People commonly understand the word anarchy to mean disorder.
It’s a notion that author Robert Graham wants to change. It’s also something the self-described “academic freelancer” aims to clarify when he launches the final installment of his anthology of anarchist thoughts at the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library on Tuesday (November 20). The event starts at 7 p.m.
“One of the ideas of having the book launch is to give an anarchist perspective of anarchism instead of the popular stereotypes, where people associate anarchy with chaos and anarchists are terrorists,” Graham told the Straight in a phone interview. “Definitely, I’ll be hoping to persuade them otherwise.”
The third volume of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, which is edited by Graham, contains works from a diverse range of anarchist thinkers dealing with the 1970s to 2012. They include David Graeber, an American anthropologist who was part of the group that planned the occupation of New York’s Zuccotti Park last year, sparking the global Occupy movement against capitalist excesses.
Graham traces anarchist currents all the way back to ancient China, with strands continuing throughout history, including in contemporary events like the Arab Spring uprisings against authoritarian rule. He also sees anarchism alive in B.C. Blackout, a local blog that has a strong environmental bent.
“As long as the nation-state continues, I think anarchism will continue to be relevant,” Graham said. “And it provides a completely different way of thinking on how to organize human societies.”
In the afterword of the new work, which was published by Black Rose Books, Graham writes that anarchism is about “advocating societies based on free association, without anyone having the power to dominate or exploit another”.
Noting that formal institutions of government and hierarchical societies are relatively recent creations, he observes that before anyone began to articulate anarchist ideas, people lived in societies that didn’t exist under the umbrella of a state for thousands of years. Graham quotes Canadian anthropologist Harold Barclay: “Ten thousand years ago everyone was an anarchist.”