Welcome to Anarchy as a constitutional principle: constitutionalising in anarchist politics, a participatory research project looking at the principles, processes and rules of anarchism!

What is the project all about? 

Anarchists, and the far left in general, have traditionally been wary of constitutions, associating them mainly with statist and liberal politics. But constitutions are used by these groups already – they emerge wherever power is divided, wherever rules are agreed openly to shape how people relate to each other and other groups and wherever people declare themselves into being (‘We are the 99%!’ for example).

This is a ‘participant action’ research project, which means that everything about the project is developed in partnership with the groups we work with. By everything, we mean the research questions, the things we plan to do, the ethics agreement, different types of consent, transparency rules, the publications to come out of the project and almost everything else you can think of.

Some of the questions that the project aims to address include:

  • What principles are best suited to horizontalist politics?
  • How should we think about dividing power?
  • How might a constitution give our organisations durability?

We have been awarded a grant by the Economic and Social Research Council to work with three anarchist(ic) groups to figure out which are the core principles that shape how they/we constitutionalise. By ‘constitutionalise’, we mean the agreement on norms and processes for developing strategy or decision-making and for resolving disputes.

We are aware that constitutions are usually associated with questions about the division of power, and usually assume hierarchy and domination. But constitutionalising doesn’t have to mean this. Can power not be divided horizontally? Constitutionalisation can also mean to declare a political body into being, (such as the American declaration of independence or Occupy’s ‘We are the 99%’). We want to think about the ways that anarchistic groups use ideas of anarchy to design alternative processes: non-dominating, horizontal and libertarian. We want to explain to people – those in the movement and or potentially sympathetic to it – how the anarchist and anarchistic left constitutonalise: how a commitment to anarchy works, where it generates conflict, how it helps manage conflict and how it shapes the division of powers.

This project is funded by an ESRC Transformative Research Award (ES/N006860/1).