This is a short and thoughtful account of the latest wave of anarchist thinking and organizing. Despite being buried countless times by its detractors, Right and Left, the belief we could do better without coercive state power just doesn’t seem to go away. Gordon is well-grounded in both anarchist theory and as an activist in Britain and his own country, Israel. He provides a useful examination of the movement in many ways at the heart of the resistance to contemporary war and globalization – the State’s two favourite projects. His critique of state-directed ‘demand politics’ is particularly telling. After a couple of introductory chapters he explores anarchist debates in three thorny areas: power, violence, and technology. I found the chapter on technology particularly intriguing although at times difficult despite Gordon’s lucid style. His engagement with power generally concentrates on the practices and pitfalls of micro-power in a ‘networked’ movement, avoiding the grand anarchist themes of state power and what a truly self-managed society might look like.
The book feels aimed at people who already have some knowledge of and sympathy for anarchism and that is both a strength and weakness. Anarchy Alive!’s vitality comes from addressing the day-to-day issues of the movement in a thought-provoking fashion. But with the relative paucity of self-defined anarchists more of an opening to the unconverted would be helpful. At various points Gordon distinguishes anarchism from other strains of activism such as radical democracy. Better more people ‘on the island’ than voting them off, I would have thought.