Anarchy or Chaos

M. P. T. Acharya and the Indian Struggle for Freedom

June 2023 9781787389489 352pp
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In this fascinating biography of the Indian revolutionary M. P. T. Acharya (1887–1954), Ole Birk Laursen uncovers the remarkable transnational networks, movements and activities of India’s most important anticolonial anarchist in the twentieth century.

Driven by the urge for complete freedom from colonialism, authoritarianism, fascism and militarism, which are rooted in the idea and politics of the nation-state, Acharya fought for an international vision of socialism and freedom. During the tumultuous opening decades of the 1900s—marked by the globalisation of radical inter-revolutionary struggles, world wars, the rise of communism and fascism, and the growth of colonial independence movements—Acharya allied himself with pacifists, anarchists, radical socialists and anticolonial fighters in exile, championing a future free from any form of oppression, whether by colonial rulers or native masters. Drawing on a wealth of archival material, private correspondence and other primary sources, Laursen demonstrates that, among his contemporaries, Acharya’s turn to anarchism was unique and pioneering in the struggle for Indian independence.

Anarchy or Chaos is the first comprehensive study of M. P. T. Acharya. It offers a new understanding of the global and entangled history of anarchism and anticolonialism in the first half of the twentieth century.


‘Shining a spotlight on an under-researched area of anarchism in Indian history, this biography places Acharya fully into the historical record—alongside political giants of his generation such as Subhas Chandra Bose, Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. An exciting tale.’ — Neilesh Bose, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of Victoria, and author of India after World History

‘In his impressive biography of one of the main protagonists of Indian leftist activism, Laursen skilfully connects the story of Indian nationalism with the wider global history of communism and anarchism. A compelling, ambitious and highly original book.’ — Harald Fischer-Tiné, Professor for the History of the Modern World, ETH Zurich, and author of Shyamji Krishnavarma: Sanskrit, Sociology and Anti-​​Imperialism


Ole Birk Laursen is Affiliated Research Fellow at the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin. His research focuses on South Asian history, anticolonialism and anarchism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He is the editor of a collection of essays by M. P. T. Acharya, We Are Anarchists.

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