Colin Ward

He was inspired by the anarchist thinker Peter Kropotkin (1842-1917), who wanted to replace capitalism not with state ownership but with \”Mutual Aid\”, a grass roots co-operative system dedicated to the communal good. Ward, by contrast, saw a need for some elements of centralised authority in a modern bureaucratic state, but felt that the welfare state had almost eviscerated the \”mutual\” tradition of the working classes.

\”When we compare the Victorian antecedents of our public institutions with the organs of working-class mutual aid in the same period,\” he wrote, \”the very names speak volumes. On the one side the Workhouse, the Poor Law Infirmary, the National Society for the Education of the Poor in Accordance with the Principles of the Established Church; and on the other, the Sick Club, the Co-operative Society, the Trade Union. One represents the tradition of fraternal and autonomous associations springing up from below, the other that of authoritarian institutions directed from above.\” The welfare state, in his view, had assumed the ethos of the public institutions and stifled their fraternal counterparts.

No, I\’d not heard of him which is of course my fault not his. But the spontaneous organisation of civil society performing better than the top down organisation of the State?


and arguably (though he would have hated the idea) had more in common with the libertarian Right than with the Left.


Colin Ward who died on February 11, married, in 1966, Harriet Unwin, a widow with two sons. Together they had another son, and he was also guardian to two other boys whose mother had died. His wife and children survive him.

And will you look at that, a political theorist who lived the life he preached.

1 thought on “Colin Ward”

  1. …and so disappointing that Trades Unions have degraded from voluntary mutualism to the coerced collective. I wonder how many sincere people who say they are “Of the Left” would allow the scales to fall from their eyes and realise the dissonance in the coercive nature of the ideology they (now) support and that their truer home is in Libertarianism.

    Latest up is UNITE members being forced, forced, mind, to pay up over the BA strike.

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