More about Theory and Practice

Theory and Practice is part of a personal project which aims to develop a clear understanding of the world as it exists today; and through the use of this knowledge, discover what might be needed to change it for the better. It is an attempt to learn from the successes and failures of the past and to formulate better methods for acting on the present.

My personal background comes from an involvement and later disillusionment with the British “ecological direct-action” movement of the late nineties. I became aware that many “anti-capitalist” activists - myself included at that point - didn’t have a clear understanding of what “capitalism” was (for some of my comrades it appeared that the phrase could be interchanged with “anti-globalisation” or even “anti-industrialism”).

I felt that “capitalism” was being targeted as another separate “issue”, to be campaigned against through the actions of “activists”. I was becoming aware that the techniques of the single-issue campaign would be of no use to us, this was something we all lived our daily lives in and in which our own actions reproduced, whether we liked it or not. No matter how much we protested against each individual symptom in turn, the social relation as a whole continued.

It was at this stage, with the help of a friend’s collection of Anarchist books and a copy of “Capital” found in a charity shop skip, I began to take an interest in the writings of people who had grappled with these questions in the past. Slowly I made my way through the pile of literature and began to find my bearings, taking notes of what seemed pertinent. I realized that there were many different viewpoints with some contradicting the others. However, Anarchism’s general emphasis on individual freedom and aversion to authority seemed like a good starting point though I still had questions and disagreements with some of what I read. Marx’s analysis of capitalism and account of how it came about provided a framework that seemed to fit with my experience of the present.

The theoretical activity of many “anarchists” and “Marxists” I met seemed to take the form not of “I think that…” but “anarchist theory says that…” or “Marx said...”, these short-cuts to thinking which consist of merely aligning ones world view around the ideology in effect place theory outside of real lived experience. This wholesale adoption of ideology means that we are dealing not with dynamic theories but fixed personal identities. It is a sad fact that almost a century and a half after the demise of the first international there still exists many near religious devotees to the Anarchist – Marxist split. A coherent world-view requires that we are critical of both, taking what is relevant and pertinent and discarding the rest.

This website is a presentation of texts I have found useful and as such is also a record of a personal evolution of ideas. The inclusion of any materials does not imply absolute agreement, merely an indication of where I have found interest - difference can sometimes be more stimulating than similarity.

In 2013 I began publishing some of these texts as paperback books, the range of titles will be expanded as the years progress.

My hope is that what I have found useful will be useful to others.

See also: towards a better understanding of the world, in order to change it, this sites mission statement.

“To judge a thing that has substance and solid worth is quite easy, to comprehend it is much harder, and to blend judgment and comprehension in a definitive description is the hardest thing of all.” - G.W.F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface

DJP October 2008 (updated 2017)