Anarchism for Civilians (Introducution)

Next Thursday, the first installment of my 4-part series, “Anarchism for Civilians”, will be published at

The first time I met an anarchist, I think I rolled my eyes.

I didn’t know at the time that there is a difference between anarchism and being anti-social. I didn’t know that anarchism is actually a sophisticated political philosophy with a long and respectable history.  I didn’t know that, for decades in the United States and elsewhere, anarchists formed the backbone of movements for economic and political justice. I didn’t know that there have actually been real communities which have practiced forms of anarchism more or less successfully. I didn’t know that there are many different forms of anarchism. And I didn’t know that my own political orientation was, even then, drifting toward anarchism.

After having learned more about anarchism since, I feel more than a little embarrassed about my earlier eye-rolling. Now I’m the one getting the eye rolls when I tell people I’m an anarchist.

For a while, I’ve wanted to write a short introduction to anarchism for folks who have no background in the subject. It is inevitable that there will be some people who will disagree with my representation of anarchism in the series. I’m still learning about it, and in any case, I could never do justice to the complexity of anarchism.

So rather than attempting any kind of authoritative definition of anarchism–which would really be contrary to the spirit of the thing–I wanted instead to dispel some of the myths that I had to unlearn in order to grasp what anarchism is about. In each part of the series, I used something unrelated to anarchism to elucidate some aspect of anarchism.

June 4: “What Unitarians Taught Me About Anarchism” on hierarchy and democracy.

June 11: “What Bonobos Taught Me About Anarchism” on community and cooperation.

June 18: “What Midwives Taught Me About Anarchism” on the nature of civilization.

June 25: “What Pirates Taught Me About Anarchism” on violence.

The four-part “Anarchism for Civilians” series will be published in weekly installments starting on the first Thursday of June at

Published by John Halstead

John Halstead is the author of *Another End of the World is Possible*, in which he explores what it would really mean for our relationship with the natural world if we were to admit that we are doomed. John is a native of the southern Laurentian bioregion and lives in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago. He is a co-founder of 350 Indiana-Calumet, which worked to organize resistance to the fossil fuel industry in the Region. John was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.” He strives to live up to the challenge posed by the Statement through his writing and activism. John has written for numerous online platforms, including Patheos, Huffington Post,, and Gods & Radicals. He is Editor-at-Large of John also facilitates climate grief support groups climate grief support groups affiliated with the Good Grief Network.

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