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Review of Anarchist FAQ by Effluvia Magazine

By christa | March 22, 2012

We just found out about a recent review of Iain McKay’s An Anarchist FAQ by Effluvia Magazine. We are always so happy to see reviews of our books out there and hear how they are affecting readers. Thanks to everyone at Effluvia Magazine and we look forward to reading more reviews from all of you!

An Anarchist FAQ
By Kevin Casey

A couple of years ago An Anarchist Frequently Asked Questions (AFAQ) migrated from the internet to a 555 page tome, put out by Effluvia favorites AK Press. Iain McKay’s excellent introduction elucidates the general goals and motivations of the project: to stand as a resource for those interested in anarchism and to convince people why they should become anarchists.

The book was compiled by working anarchists labouring in their spare time to produce a collective text, and as such, it embodies anarchism in action. Its very pages are the result of a living breathing anarchism. It is the first of two volumes and is organized around questions such as: What is Anarchism? Why do anarchists oppose the current system?; What are the myths of capitalist economics?; How does statism and capitalism affect society? Each of these chapters (and more) as well as the subsections that they are broken down into make for a format that is easy to read either linearly or to dip in and out of as the reader finds connections between topics of personal interest and particular concern.

While friendly to the beginner and well-seasoned anarchist alike, AFAQ has something for everyone. From the history of the circle A to May of ‘68 in France to the definition of anarcho-syndicalism to whether anarcho-capitalism makes sense as a basic agenda. The difference between the black flag and the black-red flag? Check. (In fact, an entire section is devoted to “The Symbols of Anarchy.”) Anarchist responses and arguments to ecological problems? Check. Everything from the most basic questions, such as, “What is anarchism,” to finer distinctions between various tributaries of anarchist thought are covered in this comprehensive overview. Want to know how anarchist thought engages with technology and how capitalism affects the same? It’s all right here is one reader-friendly treeware volume (albeit somewhat large – think phonebook in heft).

Thinkers that all anarchists should be familiar with are covered (e.g. Proudhon, Bakunin) as well as more recent anarchist philosophers and writers. But the AFAQ is not a stodgy academic tome meant simply to satisfy a college course in anarchist thought (although is would make a great text for an overview seminar), but a guide and a call for action. Praxis is the name of the game with AFAQ and the text does just as much by way of steering the reader in the direction of action as it does to educate. It is an FAQ written by anarchists and throughout the book this is clear. It avoids jargon whenever possible and when it has to define a specific piece of terminology it does, in simple and intelligible prose. AFAQ addresses the big theoretical questions that the movement is rooted in as well as responds to critiques and criticisms leveled by opponents from both the left and right alike.

AFAQ is THE go-to survey of anarchist thought and a great place for the beginner to dip into the history and thought of modern anarchism. It is also an invaluable resource for the practicing anarchist who needs to recall a date or fact about the Spanish Civil war or the Paris Commune. I cannot recommend it highly enough to all would-be or practicing anarchists. It is an invaluable resource and worth reading again and again. By un-tethering the AFAQ from the cables and ethereal signals of the internet and putting the resource in a truly wireless volume that can be lugged deep into the forest, desert or jungle, AK Press has done us all a great service. They have freed this text of, by and about freedom from its technological roots and put it in our backpacks. In the words of Ian McKay, “when it comes down to it, anarchism is simply about making the world a freer and better place. If we forget that, then we forget what makes us anarchists in the first place.”

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