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Black Flags and Social MovementsA Sociological Analysis of Movement Anarchism$
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Dana M. Williams

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781526105547

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526105547.001.0001

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Anarchism as a “new social movement”?

Anarchism as a “new social movement”?

(p.148) 6 Anarchism as a “new social movement”?
Black Flags and Social Movements

Dana M. Williams

Manchester University Press

Anarchism is a commonly misunderstood social and political ideology, yet it has remarkable affinities and commonalities with many contemporary global social movements. While most current social movement theories either poorly or inadequately explain the anarchist movement, the new social movement (NSM) theories describe many characteristics closely synonymous with anarchism. Due to the historically confused and contradictory discourse around NSMs and NSM theories, I adopt two distinct approaches here, by (1) considering what conditions or factors lead to the current movement moment and (2) evaluating the “objective” analysis of certain movement qualities. This chapter analyzes anarchism and anarchist movements via six primary characteristics of NSM theories, and finds a great deal of compatibility. Specifically, anarchism has grown beyond—but not completely—industrial conflict and politics, broadened to include new social constituencies such as middle class participants, used anti-hierarchical organizations and networks, engaged in symbolic direct actions, used a strategic and self-limiting radicalism, and has created new anarchist identities. However, modern anarchism may be differentiated from other NSMs (like ecological and LGBT-rights movements) by certain unique characteristics, including revolutionary anti-statism, radical practicality, anti-capitalism, and a degree of core compatibility with classical anarchism. The strategic and tactical benefits of these characteristics are discussed.

Keywords:   Anti-authoritarian, culture, new social movements, radical, organizations, revolution

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