November 02, 2006

Revolution in the Stacks


In 1999, protests against the World Trade
Organization and the “Battle in Seattle” put the
word “anarchy” back into the popular political
vocabulary. Since then, international
demonstrations against war and neoliberalism have
often involved groups of explicitly antiauthoritarian,
anti-capitalist youth. Who are these
young people and what kind of politics is motivating
them? For many, the answer is anarchism.
Anarchism is a political philosophy concerned
with the freedom of the individual from the power
of the state and other forms of authority. Some
confusion can arise, however, over the distinction
between “left” and “right” versions of anarchism.
“Left” anarchists are not only opposed to state
power, but also to private property, inequality and
capitalism. “Right” anarchists (e.g. Ayn Rand)
also oppose state power, but support an unfettered
capitalism and the central role of private
This paper focuses only on the “left” variety of
anarchism, which emerged out of the liberal and
socialist movements of the nineteenth century.
Anarchism reached its zenith in Spain in the
1930s, collectivizing agriculture and industries,
before being crushed by totalitarianism. Its
influence around the world began to wane with the
rising power of the Soviet Union and the increased
prosperity of the post-war era.
Despite its overall decline in popularity, however,
anarchism experiences short bursts of interest and
influence amongst activist intellectuals and young
people every decade or so, most dramatically with
the rise of the New Left in the 1960s. Interest arose
again during the Punk era of the 1970s, then again
with the growth of the Internet and “cyberanarchy”
in the 1990s, and today with the activities
surrounding the anti-globalization, anti-neoliberal,
and anti-imperialist struggles.
As a result, librarians can expect user interest in
this topic to rise, fall, and rise again, and should
therefore be prepared with a well-managed
collection of classic and contemporary material.
This guide was written to assist librarians,
teachers, students and activists in their anarchist
research. The resource lists are by no means
comprehensive, but will instead direct researchers
toward some of the best materials available in


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