Randall Amster et al, Contemporary Anarchist Studies: An Introductory Anthology of Anarchy in the Academy
Oxford & New York: Routledge, 2009
318 + xvi pp., paperback [??] 24.99
The resurgence in anarchy and anarchism during the last decade has inspired Contemporary Anarchist Studies: An Introductory Anthology of Anarchy in the Academy. The editors write, 'This anthology seeks to document the growing interest in anarchism as it is expressed through scholarly work' (p1). It is a modest objective that this recommendable volume achieves. What distinguishes this anthology is a critically self-conscious perspective. The contributors are intellectuals who think and write about anarchy and anarchism while frequently engaging in a meta-analysis of their scholarship and vocation.
The book is organized according to five themes: theory, methodologies, pedagogy, praxis and the future. The theory section addresses power, postmodernism, race, violence and economics. Alejandro de Acosta's metatheoretical 'interrogation' of anarchist theory and Eric Buck's argument for an anarchist economics are particularly valuable. The methodologies section is provocatively instructive. In particular, qualitative methods, including participant observation and ethnography, are lauded in this part. Furthermore, the importance of affinity, emotion and relational ethics are cited as integral to any research model. Aside from the specific methodological recommendations, the contributors speak to how intellectual anarchists reconcile their values with the regimentation of social science. It is a commendable attempt that may unsettle academics unsympathetic to anarchism - as the inclusion of a chapter by David Graeber insinuates.
The pedagogy section 'seeks to explore what anarchism can offer towards envisioning new pedagogical forms and educational experiences ...' (p123). This is an important topic worthy of its own book. Several good, if general, suggestions are proposed and discussed, including: a postmodern approach to 'truth', pedagogic spaces organized according to horizontal democracy, an epistemological equality regarding knowledge production and an overall 'critical pedagogy'. Stevphen Shukaitis' exceptional chapter grapples with the challenge of realizing anarchist pedagogy in the academy. He persuasively argues that all too often academic courses on anarchy becomes an 'endless rehashing of the deeds and ideas of bearded nineteenth-century European...