Loughborough University
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What is anarchism? A reflection on the canon and the constructive potential of its destruction

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posted on 2012-08-24, 12:03 authored by Sureyya Turkeli
Contemporary debates in anarchism, particularly the conceptual debates sparked by the development of post-anarchism and those surrounding the emergence of the anti-globalization movement, have brought an old question back to the table: what is anarchism? This study analyzes the canonical representations of anarchism as a political movement and political philosophy in order to reflect on the ways in which that critical question, 'what is anarchism?' has been answered in mainstream literature. It examines the way that the story of anarchism has been told and through a critical review, it discusses an alternative approach. For this purpose, two seminal canon-building texts, Paul Eltzbacher's The Great Anarchists, and George Woodcock's Anarchism have been identified and their influence is discussed, together with the representations of anarchism in textbooks describing political ideologies. The analysis shows how assumptions, biases, and hidden ideological perspectives have been normalized and how they have created an official history of a political movement. In challenging the official account, this study highlights the exclusions and omissions (third world anarchists, women anarchists, queer anarchism and artistic anarchism) that have resulted in the making of the core. The question of how to tell the story of anarchist past carries us to the shores of postmodern history where theoreticians have been discussing the relationship between past and history and the politics of representation. The anarchism offered in this study demands an engagement with a network-like structure of information rather than a linear, axial structure. Consequently, this study aims to show several layers of problems in the existing dominant historical representation of one of the richest political ideologies, anarchism; and then to discuss ways of representing the past and especially the anarchist past, to seek an answer to a principal question: what is anarchism?



  • Social Sciences


  • Politics and International Studies


© Süreyya Evren Türkeli

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en