• Tactics: Conceptions of Social Change, Revolution, and Anarchist Organisation

    Dana Williams (see profile)
    Social movements, Radicalism, History, Associations, institutions, etc.--Sociological aspects
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    anarchist, protest, Sociology of social movements, History of radicalism, Sociology of organizations
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    Tactics are the techniques and actions used by social movements that implement strategies for the purpose of achieving goals. For anarchist movements, tactics can assume a reactive, diagnostic, or destructive force for opposing hierarchy, repression, and inequality. Tactics can also assume a proactive, prognostic, or creative force that promotes horizontalism, liberation, and egalitarianism. The purpose of these tactics are two-fold: intervening in society to immediately accomplish goals (also called “direct action”) and illustrating a vision for a better world (also called “prefiguration”). Anarchist movements commonly have a protest repertoire that they regularly draw upon, deploying one tactic or another from their “toolkit”, the choice of which depends on changing external conditions, participant interests, and coalition alliances. Anarchist movements have borrowed heavily from other movements and have developed tactics in cooperation with other movements. These tactics can be categorized by how they position anarchists toward other social actors. First, anarchists engage with non-state and non-elite actors in a wide-variety of community, education, and alternative-building efforts. Anarchists also regularly engage state or other elite actors; typically in these situations, anarchists use asymmetrical, street-based tactics, while in other instances, anarchists may match state displays of force, resulting in the deployment of militant or even military tactics. The tactics chosen have generally varied by time period, with the clearest distinction available between the classic and contemporary periods. Anarchist tactics embody any combination of the following meanings: principled values, collective direct action, and taking and retaining space. Tactics and other organizational forms are never imposed by anarchists upon others and thus must spread horizontally. A combination of word-of-mouth, movement press, and stories of first-hand experiences diffuse tactics.
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