Wednesday, March 10, 2010

COLIN WARD (1924-2010)


Check this man out. Britain's leading Anarchist philosopher died this February aged 85. Throughout his life he espoused a form of anarchism that had nothing  to do with the cartoon picture of black t-shirted violence but everything to do with mutual aid and cooperative self-help. He believed that social policy should be formed from the ground up. His interest in housing issues led him to support squatting movements, housing co-ops and self-builders. He wrote a history of allotments in 1988. At a time in Britain when none of the politics on display holds out any hope for a human future, Colin Ward's collected works offer a warm, wonderful resource of thinking that we all need to pay attention to. They are a blueprint for change and for fresh actions. We need to build this world anew. Check out the man and his works here and read the personal tributes.

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For a list of his main published works and basic intro

'Colin Ward – an obituary and appreciation of the chuckling anarchist' 

by Roman Krznaric on 'Outrospective', his 'empathy blog' on which you can also find this posting Five Ways to Expand Your Empathy.

He died...leaving a legacy of over thirty books and a huge following of activists, educators and writers – amongst them myself – who were inspired by his approach to radical social change, which always favoured practical, grass-roots action over utopian dreamings of revolution.

Colin was a gentle man and a wonderful storyteller. He had a boyish chuckle, a mischievous glint in his eye, and would often break out into song while munching on a sausage, drawing on his astonishing memory recollect lyrics from his 1930s Essex childhood.

What I really loved about Colin was his capacity to see the good in people. He didn’t expend his energy attacking those whose views he did not share, and could usually find a kind word for them.

Boyd Tonkin: The good life of a gentle anarchist [The Independent]

'He championed the twilight world of allotment-diggers, unofficial smallholders, prefab dwellers, caravan habitués, rural squatters, estate children, multi-tasking traders, DIY artisans and house-builders, most as remote from the trim land of planning applications as they were from tax demands.

Too few of his landmark texts exist in a form that non-specialists can reach. As every pundit and politician gestures towards a more congenial, more self-organising nation, and so few have the slightest notion of how to get there without grandiose top-down schemes, we need a handy volume of the Selected Colin Ward in every bookshop, or on every screen. Then the millions of eager fugitives from greed and fear can really get down to digging for victory.

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Colin Ward: pioneer of mutualism

on Next Left - The Fabian Society blog

Anarchy', for Colin, is simply any social space in which the techniques of mutuality predominate. It is a social space which people enter (and leave) freely; relate as equals; and do something creative, to solve a problem, meet a need, or just enjoy creativity for its own sake. And the aim of anarchism is to try to push and shove society in the direction of greater anarchy in this sense.
Thus, Colin emphasised that anarchy is, in fact, already very much part of our social world.

Anarchy is there in the meeting of a 12-step group, whose members grapple together with a shared problem of addiction. It is there in the adventure playground, the Friendly Society, the RNLI, and in thousands upon thousands of other free, egalitarian and cooperative social spaces. And his propaganda - not a word he was ashamed of - was frequently aimed at showing how some outstanding social problem could be better addressed by techniques of free, cooperative self-help.


The hidden history of housing

by Colin Ward [Sept 2004] on the

History & Policy Site


  • Up to 1945 'plotlanders' were able to make use of small patches of land not needed for agriculture, gradually building up weekend shacks into permanent residences, by using their own time and labour rather than large sums of money.
  • Immediately after the Second World War, homeless people in their thousands squatted in recently-vacated military camps, organizing their own communal services. Then, in the 1960s and 1970s, a similar movement erupted across vacant local-authority properties, evolving into long-term housing co-operatives.
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    A Tribute to Colin Ward on the Five Leaves Publications  blog.

    Housing, environment, transport, architecture, unofficial uses of the landscape, the education of children - Colin’s subjects were always full of positive examples of the way some people live now, and the way we could all live later.

    [Incidentally, found via ReadySteady Blog , the Bookaholic's Guide to Book Blogs]


    Colin Ward

    Submitted by Rob Ray on

    Colin wrote in 1973: “The tenant take-over of the municipal estate is one of those obviously sensible ideas which is dormant because our approach to municipal affairs is still stuck in nineteenth-century paternalism.” Surely now ...would be a good time to consider          re-introducing Colin’s plan.


    A 'Colin Ward Reader' available as a PDF download on the New Statesman site

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