Writing in Capital and Class, David Bell reviews Uri Gordon’s Anarchy Alive! Anti-Authoritarian Politics From Practice to Theory, finding it to offer “a thoughtful, nuanced understanding of contemporary anarchism…a compelling vision of an ideological movement whose relevance now is even stronger than it was in 2004”. Bell continues:
The subtitle of Gordon’s work talks of a move ‘from practice to theory’, inverting the more standard approach of books which proclaim the relevance of a particular political ideology. Yet Gordon’s book actually goes further, undermining the dichotomy between practice and theory: it is perhaps best thought of as a work of praxis, in which theory and practice are irreducibly bound together in a mutually reinforcing relationship. It is a work which puts ‘organisation, action and lifestyle on the same footing with ideas and theories’ (p. 27), and what results is that each of these facets of anarchism asks awkward questions of the others such that a precise definition of ‘anarchism’ can never be established.
Any initial fears that encoding key issues in anarchist practice into a work of theory might bring about an ossification of the movement are thus unfounded, and despite a cautiously optimistic tone throughout, Anarchy Alive! is bookended with assertions that its purpose is to ask ‘relevant questions’ (p. 7), and that ‘there are more questions than answers’ (p. 164). Indeed, the book’s refusal to fix the meaning of anarchism once and for all – and the liveliness of the debates it draws on – perhaps offers an answer to the questions Sartre posed in Critique of Dialectical Reason, where he wondered how it was possible for revolutionary politics to avoid ossification into bureaucratic forms of organisation, killing its vitality (Sartre, 2004).
If the anarchist movement can…move forwards with the clarity, honesty and enthusiasm that Gordon’s book displays then I would be tempted to share the optimism with which it closes and agree that many of the questions anarchists must now face are indeed ‘new questions … questions about winning’.
Visit Uri’s Anarchy Alive! website to read the review in full.
Anti-Authoritarian Politics From Practice to Theory
Overview of anarchism today — what it means in theory and in practice.
“An incredibly thorough and thoughtful book.” – Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature and the Co-director of the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley.
“Uri Gordon has made us look at the anarchist movement through new eyes. He illuminates and makes us question our most basic assumptions, puts his finger squarely on our most painful dilemmas, and opens up new vistas of choice and understanding.” – Starhawk