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+4 votes
What anarchists text or authors would you recommend for someone who is new to anarchism?

Thanks. :)

edited to add tags
by (110 points)
edited by
Hi uv, welcome to anarchy 101. could you go in and use the tags to idetify subject material in your questions? That will help them link to related questions and answers.

I actually hink I have answered this elsewhere, but times change, and so do I, so I will also give an answer here.

3 Answers

+2 votes
As I said in my comment, I think I've answered this elsewhere, but without tags, I am not playing the game of hunting further than I have already.

First (shameless plug): Anarchy 101 is a good collection of stuff from this site (which, obviously, I think is worthwhile, seeing as I contribute so much...)

Beyond that:
-Anarchy Works by Peter Gelderloos - a readable intro to anarchy in practice.
-Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist by Alexander Berkman - *sigh* this is the best.
-Elements of Refusal by John Zerzan - if you want a book that covers the bases of green/a-p perspectives, here it is.
-Mutual Aid by Peter Kropotkin - Why do I still suggest this? I dunno, but I do. It is dated, overly simplistic, and also worth reading). Also Memoirs of a Revolutionist.
-Against His-Story, Against Leviathan! by Fredy Perlman - Fredy was not an anarchist (he was a cellist!), but anarchists should read this and Letters of Insurgents.

Other author names to investigate:
Bob Black (pig fucker, or something, but also cuttingly honest)
Uri Gordon (academic, civilization skeptic, and anarchist against the wall)
Paul Avrich (scholar and friend of anarchy, rip)
Voltarine DeCleyre (originator of the concept of anarchist-without-adjectives, anarcha-feminist, general badass)
and stuff at
Wolfi Landstreicher (playfully fierce anti-civ/pro-insurrectionary egoist).

Plus periodicals! AJODA and Modern Slavery are current favorites. The journal Attentat, Green Anarchy (rip - you can read many of their things online or in the book Uncivilized).

All of this is informed by my particular perspective, and should not reflect anything close to a comprehensive list.
by (22.1k points)
I like how I say that DeCleyre was an anarchist-without-adjectives and then say she was an anarcha-feminist. seems both contradictory, and accurate.
This is a great list, I would just add some Lucy Parsons to it, and maybe some Colin Ward, both of which are pretty straight-forward reads.
Parsons was a socially conservative anarchist, one whose underwhelming scribblings have precious little relevance to a (post)modern perspective. She was against "free love," had her mentally unstable son committed to an insane asylum (where he died), and flaunted her relationships and political alliances with Party communists. Her recent recovery from partial obscurity has much more to do (I fear) with the fact that she wasn't white than with her alleged contribution to anarchist philosophy.

Colin Ward was also pretty bad as far as intros go. His contribution on Anarchism to the "Short Introduction" series by Oxford University Press is truly appalling. Did you know that all anarchists are interested in urban planning, self-managed social safety nets, and reforming the education system? Neither did I. There's nothing particularly radical in any of Ward's writings, and certainly nothing I would recognize as revolutionary.

Two bad choices, ALC.
I find some of Parson's speeches useful for understanding anarchist rhetoric. I don't idolize any historical anarchist and I find those personal flaws largely irrelevant to the discussion of introductions. Bakunin was anti-Semitic, Proudhon was misogynist, Kropotkin endorsed the Allies in WWI, Goldman supported eugenics, Bob Black snitched, yes, but that does not entirely invalidate all of their writings. The addition of Parsons was for the more violent side of things that the other authors did not address quite as much.

I don't know anyone else of the time who spoke as openly:

"Let every dirty, lousy tramp arm himself with a revolver or knife on the steps of the palace of the rich and stab or shoot their owners as they come out. Let us kill them without mercy, and let it be a war of extermination and without pity."
"You need no organization when you make up your mind to present this kind of petition. In fact, an organization would be a detriment to you; but each of you hungry tramps who read these lines, avail yourselves of those little methods of warfare which Science has placed in the hands of the poor man, and you will become a power in this or any other land.
    Learn the use of explosives!"

As for Ward, I think his writing (particularly in "Anarchy In Action") is an accessible read with many personal observations, and a good introduction to some Left-Anarchist concepts. I am not a Left-Anarchist but I added him to Ingrate's list to give that perspective for those who wish to critically engage it, as it was missing. Certainly he's not essential, and I don't agree with him, but I find him useful regardless.

I think Jason McQuinn would actually be a good addition as well but a bit beyond beginner level.
The Parson's quote is from years before the disputes with other anarchists made her start hanging out with Stalinists.

Perhaps the digs Bakunin made against Jews had more to do with his rancor toward Marx, but Proudhon's solution to the Jewish Question was far more horrible: one third converted, one third expelled, one third exterminated. Proudon was the worst misogynist among any anarchist ever as far as I can tell. But anti-Jewish sentiments were all the rage in 19th century Europe, so it's easy to understand why a majority of anti-capitalists were antisemites: capitalism, especially in its newly ascendant industrial phase, was facilely equated with Jewish money. The pervasiveness of this absurd form of Socialism led August Bebel (no anarchist and not even much of a revolutionary) to denounce antisemitism as "The Socialism of Fools." This tendency unfortunately remains part of some strands of anti-capitalism, to the point where certain left-communists refer to the idea of "structural antisemitism." Neither Bakunin's nor Proudhon's ideas about capitalism and revolution can be separated from their anti-Jewish bigotry.

Kropotkin's support for the Allies in WWI was roundly condemned by almost every other anarchist on the face of the planet. After his idiotic declaration for war, he no longer had much to say or do with anarchists - except at his funeral. He had crossed a line that no anarchist could cross and still be respected.

Goldman supported some of the ideas of eugenics, specifically the ones connected to birth control. Not state-sponsored sterilization, not health officials determining who should procreate and who should not. The attraction of many socialists and anarchists to sex hygiene was mostly due to the issue of involuntary pregnancy (inside or outside marriage), not with breeding better human stock. You're mischaracterizing her stance. And if I remember correctly, she abandoned her pro-eugenic ideas once it became clear that the institutional and legislative policies being promoted were aimed mostly at working class and poor women: forced sterilization being the most notable manifestation.

The whole snitching thing with Bob is stupid. He wrote a letter to the Seattle PD about drugs and weapons in the apartment of a writer who'd threatened him with a rifle. If you've never voluntarily spoken to the cops about anything, bully for you. If you've never been threatened with a lethal weapon, bully for you. If you don't understand at least a little bit of context (what I've tried to do with the other examples you used), then not bully for you.

Ward's perspectives might be Leftist, but they have more in common with social democracy than anarchism.
I've read Bob's account of the interaction, and understand why he made the decision he did. I don't respect the decision but I don't really blame him either, I'm sure he didn't know what else to do and had no support from anyone and is a vengeful egoist by nature (half insult, half compliment?)

I have family in prison so it's hard for me to ever feel comfortable with calling the cops on someone, even for something serious. I've had serious threats on my life and chose to deal with it without the cops. I know not everyone can afford that luxury, but at the same time I just don't respect that decision when it's a conscious decision after-the-fact.
+1 vote
The Anarchy 101 by Dot/people here/LBC is probably the best 101 out there.

Anarchy After Leftism by Bob Black
skip the whole red/left/syndicalist/big tent garbage, and journey down the path of non-compulsion and anti-politics

Against His-story, Against Leviathan! by Fredy Perlman
pretty much the best

Willfull Disobedience by Wolfi Landstreicher.
easy to read insurrectionary, egoist-leaning theory, passionate and playful

Novatore's collected writing, translated by Wolfi
not 'proper' theory, but beautiful ideas through beautiful writing from someone who lived a beautiful life

The Ego and Its Own (The Unique and its Property) by Max Stirner
a classic text of theory thats not too hard to understand and is in many ways antithetical/hostile to most other 'classical' anarchist texts. sure, some of it is to be taken with a grain of salt, but if you really want to meaningfully interrogate politics, morality, religion, relating to one another, etc., this is pretty darn good.  It gets really good in section 2. Stirner's Critics (transl. by Wolfi) is his response to his critics, the content of which is much the same as his critics within anarchy today, and makes for an an interesting read to be sure

Uncivilized (Collection of Green Anarchy magazine) compiled by GA editors- there's actually a bunch of great stuff in here for the anti-political and anti-civ folks, the learning curve for GA never seemed too high, but was usually interesting in one way or another.

Freedom: My Dream - the autobiography of Enrico Arrigoni
a great autobiography by a funny and passionate individualist anarchist as he makes his way through significant historical events (WWI and the rise of fascism in Italy, Communist uprisings in Russia and Germany, anarchist ex-pat groups in Paris, the Spanish Civil War, etc.)
by (2.3k points)
That's a far too narrow list for newbies. uv didn't ask for a post-left/anti-civ reading list.
i dont really believe that theres such a thing as just "anarchism" or some neutral form from which all others spring.  there are different stripes informed by different impulses and orientations.  im not going to tell people to read old anarcho-communists because they are supposed to be more fundamental, im not interested in directing people to ideas that i think are stupid or uninteresting.  sorry my answer was wrong though, ill try harder next time. perhaps you could grace us with a correct reading list?
I needn't "grace" anyone with anything in order to make my observation more weighty. I assume uv was looking for something more neutral than your partisan list, that's all. I think everything you listed is a good, decent, read, but perhaps not all of them are so good for a newbie. Arrigoni's meandering self-congratulatory prose is too confusing for a newbie, for example. And I don't think I'd ever recommend Stirner for a newbie either; some background in recognizing the different strains of anarchism would be important for putting each of them in a proper context of the wider contestations between individualisty and communisty anarchists.
i strongly agree with jingles about arrigoni's bio. it is an exciting read about someone's event-filled life, full of personal reflection, historic detail, significant people, *and* grand ideas; i can imagine it being an awesome read for someone early on. of course his take is biased (his interview with the anarchist politicians in spain is hysterical and sad at the same time), but history *is* biased; personal renditions just make that more obvious.
and fwiw, i agree that lucy parson's words are worth including (at least the ones quoted). and i think ALC's point is correct that we are not necessarily endorsing whole people when we enter them onto a list for reading, and it *is* that purity standard that people hold against bob black that is so infuriating.
aw hell, i'll just add my own answer...
aww lawrence you got all nice and ruined my pouty-ness
but yeah, i still stand beside it. aside from all the exciting stuff, i do like the way it deals with bureaucratic and red anarchists and revolutionary communists in the context of uprisings and the lessons he drew about assuming so much of the intent and character of the people who identified as anarchists and communists, and what it means to have bureaucracy governing people - anarchist, communist, or otherwise.  we get to see in some ways the full length of one anarchist life, and what it meant to mature in thought and perspective living through seemingly the most significant historical events of revolutionaries in the early 20th century.
0 votes
depending on the direction people want to go in (which would require information about the individual(s) that you don't provide), to the other titles listed i would second arrigoni's bio, and add bolo'bolo, which is an odd book, but extremely worth reading for people at any stage of their thought.
by (53.1k points)