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Review: Practical Anarchism: A Guide for Everyday Life

Review: Practical Anarchism: A Guide for Everyday Life

Author: Scott Branson
Practical Anarchism: A Guide for Everyday Life
Pluto Press
ISBN: 9780745344928

OMG it’s an anarchist self-help book! No, not an ironic one for burnt-out activists. This is a guide to rethinking everyday life for readers with no priors. Each chapter in Practical Anarchism starts with a few bullet points (‘you aren’t your job’; ‘study can take place anywhere’; ‘rethink the arrangement of our lives’) and ends with FAQ (‘do I have to be polyamorous?’; ‘can I have my own toothbrush’?). The main chapters contain bite-sized discussions that aim to “de-naturalise” the established authoritarian and/or competitive norms that govern different social institutions (families and relationships, schooling, labour, money, art, local services) and offer examples that point to other possibilities, based on norms of care and freedom. The book ends with a reflection on anarchist practice in terms of unity between means and ends and ideas of everyday revolution.

For readers already familiar with anarchist critiques and alternatives, the book still offers a valuable introduction to contemporary black/feminist/queer/indigenous writers (mainly from the US), whose abolitionist stances against institutions and regimes of domination have gained anarchists’ appreciation in recent years. These include authors of both social commentary and science fiction, such as adrienne marie brown, bell hooks, Octavia Butler, Margaret Killjoy, Leanne Betosamotake Simpson, Monique Wittig, and many others on whose work Branson draws. Kropotkin and Colin Ward are also prominent, as are current anarchist writers such as Peter Gelderloos and Cindy Milstein. There is a helpful “further reading” section at the end of the book.

Unless it becomes a best-seller (why not?) we’ll never know how much Practical Anarchism has done to radicalise new people. The strawberry-banana colour scheme, and the respectful bracketing of anarchism’s confrontational side, may raise eyebrows – but they seem to be part a deliberate strategy of gentleness towards an imagined young (and probably American) reader who is still working their way out of identification with dominant systems, in an atomised society where collectivity is extremely rare. It is hard for me to judge how successful this is as a pitch, but Scott Branson deserves appreciation just for the attempt to write a gateway book in a previously unattempted genre.

Uri Gordon

Practical Anarchism: A Guide for Everyday Life can be purchased here.

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