Ken Worpole on Colin Ward

by Chris Bertram on February 23, 2010

Further to last week’s brief mention of Colin Ward’s death, “Ken Worpole now has an obituary in the Guardian”: . A brief excerpt:

bq. Colin saw all distant goals as a form of tyranny and believed that anarchist principles could be ­discerned in everyday human relations and impulses. Within this perspective, politics was about strengthening ­co-operative ­relations and supporting human ingenuity in its myriad vernacular and everyday forms. One of Colin’s favourite metaphors – adopted from a novel by Ignazio Silone – was the image of the seed beneath the snow, which suggested to him that anarchist principles were ever alive and prescient. He thought it was the work of politics to nurture such beliefs and to support them through small-scale initiatives, avoiding the temptation to replicate or scale them up to a level beyond which professional bureaucracies take over.

I’d also note Daniel Trilling’s brief note at the New Statesman blog (which contains a link to an online pdf reader of Ward’s writings), Boyd Tonkin’s appreciation in the Independent, and Ross Bradshaw at the Five Leaves Publications blog.

Reading around Ward’s work in the few days since his death I kept coming across one of his favourite quotes, from the German anarchist Gustav Landauer:

bq. The State is not something which can be destroyed by a revolution, but is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of human behaviour; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently.

Material there, I think, for further meditation on Jerry Cohen’s critique of Rawls, the “socialism of the the camping trip”: , the importance of “ethos” and the inadequacy of a conception of human emancipation based around law and citizenship. (The “the seed beneath the snow” metaphor even finds echoes in the cover design for Cohen’s _Why not Socialism?_ ) But speculation about these convergences should form the matter of another post.

Update: Roman Krznaric’s “appreciation”: , and the Times “obituary”: .


by John Holbo on February 23, 2010

I never really got the whole G.K. Chesterton thing. I understand lots of folks really like Chesterton but, having never read anything but a few Father Brown mysteries, I formed a theory about that: some people really like formulaic mystery series, and some people really like this C.S. Lewis-ish naive-is-sophisticated-in-a-peculiarly-English-way attitudinizing. I feel I can take or leave the both of them. So, to repeat, I never got the Chesterton thing. But I figured maybe I should sample the non-Father Brownish material, just to be sure. (People do seem to love their Chesterton, not just the Father Brown fanboys.) I’m halfway through Manalive. And it’s pretty great! Obviously, being a tediously predictable person in my own way, I want someone to do it up proper as a graphic novel, with Innocent Smith as Manalive, in a tight green costume! With strength of leaps proportional to those of a grasshopper! And a revolver! Dealing out Life! More Life-Affirming Tales of Manalive, the Living Man!

Discuss. What’s your favorite Chesterton? Is Father Brown as fundamentally tedious as I take him to be? Is Innocent Smith just as tedious, only I like him because I’m susceptible to any whiff or soupcon of man-and-superman themery? The public is banging on its breakfast table, demanding answers to these and other questions, quite possibly.