It’s a Good Week for Anarchy

In a 1, 2, 3 punch, we’ve seen in quick succession, a review of Two Cheers for Anarchism in the Wall Street Journal, a feature on author James C. Scott in the New York Times, and a review for our UK colleagues in The Independent.

So why is anarchy so hot right now?

Well, one thought that came to mind reading these articles is that we may all secretly be anarchists, or at least benefit from anarchy in our personal lives.

As the feature in the New York Times points out (alongside a delightful photo of the author with his flock of chickens), “To most Americans the term anarchism probably invokes bomb-throwing radicals. But seen through Mr. Scott’s squint, anarchist principles are in action all around us, whether in jaywalking, the anti-SAT movement or assembly-line slowdowns — all examples, he contends, of everyday resistance to the rule of technocratic elites.”

So where are these sites of anarchy? If one is to believe The Independent–small businesses are hotbeds of anarchy, mom and pop shops are run by the true anarchists. Tom Hodgkinson asks, “Are shopkeepers the only true anarchists?”

Prof Scott points out that when American wage slaves, tied down to factory jobs, are asked by opinion polls what sort of work they would prefer, most say they yearn to run their own shop, restaurant or farm. Prof Scott goes on to say that, “the desire for autonomy, for control over the working day and the sense of freedom and self-respect such control provides, is a vastly under-estimated social aspiration for much of the world’s population”.

Truly, to be a shopkeeper is a revolutionary act. As Prof Scott asserts, “[A] society dominated by smallholders and shopkeepers comes closer to equality and to popular ownership of the means of production than any economic system yet devised.” Yes, comrades, rise up, throw off your chains, open a shop!

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Michael Weiss calls the book “intriguing,” and goes on to say, “Mr. Scott doesn’t pretend to abide by a utopian antigovernment philosophy or to renew the prescriptions of 19th-century Russian anarchists who wanted to overthrow the czarist state. Rather, he argues for a return to “mutuality” and organic human cooperativeness. The bulk of his book is thus dedicated to criticizing the niggling little tyrannies of everyday life in free-market democracies, from superstores that have replaced more humane mom-and-pop enterprises to the attempts of agribusiness to impose factory-like standardization on nature itself.”


Learn more about this book:


Two Cheers for Anarchism
Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play
James C. Scott