Colin Ward

I was sorry to learn of the death of Colin Ward from Ken Warpole, with his obituary in the Guardian today.

I visited the wonderful Anarchist Bookshop in October, before starting at Co-operatives UK, to see what new writing there was relating to cooperation and community. There was good material from abroad, but it was surprising and salutary that the best UK work seemed to remain Colin Ward’s long stream of books and papers.

Colin and I exchanged ideas when I was at the New Economics Foundation, as shared critics, for example, of the practice of moving social housing from elected local government to housing associations with no accountability to tenants.

I wonder what he would have made of the current flow of announcements from the political parties embracing co-operation, not least the genuinely radical proposals from George Osborne to open up to public service worker cooperatives. I guess that he would have welcomed the aims but been a root and branch critic of the means by which the state tries to empower communities in this way. All parties tend to be localist in opposition and the opposite when in power.

This tussle of power – power to do things or power over other people – is the tapestry of society. We should respect those who help us to see this better and to reweave it differently for the sake of freedom.

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