle: A Brief History and Commentary". WorkingUSA. 12 (3): 507–508. doi:10.1111/j.1743-4580.2009.00251.x. ISSN 1089-7011.
  8. ^ Jun, Nathan (September 2009). "Anarchist Philosophy and Working Class Struggle: A Brief History and Commentary". WorkingUSA. 12 (3): 507. doi:10.1111/j.1743-4580.2009.00251.x. ISSN 1089-7011.
  9. ^ Egoumenides, Magda (2014). Philosophical Anarchism and Political Obligation. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing USA. p. 91. ISBN 9781441124456.
  10. ^ Williams, Leonard (2010). "Hakim Bey and Ontological Anarchism". Journal for the Study of Radicalism. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press. 4 (2): 110. doi:10.1353/jsr.2010.0009. JSTOR 41887660.
  11. ^ a b Graeber, David; Grubačić, Andrej (6 January 2004). "Anarchism, Or The Revolutionary Movement Of The Twenty-first Century". ZNet. Archived 17 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Republished as PDF at Punks in Science. Archived 23 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  12. ^ Graeber, David (2004). "New Anarchists". In Mertes, Tom, ed. A Movement of Movements: Is Another World Really Possible? (1st ed.). London: Verso. ISBN 9781859844687.
  13. ^ Grubačić, Andrej (2007). "Towards Another Anarchism". In Sen, Jai; Waterman, Peter, eds. World Social Forum: Challenging Empires (revised 2nd ed.). Montreal: Black Rose Books. ISBN 9781551643090.
  14. ^ Williams, Leonard (31 August 2006). "The New Anarchists" (Paper). Philadelphia: American Political Science Association. Retrieved 24 September 2020 – via the All Academic website.
  15. ^ Gee, Teoman (2003). "'New Anarchism': Some Thoughts". Alpine Anarchist Productions. Retrieved 24 September 2020 – via the Alpine Anarchist Productions website.
  16. ^ White, Roger (2005). "Introduction". Post Colonial Anarchism Essays on Race, Repression and Culture in Communities of Color 1999–2004. Oakland: Jailbreak Press. Archived 3 January 2006 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 24 September 2020 – via the Colours of Resistance Archive.
  17. ^ Kinna, Ruth (2010). "Anarchy". In Bevir, Mark (ed.). Encyclopedia of Political Theory. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. p. 37–39. ISBN 9781506332727. Retrieved 24 September 2020 – via Google Books.
  18. ^ Franks, Benjamin (2012). "Anarchism and Analytical Philosophy". In Kinna, Ruth, ed. The Continuum Companion to Anarchism. Continuum Companions. London: Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 9781441172129. Retrieved 24 September 2020 – via the Academia website. Archived 7 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 24 September 2020 – via the Enlighten: Publications.
  19. ^ McLaughlin, Paul (2017). "Anarchism and Analytic Philosophy". In Jun, Nathan J., ed. Brill's Companion to Anarchism and Philosophy. Brill's Companion. 1. Leida: BRILL. pp. 341–368. ISBN 9789004356894. doi:10.1163/9789004356894_014.
  20. ^ Carter, Alan (2000). "Analytical Anarchism: Some Conceptual Foundations". Political Theory. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. 28 (2): 230–253. doi:10.1177/0090591700028002005. JSTOR 192235.
  21. ^ Taylor, Michael (1976). Anarchy and Cooperation. New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780471846475.
  22. ^ Wolff, Robert Paul (1970). In Defense of Anarchism. New York: Harper and Row. ISBN 9780061315411.
  23. ^ Ingham, Stuart (February 2016). "Analytical Anarchism? A Critique of Alan Carter's Anarchist Theory of History". Capital & Class. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. 40 (1): 111–127. doi:10.1177/0309816815628009.
  24. ^ Flathman, Richard E. (May 1977). "Reviewed Work: Anarchy and Cooperation by Michael Taylor". Political Theory. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. 5 (2): 271–275. JSTOR 190737.
  25. ^ Graham, Robert (June 1985). "Anarchism: A Theoretical Analysis". Telos. Candor: Telos Press Publishing. 64: 197–202. doi:10.3817/0685064197.
  26. ^ Frankfurt, Harry G. (November 1973). "The Anarchism of Robert Paul Wolff". Political Theory. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. 1 (4): 405–414. JSTOR 191060.
  27. ^ Marshall, Peter (1992). "Post-Left Anarchy". Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism. London: HarperCollins. pp. 679–680. ISBN 9780002178556.
  28. ^ Shively, Charley (1990). "Anarchism". In Dynes, Wayne R., ed. Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. 2. New York: Garland Publishing. p. 52. ISBN 0824065441. Retrieved 24 September 2020 – via the William A. Percy website and The Concise Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. "While not always formally recognized, much of the protest of the sixties was anarchist. Within the nascent women's movement, anarchist principles became so widespread that a political science professor denounced what she saw as 'The Tyranny of Structurelessness.' Several groups have called themselves 'Amazon Anarchists.' After the Stonewall Rebellion, the New York Gay Liberation Front based their organization in part on a reading of Murray Bookchin's anarchist writings."
  29. ^ Chorbajian, Levon (1998). "Book Review: The Spirit of the Sixties: The Making of Postwar Radicalism by James J. Farrell". Social Anarchism (26). "Farrell provides a detailed history of the Catholic Workers and their founders Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. He explains that their pacifism, anarchism, and commitment to the downtrodden were one of the important models and inspirations for the 60s. As Farrell puts it, 'Catholic Workers identified the issues of the sixties before the Sixties began, and they offered models of protest long before the protest decade.'" Retrieved 24 September 2020 – via The Library at Nothingness website.
  30. ^ Patten, John (2003). Islands of Anarchy: Simian, Cienfuegos and Refract 1969-1987 - An Annotated Bibliography (revised ed.). London: Kate Sharpley Library. ISBN 9781873605233. "These groups had their roots in the anarchist resurgence of the nineteen sixties. Young militants finding their way to anarchism, often from the anti-bomb and anti-Vietnam war movements, linked up with an earlier generation of activists, largely outside the ossified structures of 'official' anarchism. Anarchist tactics embraced demonstrations, direct action such as industrial militancy and squatting, protest bombings like those of the First of May Group and Angry Brigade – and a spree of publishing activity." Archived 4 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 24 September 2020 – via the Kate Sharpley Library website.
  31. ^ Epstein, Barbara (1 September 2001). "Anarchism and the Anti-Globalization Movement". Monthly Review. Retrieved 24 September 2020. "Within the movements of the sixties there was much more receptivity to anarchism-in-fact than had existed in the movements of the thirties. [...] But the movements of the sixties were driven by concerns that were more compatible with an expressive style of politics, with hostility to authority in general and state power in particular. [...] By the late sixties, political protest was intertwined with cultural radicalism based on a critique of all authority and all hierarchies of power. Anarchism circulated within the movement along with other radical ideologies. The influence of anarchism was strongest among radical feminists, in the commune movement, and probably in the Weather Underground and elsewhere in the violent fringe of the anti-war movement."
  32. ^ "London Federation of Anarchists involvement in Carrara conference, 1968". Amsterdam: International Institute of Social History. 19 December 2005. Archived 19 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 25 September 2020. – via the International Institute of Social History website.
  33. ^ McLaughlin, Paul (2007). Anarchism and Authority. Aldershot: Ashgate. p. 10. ISBN 9780754661962.
  34. ^ Critchley, Simon (2007). Infinitely Demanding. London: Verso. p. 125. ISBN 9781781680179.
  35. ^ Williams, Leonard (September 2007). "Anarchism Revived". New Political Science. 29 (3): 297–312. doi:10.1080/07393140701510160.
  36. ^ Graham, Robert, ed. (2008). Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Volume Two: The Emergence of the New Anarchism (1939–1977). Montreal: Black Rose Books. ISBN 9781551643113. Retrieved 24 September 2020 – via
  37. ^ a b c Rupert, Mark (2006). Globalization and International Political Economy. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 66. ISBN 9780742529434. Retrieved 24 September 2020 – via Internet Archive.
  38. ^ Carley, Mark (20 May 2004). "Trade Union Membership 1993–2003". SPIRE Associates. Retrieved 24 September – via Eurofond. See also Carley, Mark (21 September 2009). "Trade Union Membership 2003–2008". SPIRE Associates. Retrieved 24 September – via Eurofond.
  39. ^ The Anarchist FAQ Collective; McKay, Iain, ed. (2008). "J.3.2 What are 'synthesis' federations?". An Anarchist FAQ. I. Oakland: AK Press. ISBN 9781849351225. Archived 7 October 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 24 September 2020 – via Infoshop.
  40. ^ "IFA-IAF pagina oficial" (in Spanish). International of Anarchist Federations. Archived from the original on 8 August 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2013 – via the International of Anarchist Federations website.
  41. ^ a b "About Us" (in Italian). PDF version. Anarkismo. Retrieved 24 September 2020 – via the Anarkismo website.
  42. ^ Bufe, Chaz; Hedges, Chris; McHenry, Keith (2015). Anarchist Cookbook. Tucson: See Sharp Press. p. 85. ISBN 9781937276782. Retrieved 24 September 2020 – via Google Books.
  43. ^ a b c Enzinna, Wes (24 November 2015). "A Dream of Secular Utopia in ISIS' Backyard". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 28 February 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  44. ^ Chomsky, Noam; Jay, Peter (25 July 1976). "The Relevance of Anarcho-Syndicalism". The Jay Interview. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  45. ^ Perlin, Terry M. (1979). Contemporary Anarchism. New Brunswick: Transaction Books. ISBN 9781412820332. Retrieved 24 September 2020 – via Google Books.

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