Seeds Beneath the Snow: Colin Ward’s Anarchy in Action

Join us November 19, 2015 for a discussion of Colin Ward’s Anarchy in Action (1973).

By the time he died in 2010, Colin Ward was regarded by many as one of the most influential anarchist thinker of the last century—and certainly “Britain’s most famous anarchist.”1 In his seminal Anarchy in Action (1973), Ward “revealed the influences of Gustav Landauer’s view that the State is a set of relationships, Martin Buber’s distinction between the ‘social principle’ and the ‘political principle,’ and Paul Goodman’s belief that a free society is not a new order but an expansion of existing spheres of free action.”2 Ward’s anarchism is to be found in the crevices of everyday human interaction, buried just beneath the surface.

In a famous passage Ward writes:

A society which organizes itself without authority, is always in existence, like a seed beneath the snow, buried under the weight of the state and its bureaucracy, capitalism and its waste, privilege and its injustices, nationalism and its suicidal loyalties, religious differences and their superstitious separatism.3

In his 2004 introduction to anarchism in the “Very Short Introduction” series by Oxford University Press, Ward argues that the future prospects of anarchism lie with the ecological movement. Anarchism, he writes, is “the only political ideology capable of addressing the challenges posed by our new green consciousness to the accepted range of political ideas. Anarchism becomes more and more relevant for the new century.”4

Our primary reference for this session will be Anarchy in Action, but as always over-achievers and the exceedingly well-read are encouraged to go beyond the primary text and check out some of the other material available. Colin Ward has a formidable publication record so the following is only a small sample.

Selected Readings:

Secondary Analysis:


November 19, 2015 @ 7:00 PM
CUNY Graduate Center
Department of Political Science
365 5th Ave. Room 5200.07
New York, NY 10016

Facebook event page.

1. Ken Worpole, “Colin Ward obituary,” The Guardian, February 22, 2010.

2. Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism (New York: PM Press, 2010) 676.

3. Colin Ward, Anarchy in Action (London: Allen & Unwin, 1973) 11.

4. Colin Ward, Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) 98. 


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