Thursday, February 18, 2010

Colin Ward

Via Peter, I'm very sad to see that Colin Ward has died. He was one of my favourite social commentators and someone that I'd urge anyone to read for the first time if they haven't already.

His columns in New Society and later in New Statesman & Society where I first found them, were the main reason to get those titles. They made the difference between the mags being 'nice to have' and 'must have' without ever straying into tedious speculation on court politics. I've mentioned him a few times here before. The Fabians have a good obit here as well.

Instead, Colin wrote about the little ways in which anarchist approaches were being quietly implemented in everyday life. His articles on informal mutuality, squatting and the ingenuity of ordinary people in adapting to difficult circumstances were a really positive and optimistic supplement to any week. For me, he transformed anarchism from being the pursuit of a bunch of slightly deranged idealists into being a perspective that could comfortably co-exist with, and inform lots of shades of political thought.

I met him a number of times, and he was always a fascinating summariser. The most annotated book on my shelves is his Anarchy in Action, and a 'A Decade of Anarchy' (a compilation of the better writing from the magazine that he edited in the 1960s) is enough to make anyone yearn for the launch of a title with an esoteric set of interests livened by fine writing.

His work on housing, architecture and education is worth tracking down as well (if you're ever at a loose end in Whitechapel, a lot of his hard-to-find work can be had here), and he was particularly strong in making the case for increasing the participation in environmental design.

Why should people live in places and use institutions if they've not been able to influence how they are designed and developed? Good old Colin. I wish there were more like him.

Here's a free sampler to start with.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting that up Paulie, was very interesting. I'm ordering one of his books today after your decent write up. Yeah Colin was a good man RIP