Peter Nieckarz

interview competed: 01/10/2019

How did you first hear about anarchism? What was that encounter like?

Boy, I cannot remember an “encounter” per se. My first exposure was largely through popular culture (The Sex Pistols and such) when I was just a pre-teen. But if I had to say how I first heard about it, it was definitely the Sex Pistols.

What within sociology and anarchism are the most compatible?

I think what is most compatible is the desire for finding paths to social order that are more humane, democratic, and just. However, I think what is more important to note is what separates them. Sociology is an empirical discipline, and the unfortunate fact is, there has not been much empirical research that has been informed by anarchist theory. My modest study 23 years ago (my unpublished master’s thesis) was an attempt at that. I was looking for a critique of late capitalism that was an alternative to Marx. I saw a similarity between aspects of New Social Movement Theory and Anarchist theory. I used Earth First! as a case study of the intersection between New Social Movement Theory and Anarchist thought. I think still think it was a valid concept, it deserved to be pursued further.

Has anarchism contributed anything to sociology?

I think my last statement speaks to this question rater well; I will avoid redundancy.

What could anarchism contribute to sociology?

Again, I think the ideas of anarchism are really interesting and are begging for empirical vetting. I think anarchism could make a great contribution as the theoretical basis for a potentially rich body of research.

What classical sociologists were the most anarchistic?

Classical sociologists? Well, certainly not Durkheim! LOL! Probably Marx.

What anarchist(s) (whether classical age or contemporary, individuals or a group) seem(ed) to have the strongest sociological imagination?

I am not sure how to answer that. I think they all had great sociological imaginations.

Why has anarchism not had as much impact upon Sociology as other movements (e.g., Marxism, feminism)?

I don’t rightly know. I think it was mostly a matter of disciplinary happenstance. Anarchism seems largely to rest in the realm of Philosophy.

How could sociology (as a discipline, a practice, etc.) be more anarchist?

“Anarchist” as in the substantive orientation of their research or “anarchist” as an institutional structure itself? I will answer the latter. There is too much careerism and elitism in sociology. I think we need to pay less attention to where people went to school or what statistical tool they are using. We need to get over ourselves and remember why we fell in love with this discipline in the first place: We want to subvert the existing systems of hegemony. We buy into too much hegemony.

Have you encountered anarchists in the classroom? What was their response to Sociology?

I have come across a few anarchists. They all love the discipline, and if they are not already sociology majors, they soon become a sociology major.

Is it possible (to say nothing of desirable?) for anarchists to work as professional sociologists? (Especially within the academy?) What are the concerns or challenges?

Well, to put it plainly, Academia is a very formalized and hierarchical system, though it can be fairly democratic at times. It is certainly possible as I have known several academics over the years who are anarchists. The simple fact is we all live in a globalized Mass Society, short of living “off the grid” in a shack in western Montana, we all have to accept and capitulate to the “evils” of large scale hierarchical structures. It is just a simple reality. I would fault no scholar for accepting a life within the existing system because it is just so utterly unavoidable.