Here, Paul Cudenec turns his back on contemporary trends of anarchism in a bid to reconnect with the primal force of its root ideology. Cudenec notes the significance of its refusal of the state and its judicial system, of land ownership and of the need to work for wages in order to live.
But he goes further in suggesting that anarchism represents a whole way of thinking that stands in direct opposition to the blinkered materialism of contemporary society and its soul-stifling positivist dogma. He writes: “The anarchist does not merely stray outside the framework of acceptable thinking as carefully assembled by the prevalent system – she smashes it to pieces and dances on the wreckage.”
Cudenec explores the fluidity and depth of thinking found in anarchism, in stark contrast to Marxism, and identifies, in particular, a love of apparent paradox that seems to appeal to the anarchist psyche. He also sees a connection between anarchism and esoteric forms of religion – such as Sufism, Taoism and hermeticism – whose inner light defies the crushing patriarchal conservatism and hierarchy of the exoteric institutions.
In making his case, Cudenec draws on the work of anarchists such as Gustav Landauer, Michael Bakunin and Herbert Read. But he also widens the field of enquiry to include the philosophy of René Guénon, Herbert Marcuse and Jean Baudrillard; the existentialism of Karl Jaspers and Colin Wilson; the vision of Carl Jung, Oswald Spengler and Idries Shah, and the environmental insight of Derrick Jensen and Paul Shepard.
The book is described by John Zerzan in Why Hope? The Stand Against Civilization as “the least pessimistic book I can recall reading… It brings anarchist resistance and the spirit together in a very wide-ranging and powerful contribution”.
A review by anarchist writer Gabriel Kuhn adds: “The book attempts no less than equipping contemporary anarchism with a footing that is often neglected: the transformation not only of society’s structures but also of people’s souls”.