Wednesday, January 9, 2013

3 Best Anarchist Books of 2012

And the winners are!!!

I should have made this post a couple weeks ago before New Years. But I was too busy snorting coke and shooting guns after Christmas. (Just kidding...maybe.) Here are the three best books on anarchy I read in 2012: 

1) Against the State, by Crispin Sartwell 
By far, this is the most eloquent and concise rejection of state power I've ever read. Professor Sartwell knocks down every philosophical foundation for the current nation-state with undeniably heavy blows of reason, wit and common sense. Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau meet their end in this book, as do their various justifications of the "social contract" thing we hear about so much from people who, really, will look for anything to justify their own power (or slavery). Think the "rule of law" justifies the existence of the nation-state? Sartwell blows that nonsense out of the water as well, along with several other political myths drummed into our brains since Kindergarten.  ("But what about the roads?!?"). I recommend this book to anyone with an open mind, a tolerance for accessible political philosophy, and a critical suspicion that, somehow, the "land of the free" isn't really that free. Excellent work.   

2) The Wizards of Ozymandias, by Butler Shaffer

A fine collections of essays by a long-time professor of law from California, each of which pinpoint different examples illustrating the natural destruction of Western civilization, how the institutions that built it now are currently imploding from corruption, and why the entropy of America and the West actually shines as a light of hope for humanity (though one hard to face directly at times). The title refers to a poem by the radical libertarian poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. From the poem's wikipedia page: 

Like Shelley's poem, Professor Shaffer's essays provide us insight as to why powerful institutionalized systems of order--entire empires no less--tend to self-destruct. Though the American Empire will thrash about in it's throes of death to prove its own legitimacy and power, it will soon be destroyed by the very means it uses to save itself. And there's no reason why anarchy can't be a plausible reality after it's dead. 

3) Enemies of Society: An Anthology of Individualist & Egoist Thought, published by Ardent Press

Probably the most radical of the three, this book strings together a collection of essays by early 20th century anarchist writers and activists including the following rebels: S.E. Parker;  James Walker; Renzo Novatore; John Henry Mackay and E. Armand. The ideas presented in this anthology were heavily influenced by both the individualist anarchist Max Stirner and the works of Friedrich Nietzsche. My impression of these writers was this: they take all the insults typically thrown at libertarians, free thinkers and anarchists--that they're selfish, they're socially irresponsible, they only care about the moment, they ignore the future and forget tradition, they scrub off guilt like a small scab, and brush away any worries of popular approval as if it were dust--and with charismatic gusto throw these insults right back at the faces of their accusers as if to say, "Yeah, and so what? Fuck you. We're having fun."

Which is the point of life, right? It's so refreshing to read a group of anarchists who reject all the theory, all the economics, all the justifications we store up in our philosophical closets to prove to other people why we believe in the things we do, in silly things like, say, freedom. These writers state (to generalize), to hell with all these beliefs and theories, life is short, do what you want, and if someone tries to stop you...shoot them.  

If only life were so simple. (However, it should be noted that several of these writers did end up literally fighting the law, and ultimately, the law won, taking their lives in its winnings.) This anthology is the bravest and most inspirational collection of individualist essays I've ever read. I recommend it for every living human being on earth who has the balls to to believe in him- or herself over and against (what Soren Kierkegaard would call) the crowd.   

Here's a drink to more art, poetry and anarchy in 2013. Cheers!  

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