It has been almost three years since the original publication of “Anarquía Relacional. La revolución desde los vínculos” in Spanish, in the spring of 2020, in the wake of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is likely that the consequences of the confinements and restrictions that we lived as a dystopia of the everyday also reached the relational sphere, that they highlighted aspects of the hegemonic structure of relationships, such as isolation in family bubbles, the veiled existence of care networks that this structure downplays and makes subordinate (but which saved us) or the evidence of couple relationships based more on resignation than on enthusiasm. I do not know if it is possible to establish a connection. Still, it is clear that the surprising reception of the book, the fact that one edition after another has sold out (in November 2022, the fourth edition hit the bookstores in Spain and Latin America), and that several translations into other languages and publishing projects in other countries have been released or are underway, indicate that there was and still is a social need to know and understand alternative structures when it comes to relating to each other.
The most enthusiastic reception of this monograph has been in those communities already interested in these relational alternatives to the hegemonic monogamous system and also in groups more focused on lifestyle-politics activism of anti-patriarchal, anarchist and anti-capitalist inspiration. In these areas, reading sessions, analysis, courses, seminars, and workshops of varied scopes, extensions, and approaches have been organized. Likewise, the proposals presented in the book have been collected in press articles, radio and TV programs, interviews, podcasts, and other digital and printed formats. All this activity continues and is even increasing as time goes by.
As I have been able to ascertain, the book’s audience covers very different profiles regarding interests and other traits such as age, gender, sexual orientation and preferences, geographical and socio-cultural origin, etc. One reason is that the work brings together both political and relational visions. The work historically structures the elements leading to the emergence of this framework, starting with the philosophical and political theoretical foundations, the freethought tradition, social developments, feminist, queer, sex-positive activisms, etc., while addressing the more personal and everyday aspects.
Reviewing the history of an area as crucial as social thought and the collective experience of relating to each other freely and without coercion provides an insight and perspective that is both reassuring and stimulating for those who are hopefully exploring the possibilities that may exist beyond the hegemonic framework.
Since the first editions of the book and from all the territories of Spanish-speaking countries, the feedback from readers has been constant, valuable, and incredibly moving for me. It shows a need in many people who felt they did not fit into the only model available to them. Reading this volume has inspired and helped them not to “feel like weirdos” and to have pride and confidence in their own decisions and choices regarding relationships.
In these almost three years, the trends that led the book to be the way it is have been consolidated and generalized in what can be read in forums and other written works and, in many cases, in how many people intend to live. Relational anarchy is still a little-known framework in general, but increasingly recognizable and understood by collectives with revolutionary social concerns and individuals interested in building fairer, healthier, and more egalitarian relationships.
The daily experience of these people and these collectives reinforces the importance and the interest of spreading this and other alternatives that confront the normative monogamous relational model formed by functionally isolated bubbles more and more to the general public. Robust networks of love, affection, help, support, and solidarity cannot be created if there are no people around us who are aware of these options and try to be part of these networks to the extent of their emotional and material possibilities.
This English translation maintains most of the original content, adapting only the necessary contextual elements so that English-speaking readers can interpret the examples, references, comparisons, and anecdotes with greater familiarity. With this transition, the potential audience for the work is significantly expanded. I am very excited about this step, which I hope will lead to a new adventure as fascinating as the book’s original publication.
Structure of the book
The first chapter defines relationship anarchy and expands on its anarchist, utopian, and transformational foundations, as well as its understanding in academic research and by different groups and its interpretations from both familiar and critical perspectives. The chapter defines the proposal’s scope and compiles where and how this proposal, initially called “radical relationships,” came about, first emerging in anarchist environments in Northern Europe. It also looks at how these ideas have reached the groups that those of us throughout the continent have organized to reflect on non-normative ways of relating and how it has spread throughout the world.
Chapters two and three situate relationship anarchy in relation to philosophical, social, legal, biological, anthropological, moral, religious, and political thought, starting from the first modern anarchism, bourgeois feminism, anarcho-feminism, the sexual revolution, and the free love movement of the 1960s and ’70s, to the latest movements like queer activism and the most recent waves of feminism.
The fourth chapter focuses on the collective dimension of relationships and the factors that justify the search for other ways of relating, as well as why anarchism has always claimed reason as an alternative to the opium of alienating religious doctrines, which steer people towards gods or themselves, preventing practices of resistance from being articulated socially. Finally, in that regard, it presents the initiatives emerging from the principles of relationship anarchy, something of a transition from normativity in relationships to collective self-management: from identity to sensibility, from forming family bubbles to other models of life, coexistence and care-taking.
The fifth chapter describes what I can do in my own everyday life if I choose to apply the ideas and convictions that stem from the principles of relationship anarchy. It delves into how the hegemonic conception of relationships works, its outcomes, and how I can overcome them if I set out to maintain relationships that are healthy, sustainable, and collectively developed with no authority. It attempts, now in a personal, practical, committed way, to ground all these ideas and reflections in real life. It goes over the daily implications of privileges, expectations, scarcity, and lack, individualism, the need for recognition and boundaries, negotiation, commitments and limits, communication and trust... as well as difficulties and a few ideas to overcome them.
The sixth and last chapter presents the forms of relational activism that have been proposed, their characteristics, and which are being carried out effectively in different parts of the world. It also lays out this movement’s path and what is to be expected shortly.
Finally, the glossary includes several terms that appear in the text, offering definitions from this book’s specific perspective and, therefore, providing information that goes beyond a mere inquiry into the meaning of the words. I think it might be interesting to read the glossary itself before, during, or after the book’s main body.
Available in ebook version:
Available in paperback and hardcover:
Also available in Spanish, paperback:
In Catalan, paperback:
In Czech (only glossary, online)
Introduction to the English Edition
Chapter 1. What is Relationship Anarchy?
1.1 The political becomes personal
Starting from anarchism
Moving closer towards a utopia
1.2 Where and when did all this come about?
August 20, 2005: Anarkistfestival, Långholmen, Stockholm
"A genderqueer relationship hacker"
When everything is still new and something even newer comes along
1.3 Who's taken an interest in relationship anarchy so far?
The academic world
Asexual and aromantic individuals
1.4 Perspectives, interpretations, and critical views
Understanding based on privilege analysis
The neoliberal, individualistic, apolitical gaze
The gender perspective
Critiques of relationship anarchy
1.5 What is relationship anarchy not?
Chapter 2. Cultural and historical perspective
2.1 Authority, family, private property, and anarchism
The anarchist approach
2.2 Feminism and anarcho-feminism
Early feminist authors
Alternatives to bourgeois feminism
2.3 Relationship anarchy and anarchism
The social contract and the marriage contract
Agreements, rights, and authority
Focus on the group
Personal or political activity?
2.4 Free love, polyamory, ethical non-monogamies, and affective networks
From the sexual revolution to free love
Outcomes of the sexual liberation movements
The rise of the ethical slut
2.5 Biological and anthropological perspective
Interpretations of natural forms of relationship
Moral and dogmatic models for regulating relationships
Chapter 3. I relate to others in a different way: labels, models, and practices
3.1 Labels and models
Descriptive and prescriptive labels
Models and self-management
3.2 The relationship escalator
Steps and their unrelenting ascent
Breakdowns and flaws in the mechanism
The price of dissent
3.3 Queer theory
Feminisms and homosexual rights
Poststructuralism, sexuality, and identity subversion
Queer theory in five points
Five parallels with relationship anarchy
3.4 Axes of a multidimensional relational space
The axis of normative progress, or the escalator
The axis of normative labeling or the sense of security
The axis of the number of relationships or exclusivity
The axis of love and affection
The axis of physical intimacy
The axis of communication and transparency
The axis of identity
The axis of commitment
The axis of individualism, consideration, and responsibility
The axis of hierarchy and authority
The political axis
The axis of the monogamy/non-monogamy binary
3.5 From amorous thought to non-normative practices
Romantic, monogamous, amorous – Disney – thinking
Alternatives to hegemonic thinking
Chapter 4. The revolution that starts with bonds: ethical, collective keys
4.1 Privileges and resistance practices
Knowledges, truths, and submission
Power, relationships, and gender
Normative enforcement and emancipatory practices
Anarchism, reason, and religion
From mysticism and dogma to witches and poetry
4.2 Identities and sensibilities
Relationship Anarchy: from identity to sensibility
Contesting normative identities
4.3 Freedom, rights, entitlement, and agreements
Commitments versus transactions and contracts
Freedom doesn't exist (without equity at the starting point)
4.4 Family of origin, chosen family, and raising children
Raising kids outside a bubble
4.5 Models of life, cohabitation, and care
Legal recognition of bonds
Chapter 5. A way of sharing based on commitments and boundaries: relational keys
5.1 Touching down
Individual respect and cultural criticism
5.2 Critical deconstruction of the ideology of the couple
Affective sexual scarcity
Desire and desires
Lack and precariousness as starting points
Voluntary, intentional, responsible commitments
Delimitation in time
5.3 Difficulties, obstacles, and collective ways of overcoming
Jealousy and compersion
The need for symmetry and "feeling special"
When the couple is no longer the measure of everything
Obsessions, addictions, dependencies, and interdependence
Dangers of identarian feeling
The natural, the cultural, and the political
Continual management: relationship bureaucracy
Who's with me?
And... what if I'm a woman?
And... what if I'm a cishet man?
5.4 Sustainable relationships
Dosage and sustainability
Falling in love and limerence (“New Relationship Energy”)
Forms of cohabitation
Conclusions and proposals for starting to relate in a different way
Chapter 6. Making what's nameless visible: relationship activism
6.1 What activism, and why?
Identity or cuddles
6.2 Support networks and civil and economic rights
Liberation from or deregulation of relationships?
6.3 Collectives, spaces of socialization, and actions for visibility
Communities for non-normativity
A meeting on relationship anarchy
6.4 The future
Examples and reference points