Beyond the state: Anthropology and 'actually-existing-anarchism'

Andrew Robinson, Simon Tormey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


In this article we seek to explore the different ways in which anarchists use anthropological materials for the purpose of advancing the anarchist cause. We note the extensive deployment of such materials within anarchist texts and identify four generative functions that they play within them. They include, respectively, the generation of critique, the generation of techniques for sustaining stateless relations, the generation of reflexivity and the generation of solidarity. The delineation of these functions demonstrates that anarchism is misunderstood as principally or exclusively a transformative ideology like socialism or Marxism. Rather, anarchists set great store by pointing to the existence of anarchist practices, anarchist groupings and particularly anarchist societies and communities that might embrace a different, cooperative social logic. Anthropology is particularly useful in this respect as anthropologists have provided a reservoir of evidence confirming not just the possibility of anarchism, but its existence albeit in the often precarious and marginal folds of the global system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-157
Number of pages15
JournalCritique of Anthropology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2012


  • activism
  • anarchism
  • anthropology
  • ideology
  • the state


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