Anarchism and Art

  • Mark Mattern


The arts have been integral to anarchism since its inception in the nineteenth century. Foundational thinkers including Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Peter Kropotkin, and Emma Goldman wrote persuasively and eloquently about the power of art as a potential tool of social criticism, revolutionary vision, and an essential component of a life free of domination. Some contemporary anarchists pick up on these themes while opening new ones: especially, the relation between art and anarchists’ quest for a life free of alienation, and the role played by some popular forms of art in opening cracks in dominant structures of everyday life where anarchist values and practices can take root. They emphasise the prefigurative capacity of art: its capacity for pointing toward a better world of greater freedom and less domination, and the ways some art forms already model that world. This chapter will, first of all, summarise the arguments of foundational and contemporary anarchists while further developing some of them. Second, for purposes of illustration, it will interpret several popular art forms in terms of anarchist values of autonomy, equality, power, and direct action. Third, the chapter will argue that these art forms prefigure deeper forms of democracy than currently practised in neoliberal democracies.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Mattern
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Politics and Global CitizenshipBaldwin Wallace UniversityBereaUSA

Personalised recommendations