Returning Community Psychology to the Insights of Anarchism: Fragments and Prefiguration


  • Nick Malherbe


Anarchism signifies the actions taken to bring about a fairer, more equal, non-hierarchical, and democratic society, one that exists without State coercion or domination. Although community psychology has engaged with some anarchist practices, such as mutual aid, the discipline has had little explicit or direct engagement with anarchism’s broader project of sociopolitical organization, with a notable exception. Almost fifty years ago, Seymour Sarason argued for what he called the anarchist insight, urging community psychologists to be wary of how they interact with oppressive State apparatuses that cause considerable psychological damage within communities. In this article, I draw on Sarason’s conception of the anarchist insight as an entry point into what I prefer to think of as the insights of anarchism. The insights of anarchism, I posit, are the knowledges derived from the fragments of anarchism that already exist in communities. The task of community psychologists concerned with the insights of anarchism is to work with people to communicate, strengthen, and make connections between these different fragments. Drawing from my own work, I examine how residents from a low-income community produced and screened a participatory documentary film that connected the everyday anarchism of a community garden to social movement organizing, where the role of the State was intensely debated. I conclude by considering some of the ways by which future community psychology work can consolidate the insights of anarchism.