Icky Sticky Anarchy

I came from a real tough neighborhood.
I put my hand in some cement and felt another hand.

– Rodney Dangerfield

the bricks of society

According to Simon Read, in Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Anarchism, But Were Afraid to Ask: “The English anarchist Colin Ward calls anarchism the cement that holds the bricks of society.”

That’s a great line, paradoxical-sounding but true (though I usually quote it as “Anarchy is the glue that holds society together”). It’s a more succinct, and more radical, version of Paine’s “Great part of that order …” passage. (See also Emerson’s “hooks and eyes” line.) But where, exactly, does Colin Ward say it – if he does?

After looking through some Ward books I own and doing some internet searches (as well as searches through Ward’s books via Amazon’s “look/search inside” feature), I can’t find any place where he says this – though I did find a passage assigning the social-cement role to human solidarity, and another assigning it to music-making.

Can any of my readers recognise/confirm/disconfirm this quote?

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11 Responses to Icky Sticky Anarchy

  1. Glen L November 22, 2009 at 1:39 pm #

    I did some searching, but I still couldn’t find the answer – Is the book’s author a social anarchist? Based on the chapter titles, I would imagine so. I’m just curious.

    • Richard Garner November 22, 2009 at 5:42 pm #

      Colin Ward is an anarchist communist, Glen, yes. He was the editor of Freedom for some time, a Newspaper co-founded by Peter Kropotkin whilst in exile in London.

      However, Ward’s writings should probably be best thought of as non-denominational anarchist, and are excellent at demonstrating how people, when freed from the burden of externally imposed authority, organise their own affairs themselves, generally with better results. Since his examples are taken from the actual world around us, from housing co-operatives, friendly societies, building societies, neighbourhood watches, block associations, etc. etc., there is no reason to presume that they need be any the less examples in support of market anarchist possibilities than for anarchist communist arrangements.

      In short, yes, he is “social anarchist” in precisely the same way as Paul Goodman was. And Goodman was embraced by anarcho-capitalists!

      …and, sorry Roderick, I don’t know where the quote came from. Possible [i]Anarchy in Action[/i], or possibly the [i]A very Short Introduction to Anarchism[/i]. Or maybe it was just a poetical paraphrase or summary?!

      • Roderick November 23, 2009 at 2:14 pm #

        I’ve read both of those, plus I searched the Amazon versions.

  2. Bob November 22, 2009 at 11:03 pm #

    I read Ward’s A Very Short Introduction to Anarchism recently and don’t recall the line. Great book though.

    • Roderick November 23, 2009 at 2:15 pm #

      Yeah, it’s good — though I have to gripe at his calling Robert Nozick and Robert Paul Wolff anarcho-capitalists.

      • Richard Garner November 24, 2009 at 6:56 am #

        I suspect that he did so because his only exposure to anarcho-capitalism is the chapter in Peter Marshall’s Demanding the Impossible.

        • Roderick November 25, 2009 at 9:54 pm #

          But one would expect him to have heard of Nozick and Wolff even if he knew nothing about anarcho-capitalism; they’re both pretty widely known in academia, including by people who’ve never encountered anarcho-capitalism.

        • Joel Schlosberg December 14, 2009 at 1:15 am #

          Plus, did you know that Hayek was opposed to all welfare legislation? And as for Marshall’s influence, y’think? Especially since the very short chapter on individualism refers to Marshall no less than *4* times! It’s somewhat odd, though, that Ward’s and Marshall’s accounts of anarcho-capitalism both have some big errors, but those errors don’t overlap; Marshall’s errors are described by Bryan Caplan at http://economics.gmu.edu/bcaplan/error.htm including listing yet *another* non-anarcho-capitalist as one, Ayn Rand (and there’s a corrected version that, bizarrely enough, retains the sentence about Rand being an anarcho-capitalist, but adds a sentence after the first one that contradictorily states that Rand is not an anarchist) — whereas Marshall describes Nozick as a minarchist at some length, and Wolff as distinct from the right-libertarians, in part due to “recommend[ing] extreme economic decentralization”, although having in common the desire “to retain private property and the market to co-ordinate human behavior”; and also explicitly states that Hayek “was ready to countenance a degree of welfare provision which cannot be adequately provided by the market”.

          And it shouldn’t be surprising that a certain author praises the section at length in his review of the book, saying that it proves that not only are the right-libertarians evil, but that “[a]ny libertarian who considers the ‘libertarian’ right as friends or being related to anarchism really are ignorant of what both sides stand for and, moreover, a total liability to the movement.”

          So yeah, good book overall, but with a weak section on right-libertarianism. And I can’t resist pointing out that I complained about this exact issue almost 3 years ago:

          By the way, I’d like to point out that Ward isn’t as totally unsympathetic to right-libertarianism as that excerpt suggests: in Talking Anarchy, when asked “But I have been wanting to ask you about right-wing libertarianism. Do you see it as entirely negative? Or does it have any positive features?”, he responds:

          “Most of the right-wing libertarians that I have read about in the press, or heard on the radio, seem to have failed to notice that we live in a class-divided society where opportunities in life are immensely unequal. However, I must add that in 1995 I met David Green of the Institute of Economic Affairs (which is seen as a right-wing libertarian think-tank), I found that he was a critic, not a defender, of Thatcherism, and was, of course, like me, a critic too of the automatic assumptions of the political Left and of its faith in the state.”

          He also mentions Green in at least a few other places, including a very similar description in Social Policy: An Anarchist Response. And maybe Ward’s sympathy to Green means that *Ward* is “a total liability to the movement”!

  3. Dr. Q November 24, 2009 at 1:47 pm #

    I think he said this in Anarchy In Action (the only Colin Ward book I’ve read), but there’s a good chance I’m misremembering.

    It’s worth pointing out that Ward typically uses the term in “anarchy” in a fairly specific way. When he uses “anarchy,” he is usually referring to forms of social organization that are participatory and lack hierarchy.

  4. Jesse Walker December 4, 2009 at 9:22 pm #

    Anarchy in Action is one of the best, most practical-minded, and most appealing introductions to anarchism out there. Sort of the left-wing equivalent of The Machinery of Freedom.


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    […] Jesse Walker has rightly called Ward’s Anarchy in Action the left-wing equivalent of The Machinery of Freedom. […]

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