The intention of the journal is to attempt "to broaden the scope of anarchist discourse by introducing themes, topics, perspectives and methodologies which have not traditionally been considered relevant to anarchism." Its features focus on three broad themes: the re-evaluation of anarchist history, with regard to issues of culture, philosophy and political action; the potential future of anarchism as a form of critical political action; and the application of anarchist ideas as an instrument of scholarly research. The journal publishes special issues on topics which have included sexuality, science-fiction and "anarchism after September 11", and historical research articles on Leo Tolstoy, Taoism, John Locke and post-structuralism. In the 21st century incarnation, a central focus of the journal has been anarchism's relation to globalisation.
Notable contributors include Noam Chomsky, Murray Bookchin, John Moore, Janet Biehl, Ruth Kinna, Val Plumwood, L. Susan Brown, Süreyya Evren, and post-anarchist theorist Lewis Call (who serves as the journal's associate editor). Edited by Tim Cahill from its inception until health issues led him to resign in 1995, Anarchist Studies was edited by Sharif Gemie until the 2007 appointment of Ruth Kinna. Members of the editorial board have included Gemie, Call, Bookchin and Margaret Majumdar. The journal has received praise from Chomsky for its "serious and constructive inquiries" and its important role in the recent revival of interest in anarchist thought, as well as from Colin Ward, who complimented the journal for publishing content "you will find nowhere else. AK Press has called Anarchist Studies "the premier scholarly journal on anarchism ... erudite, and informed."
The journal had a long-running dispute with Stewart Home after it published a negative review of his books Neoist Manifestos and The Art Strike Papers and denied Home's request to publish his rebuttal as a matter of policy. Home alleges that Gemie wrote him a conciliatory letter dated November 14, 1996 in which Gemie promised to include a positive review of Home's What Is Situationism??? in the Spring 1997 issue. Home subsequently referred to Anarchist Studies as a "sad and reactionary 'academic' journal" that is "patently unable to engage in…critical debate".