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Revolutionary tactics: social anarchism - Exploring the neglected tradition of anarchist education, this book shows


^ Revolutionary tactics: social anarchism



and Marxism



The anarchist anti-hierarchical stance also indicates an important difference

between the social-anarchist perspective and that of Marxism, with obvious

implications for educational theory and practice. As mentioned earlier, anar-

chists do not regard the revolutionary struggle to change society as a linear

progression, in which there is a single point of reference – the means of

production – and a single struggle. As Todd May puts it, in Marxism there is

‘a single enemy: capitalism’ (May 1994: 26), the focus of Marxist revolutionary

thought thus being on class as the chief unit of social struggle. Anarchist

thinking, in contrast, involves a far more tactical, multi-dimensional under-

standing of what the social revolution consists in. Connectedly, an anarchist

thinker, unlike a traditional Marxist, cannot offer abstract, general answers to

political questions outside the reality of social experience and experimentation.

In anarchism then, as Colin Ward says, ‘there is no final struggle, only a series

of partisan struggles on a variety of fronts’ (Ward 1996: 26).

The implications of this contrast for education are significant, and are

connected to Marx’s disparaging view of the anarchists and other ‘utopian’

socialists. For in the very idea that there may be something constructive and

valuable in positing an ideal of a different society whose final form is deter-

mined not by predictable historical progress, but by human experimentation,

constantly open to revision, the anarchists reject the basic Marxist material-

ist assumption that consciousness is determined by the material conditions of

life – specifically, by the relations of production. The anarchist position

implies that, at least to some degree, life may be determined by conscious-

ness – a position which also explains the optimism inherent in the anarchist

enthusiasm for education as a crucial aspect of the revolutionary programme.

On the Marxist view, until the relations of production themselves are rad-

ically changed, ‘the possibility of an alternative reality is not only impossible,

but literally unthinkable’ (Block 1994: 65), for our thought structures are

determined by the reality of the base/superstructure relationship. However,

in anarchism, an alternative reality is ‘thinkable’; indeed, it is in some sense

already here. As the discussion of the anarchist position on human nature

makes clear, the human capacity for mutual aid, benevolence and solidarity is

reflected in forms of social relations which exist even within the capitalist

state, and whose potential for social change is not rendered unfeasible by the
^ What’s so funny about anarchism?

137

capitalist relations of production. It is these capacities which, on the anarchist

view, need to be strengthened and built on, a project which can be embarked

upon without a systematic programme for revolutionary change or a blue-

print for the future, but by forging alternative modes of social organization

in arenas such as the school and the work-place.

Much work in radical educational theory in recent years is based on some

variant of Marxist reproduction theory, according to which ‘all practices in

the superstructure may be viewed as products of a determining base, and we

have only to examine the products for their component parts, which ought to

be easily discerned from the economic base’ (Block 1994: 65). Reproduction

theorists thus regard schools and education as basically derived from the eco-

nomic base, which they inevitably reproduce. As Block notes, this idea leads

to the generally pessimistic Marxist view of education, according to which

even alternative schools are allowed to exist by the system itself, which mar-

ginalizes them and thus continues to reproduce the dominant social norms

and economic structures.

The anarchist perspective, as mentioned, involves not merely subverting

the economic relations of the base, but conceptualizing a social-economic

framework that is not structured in a hierarchical way. The pyramid of the

Marxist analysis of capitalism is not simply inverted, but abolished. Thus for

example, in Marxism, the status of the dominant definitions of knowledge –

as reflected, for example, in the school curriculum – is questionable because

it is determined by the unjust class system, reflecting the material power of

the ruling class. However, in anarchist theory, what renders a national cur-

riculum or a body of knowledge objectionable is the simple fact that it is

determined by any central, hierarchical top-down organization. For the anar-

chist, incorporating ‘working-class knowledge’ or that of excluded cultural or

social groups into the school curriculum of a state education system would be

equally suspect – the problem is that there is a curriculum and a national

school system at all.

So although anarchists share the Marxist insistence that the structural

inequalities of society have to be abolished, they believe that this project can

be embarked upon on a micro level; in this they share, perhaps, the faith in

the emancipatory power of education common to many liberal theorists.

^ Goals and visions



These remarks may lead one to believe that the anarchist approach to social

change is more of a piecemeal, tactical one, than a strategic one. Todd May in

fact argues that the opposite is the case, claiming that the anarchists, faced

with the need to adopt either a strategic or a tactical position, have to opt for

the former due to their reductionist view of power and their humanist ethics

(May 1994: 63–66). Yet I believe that both these readings are too narrow.

What the anarchist perspective in fact suggests is that one can be, and in fact

has to be, both tactical and strategic; what May refers to as the anarchists’
138

^ What’s so funny about anarchism?

‘ambivalence’ between a purely strategic and a purely tactical stance is in fact

a kind of pragmatic realism, summed up by Chomsky in his argument that:

In today’s world, I think, the goals of a committed anarchist should be

to defend some state institutions from the attack against them, while

trying at the same time to pry them open to more meaningful public

participation – and ultimately, to dismantle them in a much more

free society, if the appropriate circumstances can be achieved. Right or

wrong – and that’s a matter of uncertain judgement – this stand is not

undermined by the apparent conflict between goals and visions. Such

conflict is a normal feature of everyday life, which we somehow try to live

with but cannot escape.

(Chomsky 1996: 75)

So while certain elements of anarchism – notably its insistence on social

improvements ‘here and now’ – may be reminiscent of Popper’s characteriza-

tion of ‘piecemeal social engineering’ (Popper 1945: 157–163), the social-

anarchist perspective in fact straddles Popper’s contrast between utopian

social engineering and piecemeal social engineering. It is, as I hope to

have shown, utopian in that it holds on to a radical vision of society; however

it is not narrowly utopian in Popper’s sense as it has no fixed blueprint,

and the commitment to constant experimentation is built into its vision of

the ideal society. It is ‘piecemeal’ in the sense that it advocates a form of

gradual restructuring, as in the comment by Paul Goodman, quoted in

Chapter 4: ‘A free society cannot be the substitution of a “new order” for the

old order; it is the extension of spheres of free action until they make up

most of social life’ (in Ward 1996: 18). And, as I think the projects of

anarchist educators and the anarchist criticism of Marxist revolutionary

theory make clear, it is also piecemeal in Popper’s sense that it is concerned

with ‘searching for, and fighting against, the greatest and most urgent evils

of society, rather than searching for, and fighting for, its greatest ultimate

good’ (Popper 1945: 158).

Chomsky indeed expresses something like this idea in summing up the

anarchist stance as follows:

At every stage of history our concern must be to dismantle those forms of

authority and oppression that survive from an era when they might have

been justified in terms of the need for security or survival or economic

development, but that now contribute to – rather than alleviate – material

and cultural deficit. If so, there will be no doctrine of social change fixed

for the present and future, nor even, necessarily, a specific and unchanging

concept of the goals towards which social change should tend.

(Chomsky, in Guerin 1970: viii)

This perspective, like Popper’s piecemeal approach, ‘permits repeated

experiments and continuous readjustments’ (Popper 1945: 163).
^ What’s so funny about anarchism?

139

Yet at the same time, the anarchist approach is distinct from what Popper

characterizes as piecemeal social engineering in that it does not simply concern

‘blueprints for single institutions’, but sees in the very act of restructuring

human relationships within such institutions (the school, the work-place), a

creative act of engaging with the restructuring of society as a whole.

The anarchist utopia, then, although it does envisage ‘the reconstruction of

society as a whole’ (Popper 1945: 161), is not utopian in Popper’s sense as it

is not an ‘attempt to realize an ideal state, using a blueprint of society as

whole, [...] which demands a strong centralized rule of a few’ (ibid.: 159).

And while the kind of social restructuring envisaged by the social anarchists

is not simply, as Popper characterizes utopian engineering, ‘one step towards

a distant ideal’, (see the discussion on means and ends in Chapter 6), neither

is it ‘a realization of a piecemeal compromise’. Creating, for example, a school

community run on social-anarchist principles is both a step towards the ideal

and an embodiment of the ideal itself.

Anarchism, to continue this line of thought, is perhaps best conceived not so

much as a theory – in Popper’s rationalistic sense – about how society can be

organized without a state, but as an aspiration to create such a society and, cru-

cially, a belief that such a society can in fact come about, not through violent rev-

olution or drastic modification of human nature, but as an organic, spontaneous

process – the seeds of which are already present in human propensities.

Given these points, one may argue that anarchism, in a sense, needs the

theoretical components of liberalism to carry it beyond the stage of aspiration to

that of political possiblity. For example, the analytical work carried out within the

liberal tradition on such key notions as autonomy, individual rights, consent and

justice, provides valuable theoretical tools for working out the details of the

anarchist project. However, it is not this theorizing which constitutes the core of

anarchism but the aspiration itself. In education, this is crucially important.

While anarchism perhaps makes little sense without the theoretical framework

of the liberal tradition (a tradition which, following Chomsky, it may be a

continuation of ), it could also be argued that liberalism needs anarchism, or

something like the social-anarchist vision, to remind itself of the aspirations

behind the theory. Built into these aspirations is, crucially, the belief that things

could be different, and radically so, if only we allow ourselves to have faith in

people’s ability to recreate social relationships and institutions; a sort of per-

fectibility which, while cherishing traditional liberal values, pushes us beyond

the bounds of normal liberal theory. In this context, MacIntyre’s comments

(MacIntyre 1971) that liberalism is essentially ‘negative and incomplete’, being

a doctrine ‘about what cannot be justified and what ought not to be permitted’,

and that hence ‘no institution, no social practice, can be inspired solely or even

mainly by liberalism’ – seem to make sense.

^ Utopianism and philosophy of education



I have argued that part of the reason why anarchist education is, on the face

of it, objectionable to philosophers within the liberal tradition, is because of
140

What’s so funny about anarchism?

the common conflation between liberalism as a body of values, and the liberal

state as a framework within which to pursue these values. This conflation, I

have argued, could explain why the normative, substantive aspects of anar-

chist education seem problematic for those wishing to preserve some form of

political liberalism. However, there are also those who object to anarchism’s

political ideal – that of the stateless society – simply on the grounds of its

being hopelessly utopian and who would thus argue that it is pointless to try

to construct a philosophy of education around this ideal. As mentioned in the

Introduction, the charge of utopianism is one of the commonest criticisms of

anarchism, and, in my view, raises several interesting philosophical questions.

In what follows, I shall attempt to address this charge and to grapple with

some of these questions.

Martin Buber was one of the first to note how the concept

utopia

had been

victimized in the course of the political struggle of Marxism against

other forms of socialism and movements of social reform. In his struggle

to achieve dominance for his idiosyncratic system of socialism, Marx

employed ‘utopia’ as the ultimate term of perjoration to damn all ‘pre-

historic’ (i.e. pre-Marxian) social systems as unscientific and utilitarian in

contrast to the allegedly scientific and inevitable character of his system

of historical materialism.

(Fischoff, in Buber 1958: xiii)

In the mid-nineteenth century, indeed, the social-anarchist position could

be perceived as an argument over the contested intellectual ground of the

developing nation state; its utopianism, for Marx, lay in its rejection of the

materialist position. Yet now that the nation state is such an established fact

of our political life, and theoretical arguments justifying its existence are so

taken for granted that they are rarely even articulated, it is the very distance

between the anarchist vision and that of the dominant liberal state tradition

that strikes some as utopian. As discussed above, although philosophers of

education devote a great deal of energy to the articulation, analysis and

critique of liberal values and their educational implications, the framework

within which these values are assumed to operate is rarely the subject of debate.

It is the anarchist questioning of this framework, then, which constitutes its

radical challenge.

Of course, the charge that anarchism is utopian has some truth if one

accepts Mannheim’s classic account, according to which ‘utopian’ describes:

‘all situationally transcendent ideas which in any way have a transforming

effect on the existing historical, social order’ (Mannheim 1991: 173).

But there is an important sense in which anarchism is definitely not

utopian or, at least, is utopian in a positive, rather than a pejorative, sense.

Isaiah Berlin has characterized utopias in a way which, as David Halpin

(Halpin 2003) points out, is highly restrictive and problematic and fails to

capture the constructive role of utopias as ‘facilitating fresh thinking for the
^ What’s so funny about anarchism?

141

future’ (ibid.) which Halpin and other theorists are keen to preserve.

Nevertheless, Berlin’s characterization is useful here as it is indicative of a

typical critical perspective on utopian thought and thus serves to highlight

the contrast with anarchism. Berlin states:

The main characteristic of most (perhaps all) utopias is that they are

static. Nothing in them alters, for they have reached perfection: there is

no need for novelty or change; no one can wish to alter a condition in

which all natural human wishes are fulfilled.

(Berlin 1991: 20)

This is clearly in contrast to the anarchist vision of the future society, on two

counts. First, due to the anarchist conception of human nature, most anar-

chist theorists are under no illusion about the possibility of a society without

conflict; a society which, as in Berlin’s description of utopia, ‘lives in a state

of pure harmony’ (ibid.). Rather, they envisage a particular way of solving

conflict. As William Reichert states,

Anarchists do not suppose for a minute that men would ever live in

harmony [...]. They do maintain, however, that the settlement of con-

flict must arise spontaneously from the individuals involved themselves

and not be imposed upon them by an external force such as government.

(Reichert 1969: 143)

Second, it is intrinsic to the anarchist position that human society is

constantly in flux; there is no such thing as the one finite, fixed form of social

organization; the principle at the heart of anarchist thought is that of constant

striving, improvement and experimentation.

In an educational context, this contrast is echoed in Dewey’s critique of

Plato’s

Republic

. As Dewey notes, Plato’s utopia serves as a final answer to all

questions about the good life, and the state and education are constructed so

as to translate it immediately into reality. Although Plato, says Dewey,

would radically change the existing state of society, his aim was to

construct a state in which change would subsequently have no place. The

final end of life is fixed; given a state framed with this end in view, not

even minor details are to be altered. [...] Correct education could not

come into existence until an ideal state existed, and after that education

would be devoted simply to its conservation.

(Dewey 1939: 105–106)

This, again, is in clear contrast to the anarchist vision.

Of course, the utopian nature of Plato’s account does not detract from its

philosophical value. All this suggests that the ‘feasibility’ of any political

vision should not, on its own, constitute a reason for disregarding it as a basis
142

^ What’s so funny about anarchism?

for serious philosophical debate. Many writers on utopias, indeed, have

stressed the transformative element of utopian thinking, arguing that the

study of utopias can be valuable as it releases creative thought, prodding us

to examine our preconceptions and encouraging speculation on alternative

ways of conceptualizing and doing things which we often take for granted.

Politically speaking, it has been argued that ‘utopianism thus offers a specific

programme and immediate hope for improvement and thereby discourages

quiescence or fatalism’ (Goodwin and Taylor 1982: 26).

Thus, as David Halpin says in his discussion of Fourrier’s nineteenth

century depiction of the Utopian Land of Plenty, where whole roast chickens

descended from the sky,

Fourier was not envisaging concretely a society whose members would be

fed magically. Rather, through the use of graphic imagery, he was seeking

to mobilize among his readers a commitment to a conception of social life

in which being properly fed was regarded as a basic human right.

(Halpin 2001: 302)

There are further aspects of utopianism, specifically in the anarchist context,

which are associated with the suspicion or derision of anarchist positions by

liberal theorists. For while many liberal and neo-liberal theorists seem

amenable to the idea of utopia as an individual project, the social anarchists’

faith in the social virtues, and their vision of a society underpinned by these

virtues, imply a utopia which is necessarily collective. Nozick’s vision of the

minimalist state, for example, is clearly utopian in the general sense described

earlier. Yet, as Barbara Goodwin points out, the utopian nature of Nozick’s

minimal state lies

not in the quality of the individual communities (all of which appeal to

some people and not to others) but in each individual having the power

to choose and to experiment with the Good Life. Utopia is having a

choice between Utopias.

(Goodwin and Taylor 1982: 82)

The anarchist vision, both in its insistence on the centrality of the social

virtues, and in its normative commitment to these virtues, seems to be

demanding that we extend Nozick’s ‘utopia of Utopias’ to something far

more substantive. Indeed, many liberals would agree that it is the lack of just

such a substantive vision which is partly to blame for the individualist and

often alienating aspects of modern capitalist society. Thus, for example,

Zygmunt Bauman has spoken of our era as one characterized by ‘the privati-

zation of utopias’ (Bauman 1999: 7), in which models of ‘the good life’ are

increasingly cut off from models of the good society. Perhaps the kind of

utopianism inherent in social-anarchist thinking can help us to amend this

situation.
^ What’s so funny about anarchism?

143

The anarchist utopian stance, at the same time, arguably avoids the charges

of totalitarianism which so worried Popper and Berlin due to two important

points: first, the fact that, built into its utopian vision, is the demand for con-

stant experimentation, and the insistence that the final form of human soci-

ety cannot be determined in advance. Second, the insistence, based on the

anarchist view of human nature and the associated conceptualization of social

change, that the future society is to be constructed not by radically trans-

forming human relations and attitudes, but from the seeds of existing social

tendencies. This is, indeed, in contrast to the Marxist vision, where, as

Bauman points out, ‘the attempt to build a socialist society is an effort to

emancipate human nature, mutilated and humiliated by class society’.

The anarchist rejection of blueprints, while arguably rescuing anarchists

from charges of totalitarianism, can at the same time be perceived as

philosophically, and perhaps psychologically, somewhat threatening, as

Herbert Read points out. The idea that, as Read puts it (Read 1974: 148),

‘the future will make its own prints, and they won’t necessarily be blue’, can

give rise to a sense of insecurity. Yet such insecurity, perhaps, is a necessary

price to pay if one wants to embark on the genuinely creative and challeng-

ing project of reconstructing society, or even reconstructing political and

social philosophy.

It has in fact been argued that much mainstream work in political theory,

notably in the liberal tradition, is conducted in the shadow of what

could be seen as another aspect of the ‘sense of insecurity’ provoked by the

open-endedness of such utopian projects as social anarchism. This view is

eloquently argued by Bonnie Honig, in her

^ Political Theory and the

Displacement of Politics:

Most political theorists are hostile to the disruptions of politics. Those

writing from diverse positions – republican, federal and communitarian –

converge in their assumption that success lies in the elimination from a

regime of dissonance, resistance, conflict, or struggle. They confine poli-

tics (conceptually and territorially) to the juridical, administrative, or reg-

ulative tasks of stabilizing moral and political subjects, building

consensus, maintaining agreement, or consolidating communities and

identities. They assume that the task of political theory is to resolve

institutional questions, to get politics right, over and done with, to free

modern subjects and their sets of arrangements of political conflict and

instability.

(Honig 1993: 2)

In an academic culture dominated by this perspective, it is hardly surprising

that a position such as social anarchism, which both challenges the dominant

political system with a radically different vision, and holds that this

vision, while accessible, cannot be fully instantiated either in theory or by
144

^ What’s so funny about anarchism?

revolutionary programmes, but must be the result of spontaneous, free

experimentation is rarely taken seriously. Yet as both Noam Chomsky and

Paul Goodman have commented, this type of utopianism is not so far

removed from the liberal tradition. Paul Goodman (Goodman 1952: 18–19)

argues that American culture has lost the spirit of pragmatism embodied in

the thought of James and Dewey. In a climate where, he says, ‘experts plan in

terms of an unchangeable structure, a pragmatic expediency that still wants

to take the social structure as plastic and changeable comes to be thought of

as “utopian” ’.

Richard Rorty, too, has noted the connections between the type of utopianism

embodied in the social anarchist view and the Pragmatism of Dewey and

other thinkers. His discussion of this idea captures, for me, the value of this

perspective for our educational thought. Rorty argues that what is distinctive

about Pragmatism is that it ‘substitutes the notion of a better human future

for the notions of “reality,” “reason” and “nature”’ (Rorty 1999: 27). While

nineteenth century social anarchism, as an Enlightenment tradition, cannot

be said by any means to have rejected the notions of reason, reality and

nature, I think there is nevertheless an important insight here in terms of the

role of utopian hope in social anarchist thought.

The anarchist view that what Fidler refers to as ‘awakening the social

instinct’ is the key role for education, and Kropotkin’s insistence that the

‘fundamental principle of anarchism’ (in Fidler 1989: 37) consists in ‘treat-

ing others as one wishes to be treated oneself’, seems to me in keeping with

Rorty’s argument that moral progress, for the Pragmatists, ‘is a matter of

increasing sensitivity’ (Rorty 1999: 81). Such sensitivity, Rorty explains,

means ‘being able to respond to the needs of ever more inclusive groups of

people’, and thus involves not ‘rising above the sentimental to the rational’

but rather expanding outwards in ‘wider and wider sympathy’ (ibid.). This

image, which Rorty describes as a ‘switch from metaphors of vertical distance

to metaphors of horizontal extent’ (Rorty 1999: 83) also seems to me in tune

with the anarchists’ rejection of hierarchical structures, and the image of the

ideal anarchist society as one of interconnected networks rather than pyrami-

dal structures. Furthermore, Rorty argues, this element of utopian hope and

‘willingness to substitute imagination for certainty’ (ibid.: 88) emphasizes

the need for active engagement on the part of social agents, articulating a

desire and a need ‘to create new ways of being human, and a new heaven on

earth for these new humans to inhabit, over the desire for stability, security

and order’ (ibid.).

Rorty’s notion of ‘replacing certainty with hope’ seems to me highly

pertinent to the aforementioned discussion of social anarchism and, espe-

cially, to the implications of a consideration of the utopian aspects of the

social anarchist position for the way we think about education. One aspect of

this point is that the utopian – in the sense of radically removed from reality as

we know it – aspect of a theory should not in itself be a reason to reject it. Even

the evident failure of those utopian projects which have been disasterously
^ What’s so funny about anarchism?

145

attempted should not lead us to reject the utopian hopes which underlie them.

As Rorty says,

The inspirational value of the New Testament and the Communist

Manifesto is not diminished by the fact that many millions of people

were enslaved, tortured or starved to death by sincere, morally earnest

people who recited passages from one or the other text to justify their

deeds.

(Rorty 1999: 204)

The anarchist project, arguably, is less liable to such dismal failure for first, if

one accepts its account of human nature, this account suggests that the type

of society which the social anarchists seek to establish does not go completely

against the grain of existing human propensities. Furthermore, as discussed

here, the idea of trying to implement this project on a grand scale, by violent

means if necessary, is completely incompatible with anarchist principles. For

the flip-side of what Ritter refers to as the anarchists’ ‘daring leap’ is the

point that, as noted by Buber, the social anarchist

desires a means commensurate with his ends; he refuses to believe that in

our reliance on the future ‘leap’ we have to do now the direct opposite of

what we are striving for; he believes rather that we must create here and now

the space

now

possible for the thing for which we are striving, so that it

may come to fulfilment then; he does not believe in the post-revolutionary

leap, but he does believe in revolutionary continuity.

(Buber 1958: 13)

Whether or not one is convinced by these social anarchist arguments, it seems

to me that Rorty’s point that such hopes and aspirations as are embodied in

this position may constitute ‘the only basis for a worthwhile life’ (Rorty

1999: 204) is a compelling one. As far as philosophy of education is con-

cerned, it may be true that attempting to construct a position on the role and

nature of education around the notion of hope could lead to neglect of the

need to work out clear principles of procedure and conceptual distinctions.

However, this notion may perhaps insert a more optimistic and motivating

element into educational projects characterized by an often overriding concern

to formulate procedural principles.

Furthermore, the perspective of starting debates into educationally

relevant issues, like the social anarchists, from a position of hope – in other

words, taking the utopian position that a radically different society is both

desirable and attainable – can have clear policy implications. For example,

arguments for equality of opportunity in (state) education, as put forward by

liberal theorists, often involve a veiled assumption that socio-economic

inequality is an inevitable feature of our life. Thus Harry Brighouse argues

(1998) that educational opportunities should be unaffected by matters of
146

^ What’s so funny about anarchism?

socio-economic status or family background. In so doing, he assumes, as he

himself readily admits, ‘that material rewards in the labour markets will be

significantly unequal’ (Brighouse 1998: 8). Yet were he to take seriously the

aspiration of creating a society in which there were no longer any class or

socio-economic divisions, he may be led to placing a very different emphasis

on the kind of education we should be providing (e.g. one which emphasized

a critical attitude towards the political status quo, and the promotion of

certain moral values deemed crucial for sustaining an egalitarian, cooperative

society).

Patricia White has discussed the notion of social hope in her 1991 paper,

‘Hope, Confidence and Democracy’ (White 1991), where she notes the pow-

erful motivational role played by shared hopes ‘relating to the future of com-

munities’. Yet while acknowledging a need for such social hope in our own

democratic society, White admits that ‘liberal democracy is not in the busi-

ness of offering visions of a future to which all citizens are marching if only

they can keep their faith in it’ (White 1991: 205). Such a view would,

obviously, undermine the liberal commitment to an open future and to value

pluralism. However it seems, on the basis of the aforementioned analysis, that

the type of utopian hope associated with anarchism may fit White’s description

of a possible way out of this liberal problem, namely,

that it is possible to drop the idea that the object of hope must be unitary

and inevitable and to defend a notion of hope where, roughly speaking,

to hope is strongly to desire that some desirable state of affairs, which

need not be inevitable and is not impossible, but in the path of which

there are obstacles, will come to pass.

(Ibid.)

In terms of how we conceptualize education, what the earlier discussion

suggests is that the interplay between our hopes – or our strategic goals – and

our tactical objectives is not a conflict to be decided in advance, but an inter-

esting tension that should itself be made part of educational practice. In cer-

tain contexts, tactical decisions may make sense, and thus the type of

educational change and action promoted may not appear very radical, but the

hope, as a long-term goal, is always there, and even if it is only, as Chomsky

states, a ‘vision’ this vision has tremendous motivating force for those

involved in education.

Taking the social-anarchist perspective seriously, then, can help us to think

differently about the role of visions, dreams, goals and ideals in educational

thought. It suggests that perhaps we should think of education not as a means

to an end, nor as an end in itself, but as one of many arenas of human

relationships, in which the relation between the vision and the ways it is

translated into reality is constantly experimented with. Philosophy of

education, perhaps, could be seen as part of this process.
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