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Specialist Group for the Study of Anarchism (SGSA)

Friday 17 March 2006, by ps

The Specialist Group for the Study of Anarchism is an official Specialist Group of the Political Studies Association (UK)

The principal aims of this specialist group are to coordinate and promote the re-investigation of anarchism as a political ideology.

Why Study Anarchism?

There are a number of reasons why a re-investigation of anarchism would be a fruitful endeavour today.

First, and probably most obviously, direct action groups and anti-capitalist protests have increasingly come to reflect an anarchistic ethos and organisation in their loose, non-hierarchical structures and in their practical aims. This would suggest that an anarchist paradigm should be developed for their study in academia.

But, secondly, similar moves in postmodern political theory also demand a reinvestigation of anarchism. The postmodern turn and its attendant critiques of power and authority clearly resonate with anarchism. This has in fact produced something of a cottage industry in ‘Post-Anarchism’, but the full implications of this move still needs to be investigated from an anarchist perspective. Moreover, and somewhat ironically, the left’s move in recent years away from orthodox and reductionist Marxism, and towards concepts of individual liberty, egalitarianism, citizenship and morality (particularly in the works of Held and Mouffe, for example) are unacknowledged strayings onto anarchist territory.

Finally, the re-evaluation of the traditional Marxist paradigms of social history has seen a resurgence of popularity in the anarchist thinkers, particularly in French social history, so much maligned by Marx all those years ago.

But probably the most important reason for a Specialist Group is the fact that there has been a widespread increase in doctoral theses and academic publications in recent years that are either anarchist inspired, or are direct engagements with the history and practice of anarchism and the anarchists.

Patrick Geddes’ Outlook Tower, Edinburgh, c. 1904
People of seven nationalities having tea together

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