Colin Ward – 1924-2010

Colin Ward, the anarchist writer has died. There’s a good obit over at the Fabian blog, but I’d like to add a few comments of my own.

He was a fascinating – and sadly underrated – social commentator that I would urge everyone to have a look at. Colin wrote about the little ways in which anarchist approaches were being quietly implemented in everyday life. His articles on informal mutuality, squatting and the ingenuity of ordinary people in adapting to difficult circumstances were really positive, optimistic and original. They made up the best bits of New Society (and later New Statesman and Society) during the time he wrote there in the 1980s and 1990s. Don’t get me wrong – there was lots to disagree with in his work, put his perspective was pretty unique and challenging.For any of you that would struggle to be interested in the writings of an anarchist, I’d suggest that in Colin’s hands, anarchism was less of an improbable ideal and more of a perspective that could comfortably co-exist with, and inform lots of shades of political thought. His 1973 title, Anarchy in Action, and a ‘A Decade of Anarchy‘ (a compilation of the better writing from the magazine that he edited in the 1960s) are particularly worth a look, as is his work on housing, architecture and education is worth tracking down as well (if you’re ever at a loose end in London, a lot of his hard-to-find work can be had here).

He was particularly strong in making the case for increasing the participation in environmental design. Why should people live in places and use institutions if they’ve not been able to influence how they are designed and developed? Good old Colin. I wish there were more like him.

Here’s a free sampler (PDF) to start with.

  • Scaramoosh

    In a word, we reject all legislation, all authority, and all privileged, licensed, official, and legal influence, even though arising from universal suffrage, convinced that it can turn only to the advantage of a dominant minority of exploiters against the interests of the immense majority in subjection to them. –Mikhail Bakunin, God and the State

  • Fabianus

    Hooray for people like Colin.

    He showed how the working classes can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and he exposed the hypocrisy of the Labour Party.

    He wasn’t an anarchist, simply a bright human being who didn’t suffer fools gladly. Nor should we.

  • Alan

    No, he was an anarchist, but what he did was keep a flame alive that had been crushed by Marx and Engels for their own party political reasons.

    The Fabian report rightly picks up on mutualism as being a key paradigm for a future rocked by the credit crunch. It is an activism that aspires to better things.

  • Fabianus


    I won’t quibble about Colin having been an anarchist. I maintain that he wasn’t but that he thought he was.

    However I do agree with the rest of your post. It’s especially in these times that we see how deep in the pay of the few our rulers actually are. That isn’t a particularly British phenomenon of course; it’s a worldwide evil. Only certain pockets—in Scandinavia for example—have been spared.