Just got my copy of The Best of Social Anarchism, a collection of articles and reviews from Social Anarchism, the US published review that has been coming out since 1980. It has some great stuff in it, some of which I had forgotten about, including a critical survey of the so-called “new anarchism” by Brian Morris, not to be confused with Volume Three of my anthology, Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, The New Anarchism (1974-2012). The only article in both anthologies is Jeff Ferrell’s “Against the Law: Anarchist Criminology,” so there isn’t much overlap, which is nice. It’s very reasonably priced, and covers a very wide range of topics showing the continuing relevance of anarchism today.
The Best of Social Anarchism also includes my essay on “Chomsky’s Contributions to Anarchism,” which was part of a special issue of Social Anarchism marking the publication of Chomsky on Anarchism, edited by Barry Pateman, a collection of essays by and interviews with Noam Chomsky focusing on anarchist related topics. The introductory note to my piece on Chomsky incorrectly identifies it as the introduction to Chomsky on Anarchism, which was actually written by Barry Pateman. The introductory note also makes my essay on Chomsky sound much more critical than it really is (see for yourself by clicking this link).
I don’t “divorce” Chomsky’s linguistic ideas from any relevance to political ideology but simply quote his own remarks to the effect that his linguistic theories are only “suggestive as to the form that a libertarian social theory might assume.” Some of the political implications of his linguistic theories are drawn out by Chomsky himself in one of the selections I included in Volume Three of the Anarchism anthology, under the title “Human Nature and Human Freedom” (which incidentally is not included in Chomsky on Anarchism). When I suggest that perhaps Chomsky’s most lasting contribution to radical political theory is his analysis and critique of the role of the media and intellectuals in modern society, “manufacturing the consent” of the general population to their own exploitation, I refer to Chomsky’s own acknowledgement that much of this critique originated with the anarchist revolutionary, Michael Bakunin, who warned that rule by intellectuals would constitute “the most aristocratic, despotic, arrogant and elitist of all regimes.”
My description of Chomsky as an anarchist “fellow-traveller” is again a quote from Chomsky, not my description. I also give credit to Chomsky for introducing many people, including myself, to anarchist ideas, particularly the constructive achievements of the anarchists in the Spanish Revolution and Civil War. My comment that Chomsky’s contributions to specifically anarchist ideas are modest is consistent with Chomsky’s own self-evaluations, and not an attempt to belittle his role in making anarchist ideas better known to the general public.