February 6th, 2012
Known for an enduring fondness for queen and country, the British Isles seem an unlikely place to uncover practicing anarchists. Goodway’s closer inspection, however, reveals a latent but persistent strain of left-libertarian thought stretching from the Victorian era to the Blair years. Alternating seamlessly between literary criticism and social history, this elegant study of militant ideas reveals a rousing and tragic tradition with more than its share of martyrs, sinners, and saints. Though often conflated with terrorism and mere chaos, anarchism, Goodway (editor of Damned Fools in Utopia: And Other Writings on Anarchism and War Resistance) makes clear, has been a positive political philosophy advocated by a variety of writers, scholars, and theorists who represent more of a “community of thought” than a coherent school. Though not exactly comrades—George Orwell denigrates William Morris as a “utopian dreamer”; Morris refers to Oscar Wilde as “an ass”—Goodway effectively joins these and other thinkers into a loose federation of belief, demonstrating their importance to British history and global radicalism. The book is a call to action. “These seeds need to germinate,” Goodway writes, “to put forth shoots and buds, eventually to flower, if there is to be any chance of a decent life for humans in the future.” Spring may finally be approaching.