What is Anarchism?


by Alexander Berkman
introduction by Emma Goldman
foreword by Barry Pateman

A reprint of perhaps the first and best exposition of anarchism by one of its greatest propagandists (by both word and deed) and thinkers. In a clear conversation with the reader Berkman discusses society as it now exists, the need for anarchism, and the methods for bringing it about. Combines the oft-reprinted texts of What is Communist Anarchism? and the ABC of Anarchism back into its original format. Foreword by his comrade and lover Emma Goldman, as well as Barry Pateman.

“All such people need a primer of Anarchism—an ABC, as it were, that would teach them the rudimentary principles of Anarchism and whet their appetites for something more profound. What is Anarchism? was intended to serve this purpose. That it has fulfilled its purpose no one who has read this little book will deny.”
—Emma Goldman

“It’s a mixture of moral and practical argument that has not been surpassed. It was the only attempt of an anarchist to present his ideas in a thorough and cohesive way, ideas distilled from nearly forty years of activism. He examines how change comes about—and, just as importantly for him, why it doesn’t. Perhaps in a book filled with thoughtful and contentious points, the most salient discussion is why people continue to accept capitalism and all its institutions that oppress and repress individual freedom. For Berkman, human evolution was instinctively predicated on mutual aid and justice was a kind of instinctive sympathy that can only be hindered or corrupted by government.”
—from Barry Pateman’s introduction

Paperback | 304 pages | AK Press | 2003

Alexander Berkman was a leading writer and participant in the 20th-century Anarchist movement. The young, idealistic Berkman practiced “propaganda by deed” attempting to assassinate Henry Clay Frick during the Homestead Steel Strike of 1892. While imprisoned, he wrote the classic tale of prison life Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist. After his release, Berkman edited Emma Goldman’s Mother Earth and his paper The Blast! Deported from New York City to his native Russia in 1919, where he saw firsthand the failure of the Bolshevik revolution and dedicated himself to writing the classic primer on Anarchism, What is Anarchism?

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