Anarchism is a social and political ideology which, despite a history of
defeat, continually re-emerges in a new guise or in a new country, so
that another chapter has to be added to its chronology, or another
dimension to its scope.
In 1962 George Woodcock wrote a 470-page book, Anarchism, which,
continually reprinted as a Penguin Book and translated into many
languages, became probably the most widely read book on the subject
in the world. Woodcock wrote a series of updating postscripts until his
death in 1995.
In 1992 Peter Marshall wrote a book of more than 700 pages called
Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism (HarperCollins)
which seems likely to overtake the earlier book in global sales.
Woodcock was greatly relieved: ‘I now have a book,’ he wrote, ‘to
which I can direct readers when they ask me how soon I intend to bring
my Anarchism up to date.’ Like all his other readers, I have been very
grateful for Peter Marshall’s capacity for summarizing complex ideas
and for exploring the by-ways of anarchist history.
For decades, when in search of a fact or an opinion, I would telephone
Nicolas Walter, who died in the year 2000. I greatly value his neat little
pamphlet About Anarchism, which is part of the global treasury of
anarchist literature stocked by the Freedom Press Bookshop in London.
My task has been one of selection: simply an attempt to introduce the
reader to anarchist ideas in a very few words and to point to further
sources. In this rich field the emphases are bound to be my own.
List of illustrations xi
1 Definitions and ancestors 1
2 Revolutionary moments 14
3 States, societies, and the collapse of socialism 26
4 Deflating nationalism and fundamentalism 33
5 Containing deviancy and liberating work 41
6 Freedom in education 51
7 The individualist response 62
8 Quiet revolutions 70
9 The federalist agenda 78
10 Green aspirations and anarchist futures 90
Further reading 106