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Litvina D. (2014) Anarchists. WP7: Interpreting Activism (Ethnographies). Deliverable 7.1: Ethnographic Case Studies of Youth Activism, MYPLACE (Memory, Youth, Political Legacy and Civic Engagement) deliverable report.



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MYPLACE (Memory, Youth, Political Legacy And Civic Engagement)
Grant agreement no: FP7-266831
WP7: Interpreting Activism (Ethnographies)
Deliverable 7.1: Ethnographic Case Studies of Youth Activism
Darya Litvina
Field researcher(s)
Darya Litvina
Data analysts
Darya Litvina
Work Package
7 Interpreting Activism (Ethnographies)
7.1 Ethnographic Case Studies of Youth Activism
Dissemination level
PU [Public]
WP Leaders
Hilary Pilkington, Phil Mizen
Deliverable Date
31 January 2014
Document history
Created/Modified by
First version
Darya Litvina
Comments to author
Hilary Pilkington
Revised version
Darya Litvina
Final version
Hilary Pilkington
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1. Introduction: anarchists in the glocal context ..................................................................... 3
2. Methods ............................................................................................................................... 6
3. Key Findings ........................................................................................................................11
3.1 Defining characteristics of anarchists ..............................................................................11
3.2 Intra-solidarity communication ........................................................................................16
3.3 Lifestyle-based resistance.................................................................................................21
3.4 Anarchists in the cultural environment of the city ...........................................................28
4. Conclusions .........................................................................................................................32
5. Future Analysis ..................................................................................................................34
6. References ..........................................................................................................................35
7. Appendix: Table 1. Socio-demographic profile of respondents.........................................38
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1. Introduction: anarchists in the glocal context
The established sociological canons for the description of youth cultures are not keeping pace
with changing youth, which, with the development of media technologies and under the
influence of glocal cultural flows, forms new solidarities that originate from a number of
currently relevant discourses, cultural traditions and political ideas. Anarchists have become
one of the most striking and discrepant youth solidarities in Russia. Anarchists have been at the
forefront of protest movements in Russia as well as in many European countries recently.
Public appearances, direct actions, projects aimed at rethinking everyday life, shocking art
performances - all of which attract the attention both of mainstream young people, who are
actively co-opting the image of ‘new revolutionaries’, and government institutions. Young left-
wing radicals are perceived as ‘Pandora’s box’: on the one hand, romanticized rebelliousness is
attractive; on the other, as signifying radicalism and frightening uncertainty.
All this makes anarchists a complicated and at the same time interesting object of sociological
analysis, and poses a number of research questions. What does it mean to be an anarchist?
What are the main grounds for forming solidarity and enmity? How is anarchic rhetoric
reflected in young people’s everyday routine, (sub)cultural (style, music, body techniques)
preferences, choice of life strategies. These and other questions have framed the aim of the
research as: to describe and analyze the specific character of the anarchic solidarity in St
Petersburg. The object of the research is young people under 30 who identify themselves as
anarchists. To achieve the aim of the research, the following objectives should be reached:
1. To define the main ideologies and values of anarchism that consolidates young people ;
2. To define the boundaries of anarchic solidarity; analyse and describe its roles,
hierarchies and distinctive communication practices;
3. To analyse the techniques of anarchic resistance to the social order in the context of
participants’ daily lives and political activism.
The theoretical base of Russian anarchism was founded at the turn of the 20th century. It is
associated first of all with the works of M.A. Bakunin and P.A. Kropotkin. Owing to their
activeness ‘at the beginning of the 20th century in Russia, in the atmosphere of revolutionary
uprising and previously unseen class struggle, anarchism, the regular companion of revolutions
and social upheavals, proved again to be a social and political movement that unites left-wing
radicals and democratically inclined parts of society’ (Kriven’kiy 2000: 212). There is a rather
large corpus of studies on theoretical, philosophical and historical aspects of what is called the
‘classical’ anarchic movement period (Ryabov 2011; Avrich 2005).
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From the first quarter of the 20th century until the 1980s, however, an anarchic movement in
Russia practically did not exist. There are no traces of anarchist activity (including secret
activity), except for a few anarchism study circles, that consisted mostly of students (Buchenkov
2009: 4-5). During the Soviet period, theoretical works on anarchism were not easily accessible
and were limited to V. Lenin’s ‘State and Revolution’, J. Stalin’s ‘Anarchism and socialism’,
works of Soviet essayists and new editions of those books by Kropotkin and Bakunin that
provided practically no information on anarchist theory (Buchenkov 2009: 66).
In the global context the modern period for leftists, including anarchists, starts in 1968
(Tsvetkov 2003: 27). In the USSR, anarchism was only revived later at the end of the 1980s
together with ‘perestroika’. Anarchist publications began to appear alongside various anarchic
associations and groups such as ADA (Association of Anarchic Movements) and ASSA
(Association of Free Anarcho-syndicalists). One of the most noticeable was CAS (Confederation
of Anarcho-syndicalists) that had a few thousand members (Bessmertniy 2009, Tarasov et al
1997). From ‘perestroika’ until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the majority of anarchists
worked alongside democratic movements and adhered to the principles of non-violence and
evolutionism. However, aggression by law-enforcement bodies (e.g. Rodionov and Kuznetsovs
case in 1991), nationalist activity and frustration with non-revolutionary means resulted in a
gradual radicalization of the movement, shifting anarchists from dogmatic traditional forms of
anarchism to new ways of struggle and organisation (Yashenko 2002).
The end of the 20th century was characterised by intensive development of communication
means and media-broadcasting, which led to ‘the large-scale increase in diversity and
acceleration of global cultural flows, higher intensity and speed of cultural exchange (Pilkington
and Bludina 2004: 19). Interaction of local and global cultural flows, their combination and
confrontation, was called ‘glocalization’. With the development and spread of access to
information on various cultures all over the world, youth cultural scenes diversified, joining new
debates, sharing and receiving (sub)cultural findings, new styles and music discoveries.
‘[G]lobalization opened for young Russians new information channels and new spaces for
inventing and building their identity’ (Pilkington 2004: 241); this gave Russian anarchists access
to the experience of western (sub)cultures and movements such as The New Left, radical
environmentalists, ‘autonomists’, ideological vagabonds, squatters and DIY (Do It Yourself)
Gradually, as a result of interaction with global culture, the Russian anarchist movement
changed and became more like its western counterpart than traditional Russian anarchism.
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Specifically, ‘The New Left’ became more active while radical environmentalists (‘Khraniteli
Radugi’ [‘Rainbow keepers’]) and politicized anarcho-punks (‘Pank Vozrozhdeniye’ [‘Punk
Revival’]), who appeared on the scene later, gave a certain impulse to the movement, adapting
European and American experience of new non-violent forms of resistance (blockades, eco-
camps, direct action, squatting) and, finally, defining the goals and principles of a new Russian
anarchism. As noted by respondents in this study, the scene has changed significantly under the
influence of a developing antifascist movement. This movement became increasingly popular
and attracted previously apolitical punks who, with the help of accessible literature, ‘grasped
the sense of words that used to be suspicious and obscure DIY, squat, sXe1 :(, zine, vegan,
sexism, ageism, distro, RASH2, hardcore etc.’ (Pank Vozrozhdeniye n.d.) and started to actively
spread the knowledge they had got and promote street actions and propaganda.
Identification with anarchist classifications (anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-communism, etc.)
which was so important for the former anarchism lost its significance. Organisations,
confederations, unions practically disappeared (except for the autonomic libertarian movement
‘Autonomous Action’ organised in 2000), leading to new forms of interaction that were
previously not recognized by ‘true anarchists’. The new forms included affinity-groups, i.e.
groups ‘of friends, sufficiently familiar with each other’s strengths, weakness and lives, who
have established a common language and who aim to achieve one or more goals, […] grounded
in common interests and trust in each other’ (Gelderloos 2010: 11).
Today there are very few works dedicated to the Russian anarchism of the end of 1990s and
2000s. There are even fewer empirical works that describe ‘live’ research based on participant
observation of youth anarchistic communities. One of the rare examples is T.B.
Shchepanskaya’s anthropological works, providing information on values, daily routine, stylistic
peculiarities of youth subcultures and informal social groups at the end of the 20th century.
These works help us to see how the modern anarchist movement has changed during the last
10-15 years. The vocabulary (‘askat’’, ‘flet’, ‘girla’), forms of organisation, stylistic peculiarities
noted by the author, however, have become relics of the past. Nevertheless, some features
(such as vegetarianism and hitch-hiking) provides a sense of the dynamic and historic continuity
of anarchists (Shchepanskaya 1999, 2008).
1 sXe is an abbreviation for ‘Straight Edge’. As R.T. Wood notices, ‘[h]istorically linked to punk subculture,
straightedgers since the early 1980s have been distinguished by their committed and sometimes militant
opposition to illicit drugs, alcohol, and perceived promiscuous/casual sexual activity’ (Wood 2006: 6)
2 RASH - Red Anarchist Skinheads
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It should be noted that modern anarchism is not limited to youth experience. However ‘youth’
and ‘adult’ anarchic movements are relatively independent of each other. While youth is
actively engaged in street activism and practices new lifestyles, the older generation pursues
academic and human rights activities.
Modern anarchists are centrally oriented, engaged in global cultural trends, characterised by
mobility and desire ‘to be in the know’ and share experience with youth in Russia and all over
the world. The fact that Russian anarchists’ are part of the global anarchy discourse is evident
from borrowed words, active adaptation of projects and initiatives and a special way of
speaking about various practices. Anarchist vocabulary since ‘Pank Vozrozhdeniye’ is still being
shaped and formed by such terms and names as ‘zine’, ‘shoplifting’, ‘distro’, ‘donation’, ‘FNB’
(Food Not Bombs), ‘benefit concert’, ‘gig’, ‘freemarket’ etc. And only a few of these terms have
any ‘domestic’ history, such as ‘svalerit’ (to steal) or ‘sobaka’ ( suburban train).
The opportunities for social interaction and the specific communication among anarchists
create the conditions for forming not only a symbolic solidarity, but a real solidarity
encompassing many Russian towns where anarcho- and punk-scenes exist, and even
internationally (especially with the near abroad, including such countries as Belarus and
Ukraine). Moreover, there is tangible evidence of anarchist s gatherings in large cities (Moscow,
St Petersburg, Petrozavodsk). All this leads to the fact that inside the global anarchist space,
ideas circulate rather quickly, which makes Russian anarchy discourse dynamic, relevant and in
accord with (though a little behind) antiauthoritarian trends in other parts of the world.
On the whole, there are very few sociological studies of Russian anarchists. Many articles
analysing modern anarchists are openly subjective and normative (often moralistic or
propagandistic). Unfortunately, many works covering the later period of anarchism often
present superficial, one-sided analyses based mainly on clichés, mass media news and anarchist
self-published books. As a result the image is created of an anarchist who is either romantically
revolutionary or menacing. Daily practice and reality, which can be understood only by means
of active participation by a neutral researcher, remain to a large extent terra incognita.
2. Methods
In this research a case-study approach was employed that presupposes the possibility of
combining a number of research techniques from the arsenal of qualitative methodology:
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participant observation, interview, collection of visual material (mainly video). The empirical
material was collected from February 2012 to February 2013 in St Petersburg, Russia. The
approach used in this research involved active involvement in the field as a researcher. One
method employed was the conducting of in-depth semi-structured interviews with young
people identifying themselves as anarchists and involved in current activities on the anarchist
solidarity scene. All in all 28 in-depth semi-structured interviews were recorded, lasting from 1
hour to 5.5 hours, with young people aged 18-28. A snowball technique was used most often
for sampling along with recruiting informants during public actions. The researcher also
adopted the position of ‘participant observer’, recording observations in a fieldwork diary. The
researcher thus accompanied participants through their everyday lives, attended important
places and events (concerts, open air festivals, seminars), visited them at home, spent time
together (shopping, watching TV, outing) and attempted to understand the peculiarities of
physical habitation of anarchist lifestyle through experiments on herself (with veganism3,
vpiska’4, hitchhiking).
Following many other sociologists working in a qualitative paradigm, the research conducted
for this report was underpinned by the principle that participant observation allows one to
better understand the subjective sense of those hard-to-detect practices that are part of
everyday life, that become routine and inaccessible for informants to articulate and reflect on
themselves. Observations helped to detect the practices that were regular for young people but
were never discussed, and the researcher’s own participation in some of them (within the law)
allowed her to experience what it is to be an anarchist in practice and what hardships follow it.
For example, the experience of hitchhiking, opportunities to get into the network of free
exchange of services and goods (haircuts, gifts, freemarkets) gave the researcher new insights
into monetary consumption. Observations and reflection on this experience were recorded in a
fieldwork diary that contains 52 entries (about 100 pages of printed text).
Anarchist solidarity is characterised by diversity; thus it was important to this study to include
the representatives of different anarchist traditions into the sample: both (sub)cultural actors
(punks, straight edgers, antifascists), and those who have nothing to do with
subcultures(anarcho-feminists, anarcho-communists and those who deny any nominations). It
was interesting to discover that despite the fact that the anarchist scene is internally
3 Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products (dairy products, honey, fur, wool). In the
context of anarchism, veganism is not just a diet, it is a politicized practice against discrimination on the basis of
species membership (see speciesism). Veganism is also explained as a protest against capitalism that encourages
people consume animal products for the purpose of making profit.
4 The word ‘vpiska (noun) probably comes from rus. ‘vpisyvat’’ (verb) (to insert, to put down, to enter for). Vpiska
is used to describe: free lodging (for one night or more) at someone else’s place; a tusovka or gathering to
communicate and have fun at someone’s place; and free entrance to cultural events (concerts, festivals, etc.)
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heterogeneous, being composed of many different affinity-groups, initiatives and organisations,
it nonetheless has distinct external cultural borders and thus might be said to and constitute a
unified communicative field. In practice it consist of a number of small tusovkas5 which are
frequently in contact with each other, and meet at festivals, concerts and actions.
Access to the field was provided by gate keepers. The most challenging task for the researcher
was building trusting relationships. Without the cultural and social capital that would
immediately make her ‘one of them’, inclusion in the field during the first stages of research
was secured by sharing sought after resources; specifically, the researcher’s car and a film
production. Readiness to participate in group practices was also important to enter the field
and understand what it is like to be an anarchist. Thus the fieldwork stage was also a period of
physical and bodily self-experimentation: veganism, vpiskas, hitchhiking, concerts,
demonstrations. While some of these practices were new and intriguing, others caused
[during a punk festival] in order to eat you had to find a hard-to-get clean plate or
to find one you could somehow use. That’s why I used to eat from one plate with
somebody I liked (…). Thoughts about the spread of bacteria in these conditions
have not left me even now’ (Fieldwork diary, 11 August 2012).
Despite the fact that the researcher was open from the start about her role as a researcher, and
tried not to meddle in informants’ relationships, it was impossible to remain completely distant
from people with whom a whole year was spent. The fieldwork stage was thus characterised by
the difficult maintenance of a multiple identity. Shared experience and frequent meetings
made the researcher quite close with some of the respondents, but along with the obvious
advantages of friendship, such as building close, trusting relationships, there were also some
disadvantages. As the distance between the researcher and the respondent receded, the
researcher had to become more alert to the potential for close respondents to skip the
‘obvious’ details about themselves in interview6. This added another layer of reflexivity to the
relationships as evident in one exchange with a respondent who expressed surprise when the
5 ‘This notion expresses the urban specificity of the tusovka apparent in it peculiar integration of people and space.
(…) Hence tusovka indicates both the place people get together (…) and the group of people involved. These two
meanings are knitted together in definitions of tusovka which focus on the act of getting together or gathering.
The implication here is that the tusovka is not the site of goal-oriented activity (…) it is the outwardly visible
result of a process of getting and being together’ (Pilkington 1994: 172).
6 One of the most obvious examples of the degree to which ‘shared context’ can influence an interview was when
one respondent did not mention in the interview that he had been forced to attend a psychiatricl hospital for a
year because he had too many piercings on his face. He had left out such an important eventin his life wasn’t
described because (as he explained after the interview) the researcher knew this story in detail already and he did
not want to be boring by repeat himself.
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researcher asked where he gets news and, somewhat perplexed, commented: ‘I kind of forgot
that I was speaking not to you’ (Denis). In this case the ‘not to you’ means ‘not to you as a
friend’, but ‘to you as a researcher’ to whom the ’obvious’ things (like where do you meet
friends, what is direct action or what do you do on concerts) should be explained.
The researcher’s gender may have played an important role in winning the informants’ trust.
Men more often were gate keepers and provided support in the recruitment of new
informants. They were also guarantors in situations when somebody doubted that the
researcher could be considered one of them. This was probably facilitated by the fact that they
did not see the researcher as a threat. A vivid example of this occurred while filming at a punk-
festival in the countryside. Having filmed all day long - the scene, people, kitchen, bars - when
the camera was taken by an acquaintance of mine, one of the organisers immediately came up
to him and asked him in an aggressive manner why he was doing that (‘Are you collecting a
family archive here?’). An anarchist who was nearby explained that everything was ok, that
these were friends, which put an end to the conflict.
In some cases when informants were acting as mediators during recruitment, they presented
the researcher not as such but as ‘a nice girl that will ask some questions’, ‘a girl who would
like a cup of coffee and a conversation’ and even as a potential partner. Three informants
confessed later that they had agreed to give an interview because they saw it as an opportunity
to have a conversation with a girl and that the arrangement had been something between a
date and an interview for them.
The main ethical question that arose during the field research was how far the illegal practices
of anarchists could be recorded. Cultural peculiarities (styles, music, communication types),
specific consumer practices (for example sXe, veganism, DIY), ultraleftist ideas and radical
forms of activism make this field closed for an outside observer and create various ethical
difficulties for a researcher. During the project, the researcher was aware of the risk of being
arrested, but maintained the ethical guarantees of anonymity of the respondents and non-
disclosure of information given by them. During the gathering of empirical material, the
researcher avoided participating in illegal practices and did not take pictures of them or film
them, despite often hearing stories of and witnessing various activities (fights, shoplifting,
hanging out banners):
Ira recounts how she set fire to a fur coat in the underground of [names city] a
woman had a fox collar with a head and when they were getting off, she set fire to
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it with a lighter. She also recounts how she painted a sleeve of her jacket blue and
rubbed it against women in fur-coats because it left traces. (Fieldwork diary, 6
August 2012)
When Tolik and I noticed the argument7, he immediately broke off the conversation
and approached the spot where the action was happening. As he went, he pulled
out a knife (about 10 cm) that was in the back knife sheath on his jeans and held it
behind his back. I approached Tolik and said, ‘Maybe you don't need that?’,
meaning the knife. He smiled and said, ‘You stay put and don’t watch. Kostya was
nearby. He said that everything was ok and that some guys did in practice what he,
being a pacifist, could only dream about. (Fieldwork diary, 6 August 2012)
One of the project’s outcomes was the research film ‘Straight Age. Part1. Anarchists’ (director
D. Omel’chenko) which illustrates empirical findings (Centre for Youth Studies 2013). The
presentation of the film aroused mixed reaction among the young people who took part in the
film as well as among the anarchists who were just viewers. The main characters of the film
started to be recognized at tusovkas concerts, festivals, vpiskas. For some of them the
experience of participation in a research film became rather traumatic, because along with
positive reviews the film got negative and even rude comments in social networks and
YouTube. Nevertheless, some informants who did not participate in the film believed that their
interviews would have been better and insisted that the researcher and director recruited
poorly. The film caused many arguments and (compared to other methods) to some extent
influenced relationships among the community participants just after its first release. Some
time later, the film’s release ceased to be a news item and the discussion subsided. However,
the shared experience with informants of emotional anxiety during periods of public discussion
shows once again that any visualization of sociological research requires intensive negotiation
with informants before, during and after filming.
Leaving the field was no easier a task than entering it. Having new research objectives, the
researcher began to gradually s distance herself from the field, which offended a few
informants and sometimes was perceived in a hard way, as the end of friendship. Nevertheless,
it was necessary to leave the field; being on the inside restricts the possibilities of analytical
7 This incident occurred late at night whilst hanging out in the city centre with 7-8 anarchists. Sitting on a little
piece of grass with benches, two drunk men nearby bothered the group from time to time. When they started to
hassle the girls, the boyfriend of one of them broke off and started an argument. Two of his comrades joined him
and the rest either tried to stop the fight or watched, ready to join in, if things took a bad turn.
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work with the material. During the time of communication with informants some practices and
ideas had become so routine and clear that they required post-field reflection and thought
about their articulation. Subsequently, relationships with former informants and especially with
gate keepers developed in a positive way and the field is open for the researcher to return.
3. Key Findings
3.1 Defining characteristics of anarchists
Of the central ideas of contemporary anarchism remains the proposition that society can and
should be structured without governmental power or state institutions. The act of protest then
appears as the main consolidating idea - protest against social inequality and the unequal
distribution of wealth and resources which arise out of capitalist hegemony. Actual anarchistic
ideas are conceptualized on the basis of anti-capitalism, anti-discrimination (with a focus on
anti-fascism and anti-speciesism) and anti-statism. In the understanding of anarchists,
capitalism is the main cause of social and ecological problems because corporations use
intensive methods of production, depleting natural resources and extending class inequality
between the workers (exploited) and capitalists (exploiters). One anarchistic collective notes
[c]apitalism is a system in which private ownership of capital determines the social
landscape: in a sense, it really is capital that calls the shots, ruling through
interchangeable human hosts. (…) As long as the foundation of our economic
system is ownership, capital will tend to accumulate into higher and higher
concentrations, and the resulting inequalities will determine the dynamics of our
society. (CrimethInc 2011: 52)
At the same time, the term ‘anarchism’ includes in itself a diversity of traditions, which are
often at odds with each other over key questions concerning: the structure of an anarchist
society; forms of organisation; goals; priorities: and methods of disobedience. Individual
interpretations and understandings of ‘anarchism’, ‘anarchy’, and ‘anarchist’ can take countless
different forms. Anarchy may be a revolution or an evolution of human thought, a bitter
struggle or a daily job, a project on a planetary scale or a matter for small, autonomous groups.
The differences between interpretations seem so principled and fundamental that many
modern researchers believe it would be better to speak not about ‘anarchism’ but ‘anarchisms
(el-Ojeili 2012: 3).
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The current period is characterized by a crisis of anarchist-identity, probably connected with
global processes of transformation among youth (sub)cultural scenes (Muggleton 1998;
Bennett and Kahn-Harris 2004; Hesmondhalgh 2005). Many participants in anarcho-solidarity
refuse to be called anarchists and prefer terms such as anarcho-punks, anarcho-communists,
anti-authoritarians, ultra-leftists or post-anarchists, but on the whole they deny any
appellation. The reason seems to be an aversion or a simple inability to place oneself in an
existing anarchist tradition and follow its statutes, but also a desire to break free from the
negative connotations of the word ‘anarchist’, ‘anarchism’, and ‘anarchy’ as they are associated
with chaos and disorder. Therefore, the term ‘anarchist’ is used here to describe a collective of
people who practice a particular life-style, share common values and orientations, and who
exist within a singular, unified communicative space:
One cannot simply call anarchism a movement. In principle, they don't define
themselves as such because, again, to give oneself a label, to say we are such-and-
such a group becomes a form of advertising. One's fashionable pictures will get
hung up, rumours will circulate... (…) And once the mass media machine slanders
that name, as it would, then it's clearly not an option to give oneself a label.
Therefore, the majority of anarchists don't run around saying, ‘I'm an anarchist!’.
For anarchists, what is considered central is not an adherence to this or that subcultural
definition, but the ability to differentiate ‘ours’ from ‘theirs’. In the midst of any particular
scene, one can meet both representatives of (sub)cultures and people who have no relation to
(sub)cultures: alco-vegans, hardliners8, communists, skinheads, feminists, intellectuals, etc. For
subcultures within the larger anarchist community (like punks or skinheads9), elements of
fashion (tattoos, clothes, shoes, piercings, hairstyles), body language, use of slang,
requirements of tradition, the equipment and preparation needed for a real conflict with ‘the
enemy’ (for example, fighting or defending against OMON10) are of peripheral importance.
8 This is a variation of sXe, suggesting a broader spectrum of restrictions than simply rejection of alcohol and drugs.
It could include abstention from sexual practices that don't lead to conception, and from consumption of any
mental stimulants (including tea and coffee). The given position is explained as an attempt to distance oneself
from any superficial factors, which could lead to addiction or influence mood, and with this jeopardize the self-
sufficiency of the individual and his/her ability to consciously control his/her body, behavior, and mood.
9 A detailed consideration of subcultures (their history, style, culture) within a modern anarchist solidarity must be
undertaken as a separate study, as it exceeds the framework of this study.
10 OMON Otr’yad militsii osobogo naznacheniya [Special police detachment], which is often used to suppress
riots by force and keep the peace at mass political events.
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Some anarchists see the (sub)cultural traits of anarchism as signs that it is modern, interesting
and lively:
It seems to me, generally, that when a subculture appears (…) - maybe movement
is broader than a subculture, but subculture is what is said - it indicates a visible,
qualitative change of some idea. For example, Marxists don't have a subculture.
This seems to me to be very important. Or, communists, they don't have a
subculture - they have a movement. So, basically, it's all rotten. (Marina)
However, while some informants in this research took on subcultural titles and worked on
their (sub)cultural identities, others tried to avoid such definition and keep as much distance as
possible from any relation to a (sub)culture. As American anarchist Feral Faun points out, ‘[t]he
anarchist subculture has undermined anarchy, turned it into another commodity on the
ideological marketplace and so made it into another category of society’ (Faun 2000: 60).
However, in fact the (sub)cultural environment becomes one of those channels through which
young people get into an anarchist community. The closest movements to anarchist solidarity
are the antifascist movement and punk/hardcore scenes as well as traditional skinheads:
‘[w]ell, on the whole we are all from the punk tusovka. In some sense we are all punks’ (Dima).
Earlier subcultures were understood as displaying ritual resistance to dominant culture which
was seen as standing in an oppressive relationship to the parent culture of subcultural
members. (Clarke et al. 1993). Modern anarchists cannot be associated with any particular
socio-economic class; they have diverse family backgrounds. Despite this, some young people
want to affiliate with the working class, which is why many informants conduct real
‘biographical work’ to embody the classical (sub)cultural image of a skinhead, antifascist,
anarchist or punk. For them, the working class is not the parent culture, though they try to
imitate it in order to explain their attitude to class warfare:
I used to work at a factory, because I just got inspired by the working class… we
need to revive our country. I read many intellectual books, leaflets. And I just
thought: ‘I’ll go to work at a factory!’ (…) Because I thought that maybe I’ll find my
mission in the working class there, that physical labour and so on seems to be very
romantic, doesn’t it? It is just when you have been reading some literature, have
been listening to some music, you think how cool it is! (Karina)
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Regarding the type of socialization anarchists practice, the term ‘solidarity’, developed by the
research collectives of NRC ‘Region’ (Ulyanovsk, Russia) and the Centre for Youth Studies NRU
HSE (Saint-Petersburg, Russia), is used. This term is used for ‘the description of different types
of youth organizations characterised by a range of distinctive gender, style, subcultural -
dimensions. Formations of solidarity can embrace different youth groups both off- and online,
can be real or imagined, temporary or enduring, include many subcultures or not relate to
subculture at all. Most important for this type of identity is the lifestyle of its practitioners
(including consumption habits, but not reduced to them), and also an agreed-upon conception
of their antithesis’ (Omel’chenko and Sabirova 2011: 13). For anarchists, such an antithetical
ideology, with which they have entered into a symbolic (or real) struggle for cultural, political,
and ethical hegemony, is represented by nationally-oriented movements (boneheads, Nazi-
skinheads, nationalists), but also government organs and commercial structures (police, banks).
A symbolic struggle for subcultural authenticity is ongoing with nationalists, since many cultural
particularities are characteristic for both Russian antifascists/anarchists and Nazi-skinheads.
For example, seemingly endless arguments continue on the internet on the matter of who were
the first to use brand-name clothes and shoes like New Balance, Lonsdale, and Fred Perry as
important markers of belonging to the movement. Many slogans and symbols of the antifascist
and nationalist movements are also very similar. So, the antifascist cry, ‘Good night, white
pride!’ sounds like its opponent, ‘Good night, left side!’, and even in graphical representations
the movements use an identical style - in the centre of a circle is drawn a man, beating his
‘enemy’, who is trying to defend himself with his hand.
Oppositional paraphernalia - flags or scarves with imperial symbols (like those of Nazi-
skinheads) - are removed or destroyed, or sometimes are kept as a trophy:
We take a seat on the metro. (…) Kirill is standing in front of me. (…) At one
moment, at one of the stations, I suddenly notice that Kirill pulls a yellow and black
scarf off someone, then swings his fist, knocking the guy in the face. The guy literally
flies out of the car and stands up on the platform, holding his jaw. Kirill shouts
something like ‘f*cking fascist!’. The doors close. The metro goes a bit farther.
None of the passengers says anything. The scarf lies on the floor of the car. Denis
stands on it with the edge of his foot. When the guys step out into the station, one
of them makes sure to pick up the scarf. (…) I try to figure out what just happened.
It turns out, the scarf was emblazoned with a nationalist symbol (the imperial flag).
(Fieldwork diary, 27 January 2012)
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The real struggle between these two enemy factions was made particularly clear a few years
ago when the Nazi-skinhead movement was at the peak of its activity. Often, their activity took
place in the form of so-called ‘pryzhki’ [lit. ‘jumps’]; a practice involving stalking a group of
young people around a designated location (a club, bar, or courtyard) and starting a fight,
which could sometimes result in serious injuries, hospitalization, and lawsuits or criminal
charges. This kind of ‘real’ action against opponents is highly valued in their community; for
anarchists who are imprisoned or hospitalized money and parcels are collected, and for those
who are killed, solidarity actions are organised. The most publicized event was the murder of a
young musician, anarchist and antifascist Timur Kacharava, in central St. Petersburg in 2005. To
this day, his friends, comrades, and admirers gather near the site of his murder, carrying
banners and flags11, and offering flowers and photographs.
According to governmental discourse, anarchists are dangerous, extremist, seeking to control
and direct young people. In the opinion of informants, nationalistic attitudes are also
characteristic of government and police rhetoric. Several informants noted that: they had
been in situations when the police took the side of the Nazi-skinheads or even joined their
ranks; they had received threatening messages through e-mail from the police department
regarding the struggle against extremism; they had uncovered in their circle a police informant;
they had been stopped by police at demonstrations and simply on the street. A negative
relationship to the police is present in almost every perspective and every narrative:
They were chasing me after the demonstrations, were coming to my home,
breaking down the doors…I mean, cops were conducting a search of my parents’
house where I was living. (Kirill)
Yeah, all the time [referring to clashes with law enforcement representatives]...
Generally with or without a reason. Essentially, there's this ‘Centre E’, the centre
dealing with the fight against extremism. I mean, they're very interested in
everything and it sometimes gets scary, because they know so much about so many
people, who in principle, don't even show up anywhere, nothing. But they know to
an extent, things like your favorite meal, et cetera... (Lena)
11 Examples of slogans on these banners include: Nazis kill - the government covers up!, We won't forget! We
won't forgive!
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The threat of a major confrontation with the police and Nazi-skinheads leads anarchists to
formulate a strong tradition of secrecy: a covered face and dark clothes at demonstrations,
fictitious names in social networks, secret channels to convey information regarding
demonstrations and events. Often such measures are not functional but only act stylistically,
especially as they are attractive to the subcultural part of the movement: it's possible to meet
young people in masks at a closed music festival in the forest, in the company of ‘one's own’.
Modern anarchist communities are represented in the form of organisations or individual
activists (‘khaoty’ [lit. ‘chaotics’ or ‘chaots’]). The most well-known organisation of ‘libertarian
communists’ is called ‘Autonomous Action’. It has existed since 2000 and is represented by a
network of cells in many cities of Russia. ‘Autonomous Action’ puts out its own journal,
‘Autonomous’, organises work on websites and social networks (, has its own
charter and regularly leads meetings. Those anarchists who are not involved in the activities of
an organisation are known by the term ‘khaoty’. Aside from organisations, anarchists are
represented across various initiatives and projects (for example, ‘Food not Bombs’, the
organisation ‘Student Action’, and independent unions), as well as affinity-groups.
3.2 Intra-solidarity communication
Many researchers describe the modern period as an epoch of individualism, where collectivity
is replaced by the pursuit of atomization (Bauman 2001). Anarchic solidarities, on the contrary,
actualize the need for communication and cooperation for the creation of tight and large-scale
social relations, encouraging safeguarding against various risks in the conditions of economic
and political instability, resource deficit and aggression from hostile environments.
The presence of social capital within an anarchic solidarity is a prerequisite for making anti-
capitalist protest real. Social capital is understood here as defined by Pierre Bourdieu:
…[s]ocial capital is the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to
possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual
acquaintance and recognition or in other words, to membership in a group which provides
each of its members with the backing of the collectivity-owned capital, a ‘credential’ which
entitles them to credit, in the various senses of the word. (Bourdieu 1997: 51)
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In conditions of limited resources, social connections generate important social capital that can
be mobilized within the anarchic solidarity. A large number of social connections, for example,
guarantees access to such resources as the ability to get information, visit festivals, concerts,
workshops, find ‘vpiska’, join projects, use other anarchists’ property (flats, tents, cars) etc.. It
is communication that comes to the fore in the anarchist environment, and tight connections
developed within anarchist movement create the atmosphere of certitude and solidarity which
is necessary for realizing plans and initiatives and developing the scene while remaining against
the dominant social order. This makes the relations, cultural practices and ideological anchors
that connect participants essential:
Well no, you know, shoplifting, veganism, being straight edge, going to the gym are
just sort of side-effects, not an aim or a means, It’s just, you know, …I personally
think it doesn’t bring anything really. The only good thing about it is that it creates
sort of a cosy, homely anarchist environment. You practice shoplifting, I practice
shoplifting that unites us in a way, because it is really hard to be an anarchist in a
world that is so hostile. (Alexey)
For the majority of informants, the deciding motives for solidarizing with anarchists were not
ideas, but a certain type of communication inside anarchic groups, friendship and the
opportunity to express yourself:
The fact there are no superiors is the reason why this movement stands out, (…)
that’s why I got interested in it. There is no authority, on the whole here you have
the possibility, well, to express yourself, your ideas, to do it openly, invent
something, speak without fear (…) to say something wrong, to do something
wrong. You have no limitations, rules, directives. They just disappear, leave. (..). It
is like an illness, you know, which leaves you if you treat it in the right way. (Victor)
The possibilities of social relations and the peculiarity of communication form conditions for
creating not only a nominal, but a real solidarity that encompasses many Russian cities with
anarcho- and punk scenes as well as some other countries, mainly the near abroad and such
countries as Belarus and Ukraine. The developed system of social relations is a necessary
condition for the movement’s ‘survival’. The sense of solidarity and support of both the
affinity-group or organisation and the movement in St Petersburg and Russia in general is very
important. Moral, material and physical support is provided to the anarchists and antifascists
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who are imprisoned, who suffered at the hands of Nazi skinheads or policemen. The network of
mutual help covers many Russian cities and some CIS countries (Ukraine and Belarus in
particular), and information on the hardships faced by certain participants of the movement is
spread through real and virtual acquaintances as well as through anarchic groups in social
The amount of social capital a certain anarchist possesses depends on the size of network of
social connections in which he or she is involved and can mobilize to achieve personal goals.
The network of social connections may include people who do not know each other from
numerous local scenes all over the world:
Of course there is a tusovka, for example, I do know a few people who do know a
few people in another tusovka. I do know these people can give me vpiska12
anytime they are in the city. And if they are not, I am absolutely sure I’ll get ‘vpiska
somewhere, there will be some people who know those who can provide me with
it. There is no problem at all. That’s how it is, these are special social relations,
that’s how it works. (Marina)
Despite the fact that a horizontal system of relationships is declared inside the solidarity
(equality of everybody), some anarchists are more recognised than others. It is possible to say
that anarchic ‘hierarchy’ is formed by activists (who are most often involved in some projects,
initiatives, organisations), ‘majority’ (people who participate from time to time in the activities
in which they are interested) and ‘advocates’:
Well, I kind of don’t really know, maybe a sympathiser. That means, well, if
somebody asks me for help I’ll be eager to help. I think that many people are kind of
ready to help. It just depends on where this help goes. (Pasha)
Anarchists are in radical opposition to dominant discourses. This means an essential part of
their identity policy is forming another, authentic knowledge system and a mechanism for its
practical enactment through a kind of informal educational system. Informal education is a
12 In this context it means ‘provide with free lodging at their place of residence
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specific process of knowledge accumulation, learning skills and values through everyday
communication with individuals in their social environment family, friends, and
acquaintances. Social space for informal education includes spreading of vital values of
anarchic communities through the everyday communication of individuals, demonstration of
their community or solidarity affiliation by referring to significant texts, names and events.
Involvement of individuals in such educational practices results in changing their understanding
of the world and reorganization of life strategies and daily practices. Informal education in the
anarchic environment is a voluntary educational choice where the process of knowledge
production is not monopolized by experts in the area, and the role of consumer and producer
of knowledge may be combined.
New participants socialise and quickly internalise the values and ideological basis of the
solidarity due to specific channels of spreading knowledge and skills and the experience of
living together and physical involvement in group practices. Active and lively involvement in
anarchic discussion happens during seminars, outdoor events, schools and festivals. One of the
significant events in St Petersburg is ‘Ch’orniy Petrograd’ (‘Black Petrograd’), visited by
anarchists from all over the country who come to discuss (among friends) important events
that happen in the solidarity. In summer there are large-scale countryside festivals of punk-
music such as ‘Help Festival’ and ‘Ebi sistemu’ (‘Fuck the system’) festival. Such events,
concerts, vpiskas, tusovkas and other experiences of the collective body help to acquire specific
knowledge and physical skills: for example, mosh dancing; cooking vegetarian meals; learning
where to buy soya meat, asafetida and rice milk; what kind of knife to buy; how to hitchhike on
highways and many other things. As this is a space of trust and sharing experience, the venue
of such events is kept in secret and information is spread from one person to another:
It is the same as when Kolya avoided telling the venue by telephone or in
Vkontakte before our trips (…). When we set off for ‘Ebi sistemu’, he told us
how to get there using txt-file sent or given to him. For me it is still a
mystery how you can gather this number of people at a festival when the
venue is kept secret from the public. (Fieldwork diary, 10 August 2012)
The easiest way to spread information is via the Internet: websites of libertarian organisations
(‘Autonomic action’) and independent news resources (Indymedia,, blogs and groups
in social networks as well. There anarchists can learn about the recent events underway in
protest scenes all over the world, express their opinion on relevant problems for anarchism and
discover opportunities to find like-minded people and join new projects and initiatives. For
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many people it is their first acquaintance with anarchism, and for youth from places without an
anarchist scene at all, practically the only possibility to nominally join the solidarity:
It seems to me that we should make use of propaganda after all. Internet
and Vkontakte are of course necessary to keep these sources open. Just to
make it possible for a person who gets interested in anarchism to type, for
example, ‘anarchism’ in Google and get hyperlinks here and there. Well, like
in a book. Well, to start with, some small articles. The person looked
through them wow, curious! Here is another link. Then read a book, (…)
and says: ‘listen, the author is right, isn’t he!’ (…) So the person starts to
read, learn something and goes deeper into it, then finds some people also
on the Internet. Starts to communicate with them and now he is… I mean,
and there are getting to be more anarchists. (Dima)
The main channels of distributing anarchic literature, periodicals, music and attributes are
‘distros’ – distribution chains of production connected with some topic. These are often tables
with production that can be seen in social centres (venues for anarchic, animal-advocate and
libertarian events), at music festivals and seminars. There are T-shirts, badges, brochures,
stickers, music CDs and books for sale or free distribution. The thematic scope of books may be
practical and includes various topics: from how to reach consensus in your affinity-group, start
revolution or behave during questioning, to recipes for vegan meals. There are also science-
fiction, theoretical and historical publications reviews of anti-globalist protests, the history of
revolutionary movements, modern and classical publications of famous anarchists and
libertarians. Besides, distros offer various entertaining and fan club productions. For instance,
fanzines with pictures, posters and reviews.
Brochures, stickers and texts are printed in limited copies at small print shops and publishing
houses which are focused on promotion of free-minded literature13. Anarchic literature can be
found on the Internet also. It is not only allowed, but it is also welcomed to print materials
from the Internet for their future distribution14. This is why texts often appear on brochures
printed on a black and white printer wherever at home, at an office - it can be done cheaply
13 For example, non-commercial printing project Lixoy Star.
14 For example, the blog ‘Khoroshiye knigi dlya khoroskhih lyudey’ (‘Good books for good people’) that has a slogan
’Read, print, distribute!’ aims to make it possible for everybody to find interesting brochures and books and print
them at home, in an office, at a friend’s, at the university’ (URL:
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or for free. Making a profit is not the goal of samizdat15, but in order to cover expenses on
printing and transportation, there may be some price for printed production. Usually the price
is 10-20 rubles for a brochure, 35-80 rubles for a magazine or zine and 100- 350 for a book in
paperback or in hard cover16. Sometimes you can make a donation instead of paying a fixed
amount of money; buyers pay as much as they want to support those who distribute the
materials and the scene.
Production agents of anarchic knowledge are often depersonalized. Many texts give no
information about the author or are published under pseudonyms (for instance CrimethInc. or
serg_mihalych). Some of them become cult-persons, such as Subcomandante Marcos, one of
the main ideological leaders of the antiglobalist movement, the representative of Zapatista and
a man of whom it is known for certain only that he smokes a pipe and wears a black mask
(Tarasov 2003).
All the material represented at distros is printed and distributed on the grounds of Creative
Commons, which ‘allows others to alter, amend and develop the work on non-commercial basis
as long as they mention the author’ (Gelderloos 2012: 1) Many texts are published on Anti-
copyright license: ‘Anticopyright 2003.Everything in this publication is available for
noncommercial use: reproduce, copy, borrow, detour, plagiarize, or steal any images, ideas or
text for your own use’ (The Curious George Brigade 2003: 2) The conditions of future
distribution of such literature are in no way regulated, and readers are recommended to leave
a book after they read it in some crowded place or to give it to a friend because it required
resources and time to make it. Such things are often written on the covers of books to draw
readers’ attention to limited resources, ecological concerns, criticisms of consumer society and
notions of ownership. Sometimes the authors remind the readers: ‘Property is theft. Steal it
3.3 Lifestyle-based resistance
Despite the fact that ‘everyday life often flows un-reflexively, following habits and routines of
which the actors are not fully aware’ (Sztompka 2008: 32), for many anarchists daily routine
and lifestyle become vitally important in the expression of collective identity. ‘Revolution of
everyday life’ and ‘lifestyle-based resistance’ are the essence of the anarchist lifestyle and
involve certain daily practices aimed against the established order. In his book ‘The revolution
of everyday life’ Raul Vaneigem says:
15 Homemade production, copying and self-dependent distribution of publications.
16 10 rubles = 0.20 Euros
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[p]eople who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to
everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is
positive in the refusal of constraints - such people have corpses in their mouths.
(Vaneigem 2003: 26)
Anarchist lifestyle is defined by the values and ideological course of the group anticapitalist,
antigovernment and antifascist ideas. As long as capitalism is the main target of anarchist
criticism, anti-consumerism practices and learning ways to escape ‘capitalism traps’ become
essential identifying factors. First of all, banned products include ‘unethical’ ones (products of
animal origin), pollution-causing vehicles, plastic bags, etc.), products of transnational
corporations like McDonald’s, Nike, Adidas as they ‘use the labour of little Vietnamese girls’
(Lena). Some anarchists (mainly straight edgers) also stop consuming the products of tobacco
and alcoholic corporations.
These practices can be called post-consumerist, because the idea is to shift from hedonistic
(aimed at pleasure connected with self-care) consumption to politcized consumption (defined
by ideological course and cultural environment):
It may be insignificant that you bought Coca-cola. Regarding the corporation scale
this money is nothing. Nevertheless, you’ve become involved, you’ve contributed to
global slavery. (…) It is just for yourself, for good conscience, you don’t want to be
involved in all this, pay money to those who exploit people, who use animals for
testing. (…) This is simply unethical. The issue is not whether it has any influence or
not. It just for yourself, for conscience, for your own conscience. (Kolya)
Activists do not necessarily want to stop consuming, but they try to minimize it on the grounds
of their own ideas, knowledge and understanding of the problem. The struggle to maximally
distance oneself from the capitalist system, based on the commodity-money relations, leads to
a number of strategies of non-monetary consumption, some of them implemented by means of
the resources a society possesses (skills, knowledge, etc.), or by using external sources: ‘taking
back what was stolen’ (shoplifting); avoidance of certain goods and services (boycott and
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buycott), veganism, freeganism17, straight edge; converting social capital (vpiskas, workshops);
the use of free consumption techniques (hitchhiking, DIY, squatting). Many practices are also
characteristic of other movements, solidarities and (sub)cultures, such as DIY cultures or eco-
and animal advocates.
Modern researchers note that, in developed countries, consumption is no longer utilitarian,
serving to satisfy basic human needs. As Shaw and Newholm note in their research on ethical
consumers, individuals buy certain goods to build their identity or relationships and marketing
becomes central in cultural life (Shaw and Newholm 2002: 167-168). Alternative lifestyles in
turn imply alternative consumption patterns. In this respect, the following research categories
are used: non-monetary consumption, anti-consumption, voluntary simplicity, ethical
consumption, personal politics, lifestyle-based resistance, anti-consumerism. Each of them
implies its own research focus and in some way corresponds to consumer strategy which is
typical of many young anarchists.
According to Laura Portwood-Stacer, anarchists express their criticism of capitalist consumption
by refusing to pay rather than abstaining from consumption (Portwood-Stacer 2012: 94).
Anarchists stigmatize money and relationships intermediated by it. However, in a city
environment, it is utopian to abandon monetary consumption. That’s why for many anarchists
non-monetary consumption is more of a direction, a goal they are constantly striving for
through their own interpretations of anarchy theories, following their imperatives but within
the frame of the realities of their social context:
Usually I spend money on something that cannot be stolen or exchanged. I mean I
try to get all I need through exchange (…). Well, basically it is, for example, I don’t
know… When I’m going to visit my parents, they live far away, and I need a lot
money for the ticket. In the summer, for instance, I would hitchhike. (Polina)
In a megapolis, shoplifting becomes the main instrument of getting most goods. Shoplifting is
possible only in large shops18, because, as it has been explained, the owners of large capital
17 Freeganism is an anti-consumption strategy that supposes consuming only the products that can be found for
free. Freegans usually practice dumpster-diving to get food and goods that were thrown out because of small
defects (like torn packaging, being close to their expiry date etc).
18 Stealing from small, private shops is denounced any way because their owners are not defined as ‘capitalists’.
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exploit the labour of workers who produce goods for sale. That means that ‘capitalists’ steal
working hours and resources from people and get more profit than those who directly produce
the commodity. That’s why a theft (in anarchist terminology ‘liberation’) of goods in a
‘capitalist’ shop is defined by anarchists not as illegal action, but as re-establishing justice:
Even if I had money, I would do the same thing, because I think, what the
f*ck, so food is a privilege, not a right? Food should be our right, not a
privilege. The same with housing. (…) But with this political situation not
everybody has housing, has enough money for food. I practice such things
as taking food away, goods liberation, because it’s the damned right of
everyone! (…) What I want to say is that robbing the wealthy –is not at all
f*ing bad, it is like, well, stealing from people like you that's bad. (…) I take
away food, things, but only from the stores where capitalism thrives. That
means some bourgeois stores, supermarkets, bourgeois clothes shops as
well. I mean shops where people are just used for making profit. (Kirill)
Housing is understood as a ‘natural right’ of each individual. It is obvious that in large cities it is
practically impossible to get free housing. Nevertheless, anarchists try to cut expenses on
housing by choosing communal forms of residence. This includes room mating, communal
households (like house projects and suburban settlements), squatting or ‘vpiska’. The most
widespread way of finding shelter is ‘vpiska’. Vpiska implies that a person lives or spends some
time at the place of people who agree to accommodate him or her; moreover, they may not
know each other from the outset. Vpiska is also understood as an opportunity to visit for free,
for example, some concert or festival if there are specific circumstances or friends among those
who organise the event and will enter your name on a list. There are also so called ‘house
projects’ – flats that are a dwelling place and at the same time social centres (venues for
discussions and events). In this space there are practically no private nooks or private property;
it is open for everybody who agrees with anarchist ideas. You can get vpiska to stay there as
well and make a donation - money for food, rent and other expenses. Besides the vpiska
system, possibilities for free accommodation are provided in St Petersburg by ‘squats’, that is
the unauthorized occupation of abandoned or unoccupied places. Squatting is to a large extent
a symbolic demonstration of the anarchic position on property; a kind of protest against
irrational use of housing and the creation of a space of free action and communication.
The high degree of mobility, the constant search for vpiska and moving are an integral and
routine part of some anarchists’ everyday life.
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Well, I used to live at my friends place at [names station] station for a long
time - he lives with his father. I stayed there for like 3 years or so […] That
flat was stifling, always full of smoke, I didn’t like it there, even crashing
with them for a night was unpleasant. So that is why I was always roaming
here and there visiting my other friends and staying with them…well so it
goes something like this I guess. You end up one day calling your friends,
trying to find a place to stay for the night. […] In summertime it’s ok to
sleep on a bench. Sometimes it happened that I was not alone, some of my
comrades, they also didn’t have a place to stay, so we slept somewhere on
a staircase nestled up to each other, with old newspapers for sheets
[laughs]…so…that’s the way we did it… (Tolik)
Non-monetary consumption presupposes not only the use of material goods but also the use of
cultural products. In the anarchist environment cultural production is closely intertwined with
cultural consumption; the absence (or the shortening) of distance between a performer and
the gig organiser, for example, is the most distinguishing feature of the DIY punk scene in
contrast to commercial music. DIY practices arrived in anarchism from other subcultures,
mainly from the punk scene; their ultimate aim is to exclude all monetary relationships from
the scene. All the earnings (with very rare exceptions) are usually spent either on socially
relevant causes or on the needs of the movement. This might be a donation to support an
animal shelter or an orphanage; money also can go to the services of an attorney for jailed
anarchists and antifascists or to the organisation of a new social centre etc. In the latter case,
the main goal is communication itself, solidarity, and the actual practice of the anarchist
Craig O’Hara in his book ‘The Philosophy of Punk: More than Noise’ starts a chapter on DIY with
a quotation from a musician named Joel:
The driving ethic behind most sincere punk efforts is DIY Do It Yourself. We don’t
need to rely on rich businessmen to organise our fun for their profit we can do it
ourselves for no profit. We punks can organise gigs, organise and attend demos, put
out records, publish books and fanzines, set up mail distribution for our products,
run record stores, distribute literature, encourage boycotts and engage in political
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activities. We do all of these things and we do them well. (cited in O’Hara 1999:
It is interesting that non-monetary or partly non-monetary consumption among the activists
(solidarity members) creates various, sometimes even contradictory trends. Some people tend
to reduce their consumption (at times all the way up to absolute denial of monetary
consumption and minimization of its other forms), while others tend to increase their
consumption (because they learn to get a lot of goods and services for free by using their social
connections and non-monetary means of acquisition). Hence, sometimes the quantity and the
quality of goods is not decreasing but on the contrary has a tendency to grow:
We enter a shop to buy some bread which costs 32 roubles…sometimes we buy
some oatmeal…onions… And at the same time we take away stuff… I can take away
a 1500 roubles shampoo, 3000 face mask and again different salad dressings, 300
macaroni… expensive booze – ‘Hennessy’, ‘Jack Daniels’…anything you want. 600 –
700 roubles bottles of wine. That’s how I live, I have become very fussy since I
started to take away stuff. For example…well, I do not like cheap alcohol, I can say
that I generally don’t like cheap food, I hate cheap macaroni, cheap ketchup…
One of the most austere anarchist consumption patterns is very close to the ideology of
anarchoprimitivism with its critical approach towards modern society and its ideal of the
‘organic’, ‘natural’, pre-industrial state of things (Zerzan 1994, Zerzan et al. 2012). The most
articulated form of such a social project is the practice of eco-cities in which anarchist ideas of
equality, horizontal organisation, and ethical natural exchange can be brought to life based on
the natural economy and isolation from the outer world. Although only one such project in
Russia is known to the author, there may be more. Realization of such projects in an urban
environment is almost impossible. On the whole it is quite hard to imagine an anarchist society
that would fit in the life of a megapolis, which is why urban anarchism can only be realized in
small organisations, initiatives and tusovkas which find themselves in quite isolated cultural
A common lifestyle is a source of anarchist identity, as it helps to acknowledge people of ‘your
own’ and consolidate social relations within the solidarity. Consumption does not entirely
define lifestyle; it is not the only component, but it plays an extremely important role in
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structuration of anarcho-solidarity because, based on lifestyle similarities, which are deeply
connected with consumption patterns, certain informal groups appear within the movement
itself. The difference between these groups is based not so much on the differences in the
interpretation of ideas but on the different approaches to representation. There is a particular
conflict of two consumption strategies within the movement: those who choose straight edge
lifestyle; and those who do not care much about healthy lifestyles. Straight edge is a part of
punk subculture, but it is a unique interpretation which prioritizes abstinence from
psychoactive substances alcohol, drugs, cigarettes (sometimes in the most radical cases from
tea, coffee and sexual relationships). Those young people who support this ideology usually
mark their identity with a black cross (1 or 3 as a rule). Usually they make a black cross tattoo
on the back of the hand; this, ironically, leads them to be called ‘crusaders’. It is very
important for straight edgers not to ‘f*ck up the crosses’. This set expression means that they
have to be careful not to violate those consumption restrictions that they are obliged to follow.
If they fail to do so it means that they no longer can be associated with the subcultural name,
which is a source of pride and righteous criticism of others who do not care about restricting
themselves. As a counter to the straight edge movement which irritates many movement
members, another movement was formed alco edge (which obviously is not that serious and
more of a joke than a movement). As their symbol, they have chosen a black circle, which they
place in the same manner as straight edgers place their crosses.
The conflict over consumption strategies is not something new or unique in the Russian
anarchist scene; the same phenomenon can be seen in similar subcultural and political scenes
all over the world (Grossman 1996-7: 24-25, O’Hara 1999: 142-53). It is possible to say that for
many solidarity members (although not for everyone) consumption strategies are no less
important than the ideology, world view and values:
Those people who are doing that over there (drinking alcohol during a
concert)…They can do that at home or at their country house…somewhere else –
that’s what I think. We came here for absolutely different reasons, we came to
support the scene, jailed comrades (…) We came here to unite somehow. And
they… they do the opposite… I think they disrupt everything. I don’t feel any
solidarity with them. I don’t want to build anarchy with people like this. I’m a
straight edger…and, I’m kind of uncomfortable with them. (Video archive, May
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Certain aspects of anarchist consumption patterns are popular not only among DIY
(sub)cultures, but also among active consumers (such as hipsters for example) and among the
ordinary ‘civilised’ public (Arif 2011). Perhaps the most popular anarchist initiative in St.
Petersburg is the freemarket. Freemarket is a place where people can take things that they find
useful for free, and they can also leave there the things they do not need for other people to
take. Freemarkets can be temporary or they can function on a regular basis. There is also a
project that promotes vegan cuisine which is steadily growing in popularity; artel ‘Poekhali!’
(‘Let’s Go!’) has a variety of vegan dishes that you can try for a donation that you find
3.4 Anarchists in the cultural environment of the city
Anarchists express themselves not only through ‘the daily life revolution’, but also by means of
public self-representation. Anarchists are characterised by aestheticization and theatricalization
of public actions. This can be mass processions, art performances, short and memorable rallies
that last a few minutes or graffiti-actions. The most noticeable, shocking, provocative anarchist
form of expression is direct action. Direct action is what brings apparent practical palpable
results here and now. Direct action is associated with significant risks and is known by a close
circle of friends and is kept a complete secret. One of the theoreticians of anarcho-syndicalism
H. Lagardelle describes the essence of direct action in the following way:
…direct action implies active interference of some brave minority. No slow and
awkward bulk should act here to start a struggle, as happens in a democracy; no
number or amount is a rule here there forms an elite (un elit), which due to its
quality attracts the masses and directs them into a struggle. (Lagardelle cited in
Novgorodskiy 1921)
Examples of direct action are the release of animals from farms, setting fire to police cars or
damaging unethical shops (selling fur coats, meat). This action is motivated by necessity, well-
considered, and harmful only to property, but not to life:
…one can arrange a rally. You can go along Nevsky Prospect19 and scream
something out, show some banners distribute leaflets (…). But you also can
go to the underground and cut the fur coat of some stupid woman. Or, for
instance, you can enter a fur coat shop and try on a fur coat, well if your
19 The central street in St Petersburg
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appearance is appropriate of course, because, well, they won’t let everyone
try on a fur coat… and you can put into it some beetles. Or throw a Molotov
cocktail into the shop. So this is direct action (Lena).
But despite the fact that direct action is a radical political action and brings results, it remains
the lot of the ‘brave minority’; many anarchists rhetorically and really support those who risk
using it. Solidarity campaigns may include: fund-raising for lawyers, food, clothes and personal
care items for parcels for anarchists under investigation; graffiti-actions and rallies calling for
the release of some inmates; and actions commemorating those who were murdered by Nazi
skinheads. Fundraising is usually held at concerts or through ‘AChK Anarkhicheskiy Ch’orniy
Krest’ (‘ABC Anarchic Black Cross’) a special anarchist interregional ‘fund’, you can transfer
money to their account and then it will be transferred to the anarchists who need it:
After the concert we went home. It turned out that we managed to get
16 thousand roubles (though we expected about 5 thousand) plus
somebody brought necessary clothes. But Lena didn’t take everything,
because in Kresty prison where Tolik was being held there is a limit on the
weight of parcels 30 kg a month. The lawyer was recommended by Kirill’s
uncle (a cop), his service cost 45 thousand. Tolik’s mother gave 25
thousand, we collected 16 thousand at the concert and there were 8
thousand on the ABC account (Anarchic Black Cross). (Fieldwork diary,
January 2012)
Participation in sanctioned rallies and actions is a safe and peaceful way for young people to
express their affiliation with anarchism in public. Anarchists’ participation in the procession
dedicated to the 1 May takes place alongside the ranks of independent trade unions, students
and environmentalists under black, red/black and green/black flags. Slogans and banners
succinctly express basic anarchic postulates: ‘Eight hours is too long – cut working hours!’,
‘There are no illegal workers!’, ‘Go out on the street, take your city back!’, ‘Nature is not a
commodity’, ‘Rubber bullets, tear gas –that’s the president’s present for the working mass!’,
‘The only way out is self-government!’. Despite the legitimacy of such events, many anarchists
often end up arrested.
Anarchists are often in the centre of mass protest demonstrations. Recent notable events
include the protest against cutting down Khimki forest in Moscow, organisation and support of
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‘Occupy’ movement participants, and the defence of the Warsaw station warehouse in St
Well, one part of the movement kind of tries to change the current political
landscape somehow (…). The other part doesn’t accept this landscape at all, and
turns to a kind of secret radicalism. (…) It is obvious that those involved in secret
activity.. they don’t visit events like the March of the Millions, right.(…) Or if we take
summer camps for example, various Occupies (… ) some people who are interested
in politics, there are plenty of them there. That’s it. And I think that those who
constantly live there they accounted for the half of people. (Vadim)
Though a significant part of anarchist experience seems non-typical of the majority, anarchists
themselves see it as a routine firmly incorporated in their everyday life. Moreover, traditional
knowledge corpuses and lifestyles are conceived of as strange or outdated. Many anarchists do
not feel that they are in cultural isolation, extrapolating their experience onto the majority and
believing that people around them share their values and strive towards them. Though some
people consider their lifestyle to be unique, elitist and inaccessible for average people:
I can’t now imagine how one can go out in the street without a knife. I see people
are without knives. Well, how do they go about? Well, I don’t know how you can do
without a handgun. I can’t imagine it now. Or you can imagine… well, you know, it’s
difficult to imagine that people there eat meat. Why on earth do they eat it? (…)
You just start somehow thinking that everybody is like you. Especially when you are
surrounded by the same people like you… or almost the same (…). You visit
someone’s home and whoops! There is meat. Well it’s like you come to their home
and there is dog shit there, I don’t know, on the floor (…). It just seems to you that
you have always been like this. Just, well, it is kind of that your mind has changed’.
Despite obvious cultural distance, avant-garde youth cultures are closely connected with the
mainstream. A. Potter and J. Heath in their book ‘The Rebel Sell’ examine the processes that
encourage co-opting of countercultural and radical leftist movements and argue that once they
become commercial and start to be a part of the youth culture market, finding support for
simple and clear ideas among the public at large, then they lose a significant part of their
essence. Anarchic and revolutionary symbols, culture and associated personalities (Che
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Guevara, Kropotkin) are duplicated and used by many young people as simulacra (a sign
referring to nothing).
The contrary processes of cultural borrowing from mainstream happen in the same way. Part
of such borrowing is kitsch ironic distancing from a mainstream ‘low’, in an aesthetic sense,
cultural product, which is nevertheless consumed by those who criticize it (Heath and Potter
2006: 100-36). For instance, anarchists may have absolutely diverse music preferences - from
hardcore bands to starting their own bands. However, many of them listen to pop music
(‘Kraski’, ‘Ruki Vverkh!’) or watch TV series whilst letting others know that it is just a game, a
joke, nonsense20.
Along with this, young people turn out to be open to cultural dialogue with ‘common people’
and even enemies and they try to build communication with them:
People start thinking to themselves that it is bad to do so (to eat meat, wear fur
coats), that they should change their life, their views, treat the world in a different
way a little bit. In communication you find some common grounds that allow you to
understand that you can communicate with anybody regardless of your views.
Anyway you can find common language between an old person and a young one,
between, I don’t know a Nazi and someone else’. (Kirill)
Thus it becomes clear that there are significant buffer zones between anarchists and other
politicized youth movements, (sub)cultural scenes, and the youth mainstream, but they are in
active cultural interaction. Moreover, the exchange of ideas and concepts happens not only
between culturally close communities, but also between ‘enemies’. Thus, antifascist anarchic
ideas may quite unexpectedly acquire new controversial interpretations and new meanings. An
illustration of this statement is the example of a girl who is a participant in an anarchist
solidarity, characterising herself as one of the founders of an antifascist movement in a small
regional town in Russia. Her understanding of fascism in this case included not only
controversial interpretations but conspicuous features of right-wing (nationalistic) rhetoric:
20 An example of kitsch consumption was recorded on video at one of the anarchist/punk festivals and an excerpt
is included in the film ‘Straight Age. Episode 1. Anarchists’ (directed by D. Omel’chenko), minutes. 67:45 – 68:20.
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Ira: I believe that disabled people and some other people should not reproduce at
all to avoid problems in future (…).
Interviewer: But this is to some extent a fascist position, isn’t it?
Ira: To some degree it is. But I am no racist, you know. In my mind, in brief, I believe
it would not be bad if all races would just, for instance, choose some people who
are the most… in a physical, intellectual sense, developed, and to kind of crossbreed
them, that will be ok. (...) No, I’m not a right-winger at all, I am a leftist, yes, and an
antifascist for sure.
This situation is neither unique, nor the only one. The change of ‘camps’ is usually explained as
being ‘used to be in the wrong tusovka’ (Lena) or if someone finds a partner from another
‘camp’. These examples of transferring from one politicized movement to a hostile one
demonstrates the paramount importance of communication and possibilities of self-expression
over ideology.
4. Conclusions
Current western youth studies exist in a situation of multiparadigmality (something typical of
other fields of social sciences as well), where the main discourse develops around subcultural
and post-subcultural approaches. This research demonstrates that it is not enough to have a
theoretical apparatus of subcultural and post-subcultural approaches to describe new complex
forms of youth solidarities. Traditional subcultural determinations and post-subcultural fluidity
cannot characterise new politicized youth scenes, which are radical, ideological and striving to
invent new expressive and effective ways of elaboration and explication of their ideas. That is
why in this particular research the ‘solidarity’ approach is proposed, which allows
consideration of all the specific traits of the subject. It is typical for solidarities to have an
articulate ideology and value system, a complex mix of (sub)cultural and non-(sub)cultural
elements, a common idea of an ‘enemy’ and certain principle-guided practices.
Anarchist solidarity is conceptualized within the context of anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist
and anti-fascist ideas. Anarchists stand for social justice, equality and for those forms of
relations between people that are not mediated by power. They fight with their enemies
Nazi-skinheads and the police both on the actual and symbolic level. Standing in opposition to
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dominant social discourses, anarchists form solid networks of communication which help them
to exchange knowledge, skills and be acknowledged within the solidarity itself, which allows for
access to various (sub)cultural resources.
Anarchists use different techniques of public political protest (direct actions, rallies) to
designate their presence on the city’s and national political scene. Daily anarchist routine at the
same time is also very important. Ethical consumption, DIY practices, certain features of
communal life, non-monetary consumption all of that characterises most solidarity members
and constitutes the norm of their everyday life. However, despite the existence of strong bases
for consolidation such as a common enemy, lifestyle, ideology, solidarity has within itself a
number of various discourses, different semantic and cultural cores. Meanwhile anarchist
solidarity includes a number of (sub)cultural brands (e.g. anarcho-punks, straight edgers). It also
includes members who are reluctant to associate themselves with any (sub)cultural identity.
Solidarity members can differ in their lifestyle choices, ideological priorities and methods of
‘warfare’, organisation structure and modes of representation. Nevertheless, the main priority
for them in the conditions of individualized society is communication, a quest for friendship,
intimacy and understanding:
I think that the most important thing is in the head, soul. The way a person behaves,
the way he or she lives, perceives the world, communicates, acts, in all this. You can
see who is who. Some people work with or without a Mohawk on their head, some
people well.. I don’t know, like rap. I haven’t any prejudices. Tastes differ.
Everybody just has one shared understanding of some ‘freedoms’, ‘rights’. That’s
why communication encompasses large circles of people. Some people practice
graffiti, some loot shops, others set fire to fur coats people express themselves in
various ways. (Tolik)
The motive of pleasure from communication is in fact very significant (perhaps much more
significant than ideology) for young people who, contrary to predicted trends, instead of
seeking atomization create tight social networks of friends and supporters, and instead of
pragmatic orientation on economic capital make their choice in favour of social connectivity. In
the final analysis anarchists illustrate the thesis that there is no ‘youth in general’, as well as
there are no strict boundaries between (sub)cultures, movements and mainstream.
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5. Future Analysis
There are a number of themes that would be of interest to cross-case analysis within the WP7
‘Anti-capitalist/anti-racist/anti-fascist movements’ cluster. The first concerns the possibilities
and limitations of young women’s participation in anarchist activism. Although gender equality
is proclaimed as one of the most important values of anarchism and one of its most distinctive
traits, the deconstruction of gender issues becomes a complicated task for many anarchists.
Proclamations of antidiscrimination of women in some cases remain little more than
demonstrative in nature. Some anarcho-feminists have already given a name to this
phenomenon; manarchism’. Thus, although sexist discourse is condemned, a distinctive glass
ceiling to women’s activist and subcultural careers is observable.
For instance, young women are likely to participate in the demonstrations, actions and
initiatives, but it is a rare case when they organise them. Even then they often remain unseen in
the public sphere and tend to respond to actions concerned with safe activism like caring for
animals, visiting orphanages, leading discussions, etc. Still, they take risks in shoplifting and
sometimes join confrontations with the police and Nazis (though usually using gas rather than
fists, knives or guns) or get arrested. But while the names of imprisoned or killed anarchists are
well-known and there are mass solidarity and memory campaigns in their honor (Timur
Kacharava, Alexey Suguta, Ivan Hutorskoy), women are unlikely to be mentioned either in the
context of talking about activism, or about theory or history of anarchism. The peculiar
properties of female activism seem to be a promising topic of further analysis and discussion.
Another topic of interest would be how the geopolitical peculiarities of the European Union
affect European anarchists. Russian anarchists are prevented from travelling easily and
frequently to other European countries by Russia’s size and location as well as the difficulties of
getting visas. The situation for anarchists living within the EU is quite different making it
possible to be more mobile and build strong social networks between anarchists in different
countries. The weakening of national borders between countries is one of the strongest calls
made by Russian anarchist activists; it would be interesting to compare if this is the same for
other European anarchists or whether they are more likely to seek separatism.
Another issue of concern is the transmission of historical memory about the wars and
revolutions that could be useful to compare with the results of WP5 analysis. In anarchistic
discourse revolutions and wars are periods of history that deserve special attention. Other
social, political and economic processes that happened throughout the twentieth century are of
little interest. Anarchists tend to romanticise the revolutions and associate them with freedoms
and liberties for ‘ordinary people’ and see prospects for themselves in the examples they
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provide of the state being rendered defenceless in the face of a valiant political minority. In
sharp contrast to revolutions, wars have strong negative connotations. According to
respondents in this study, national discourses about WWII emphasise the distinction between
winners and losers in order to encourage patriotism, a feeling of national belonging and
historical continuity. Comparison with the WP5 dataset would determine whether this way of
thinking about wars (especially WWII) and revolutions is untypical and might be interpreted as
a distinctive trait of anarchist ideology or whether it is a noticeable trend in mainstream
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7. Appendix: Table 1. Socio-demographic profile of respondents
Educational Status
(at the time of first
Employment Status
(at the time of first
Residential Status (at the
time of first interviewing)
Completed secondary general
Full-time employment
Living with partner (own
Completed vocational
Living with partner
(partner’s dwelling)
24, 25
Completed secondary general
No dwelling (living on
Did not complete higher
Full-time employment
Living with brother (own
Did not complete higher
Living with parent (own
dwelling) and on vpiskas
Completed basic general
education, did not complete
vocational education
Full-time employment
Living with mother
Completed vocational
Full-time employment
Living with mother (own
Currently in vocational
Full-time employment
Living on vpiskas
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education (in another city)
(in another city)
(temporarily to St
Completed vocational
did not complete higher
Full-time employment
Living alone (lodging)
Did not complete higher
Full-time employment
Living with friends
Completed basic general
Full-time employment
Living with friends
Completed higher education
Full-time employment
Living with friends
Currently in higher education
Full-time employment
Living alone (lodging)
Completed higher education
Living with friends (house
Completed secondary general
Full-time employment
Living with partner
Two completed higher
Living with friends (house
Currently in higher education
Full-time employment
Living with partner and his
friends (lodging)
Completed vocational
Full-time employment
Living with friends
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Completed higher education
Part-time employment,
Living with friends (house
Did not complete higher
Full-time employment
Living with friends (house
Currently in higher education
Full-time employment
Living with friends
Completed vocational
Full-time employment
Living with friends (house
Completed higher education
Full-time employment
Living with partner
Did not complete higher
Full-time employment
Living with friends
Completed higher education
Unemployed (just
Living with friends (house
Completed higher education
Unemployed (for
medical causes)
Living with friends
Currently in higher education
Part-time employment
Living with parents (own
Completed two higher
Self-employed (own
Living with friends
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The increased levels of consumption that have accompanied our consumer-oriented culture have also given rise to some consumers questioning their individual consumption choices, with many opting for greater consumption simplicity. This link between consideration of actual consumption levels and consumer choices is evident among a group of consumers known as ethical consumers. Ethical consumers consider a range of ethical issues in their consumer behavioral choices. Particularly prevalent is voluntary simplification due to concerns for the extent and nature of consumption. Through the presentation of findings from two qualitative studies exploring known ethical consumers, the relationship of consumer attitudes to consumption levels, and how these attitudes impact approaches to consumer behavior, are discussed. © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Since the political whirlwinds of the mid-1980s and the fall of communism in 1991, Russia has undergone dramatic social change, much of which has escaped the attention of Western media.
In the past decade or so, a sizable literature on anarchism has appeared. It has often been attached to the newer movements associated with alternative globalization and with post-modern theoretical currents. This literature is of significant interest for those working within the areas of social and political theory, globalization studies, and social movements. This article critically surveys the literature. It starts by examining the devices used to make the case for a renewed interest in anarchism, and traces the broad lines of historical anarchism. It then moves to explore the affinities between anarchism and the alternative globalization movement, and, at greater length, those between anarchism and contemporary theoretical issues. Critical of some of the post-modern excesses in this literature, and of the too sharp divide between Marxism and anarchism, this reconfigured anarchism is of great relevance. The article closes with some modest suggestions for further exploration in this work.
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This article examines practices of anti-consumption deployed by anarchist activists as tactical actions within their overall projects of political and subcultural resistance. Drawing on existing literature on anti-consumers, my own interviews with anti-consumers, and analysis of materials that circulate in support of anti-consumption, I explore both the material and discursive effects of anti-consumption within a specific political subculture. I offer a typology of motivations for anti-consumption among activists, as well as a discussion of how overlaps and conflicts between various motivations complicate assessments of lifestyle-based resistance. I ultimately argue that the analysis I offer can prove helpful to political projects that utilize consumption-based tactics, in the construction and evaluation of effective activist strategies.
The concept of subculture has been criticised a great deal in recent research on youth and popular music. Two concepts have emerged as offering new ways of conceiving musical collectivities, particularly among young people: scenes, and tribes (or neo-tribes). I offer criticisms of the work of advocates of both terms. I also argue, however, that there is no possibility of a return to the concept of subculture in any adequate sociology of popular music, even if the concept may have some residual use in the sociology of youth. I discuss the potential advantages of the concepts of genre and articulation as a way of at least beginning to address some of the problems raised in the literature on subcultures, scenes and tribes, concerning the politics of musical collectivities. The common feature of the three terms under discussion is that they have been discussed by those concerned with the relationship between youth and popular music, and I close by reflecting on the relationship between the study of these two entities. I suggest that the assumption that there is a close relationship between youth and popular music was the result of particular historical circumstances and I argue that, while the study of young people's relationships with popular music remains a topic of interest, the privileging of youth in studies of music has actually become an obstacle to a more fully developed understanding of music and society.
Sociology is currently undergoing an interesting theoretical and methodological turn. A number of recent and influential works of sociology deal with the seemingly trivial phenomena of everyday life. The standard mass surveys are being replaced by in-depth, interpretative, and qualitative procedures that focus on the visual surface of society. They do so by means of observation and its extension third first sociology second sociology of behaviour and action. The new focus is on social existence manifested by social events of various scales. This sociology of social existence provides a new angle of vision, which promises to advance considerably our understanding of several perennial riddles of human society.