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Uri Gordon, Doctoral Candidate, University of Oxford: Leading the Struggle for an Anarchist State

http://criticalsense.berkeley.edu/gordon.pdf

LIBERATION NOW:
PRESENT-TENSE DIMENSIONS OF CONTEMPORARY ANARCHISM
A paper at the Graduate Student Conference
“Thinking the Present : The Beginnings and Ends of Political Theory” University of California, Berkeley
27-28 May 2005
Uri Gordon
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Politics and International Relations
University of Oxford
54 Percy st.
Oxford OX4 3AF
United Kingdom
Tel.: (+44) 1865-250274
Email: uri.gordon@mansf.ox.ac.uk
“Anarchy is not a thing of the future, but of the present; not a matter of demands, but of living”.
– Gustav Landauer
Summary
Anarchism, in its re-emergence as a movement over the past decade, has been the site of manifold
reconfigurations that distinguish it from previous cycles of
left-libertarian political expression. Networked
structures replace formal federations and unions, a stronger emphasis is given to direct action and cultural
experimentation, and the target of resistance is generalised from state and capital to all forms of domination.
Yet another reconfiguration, less often mentioned by activists and commentators, is the unprecedented
grounding of anarchist political commitments in the present tense. Having by and large abandoned the
imagery of a “future anarchist society”, contemporary anarchist political culture focuses its discourses of
resistance and liberation on the here and now. This paper examines several dimensions of this present-tense
orientation, with the view of strengthening our understanding of the relevance of anarchism to
contemporary political theory.
Keywords: Anarchism, Utopia, Prefigurative Politics, Direct Action, Individualism
1. Anarchism as a political culture
Let me begin by clarifying a few baseline understandings about what I mean by “anarchism”. I view
anarchism first and foremost as a movement, whose form can today be described as a decentralised,
diverse and evolving network, providing communication and active
solidarity among autonomous
nodes of social struggle. This anarchist movement is “new” in the key respect that it does not owe its
roots solely to the historical anarchist movement, but rather represents the revival of anarchist values in
a broader intersection of movements, e.g. radical ecology, feminism, black and indigenous liberation,
anti-nuclear movements and, most recently, resistance to neoliberal capitalism and the global
permanent war. Because of its mongrel genealogy, anarchism in the age of globalisation is an
immensely diverse movement, open to many fresh ideas and experimenting with the possibilities and
challenges of a shifting landscape of struggle.
What animates this movement, the real ontos of anarchism, is anarchist political culture. Political
culture can be explained as a set of shared orientations towards “doing politics”, wherein issues are
framed, strategies are legitimised and collective interaction takes on enough regularity to structure
members' mutual expectations. For heuristic purposes, we can view these orientations as they relate to
anarchism in four broad categories: organisational practices, methods of action, political language and
mythology. Organisationally this culture is manifest in network- and affinity group-based forms of
political mobilisation, displaying horizontal coordination among
autonomous direct participants,
consensus-based decision making, and the ideal of the free and open circulation of information. In
terms of action repertoires, anarchist political culture emphasises a “Do It Yourself” approach of direct
action, disinterest in operating through the system or building political power within it, a dual strategy
of confrontation to delegitimise the system and grassroots
alternative-building from below, and a
commitment to "being the change" on any level, form personal relationships that address sexism and
racism to sustainable living and communes. Shared political language has to do not only with common
terms and expressions in the activist "jargon", but also with the way these and other concepts are
thought to be related and connected to each-other. In other words, different political cultures have
different epistemologies – ways of organising their understanding of politics and making sense of
them. Mythologies, in the current sense, are the movement's orally transmitted stories (about past
mobilisations and the like), through which collective identity is
reproduced and which functio'n also as
a mobilising resource. Such are the narratives that spin a thread leading from Chiapas to Seattle, or
from Greenham Common to Porto Alegre.1
This familiar political culture is what animates anarchism in the present day, and gives it unity. It is
1 See Notes from Nowhere, eds. (2003), We Are Everywhere: The Irresistible rise of global anti-capitalism (London: Verso)
impossible to fully pin-down in universalist, philosophical formulations. If, however, we wanted for
practical purposes to express its “political” basics more concretely, we could look at the type of
language used in the various “hallmarks” and “principles of unity” that are clearly agreeable to
anarchists, such as those of the Peoples' Global Action and Indymedia networks, or of any number of
local groups and collectives. All of these emphasise two things. First, a rejection of all structures of
domination and systemic violence such as capitalism, the state, patriarchy and racism. Second, a
“prefigurative politics” that involves constructing concrete alternatives, especially in terms of social
relations. Prefigurative politics thus combines reference to both dual power strategies and to realising a
libertarian and egalitarian ethos in the movement's own structures, social dynamics and lifestyle.
2. Future? What future?
Now both these moments of anarchism partake in the mainspring of
anarchism's strong proposal
for a “present-tense” politics. Anarchism is unique among political movements in emphasising the
need to realise its desired social relations within the structures and practices of the revolutionary
movement itself. As such, prefigurative politics can be seen as a form of “constructive” direct action,
whereby anarchists who propose social relations bereft of hierarchy and domination undertake their
construction by themselves.
From a strategical perspective, the pursuit of prefigurative politics indicates most clearly a politic of
the here and now, and is seen by many anarchists as an inseparable aspect of their projects. This is
informed by a critique of reformist and authoritarian revolutionary models of social change. For the
latter to be successful, anarchists believe, the modes of organisation that will replace capitalism, the
state, gendered divisions of labour and so on need to be prepared
alongside (though not instead of) the
attack on present institutions. On such a reading, if people want a society that is characterised by nonhierarchical
cooperation and the erosion of dominatory institutions and behaviours, then such a society
directly proceeds from the realities that present-day movements develop. “The very process of building
an anarchist movement from below is viewed as the process of consociation, self-activity and selfmanagement
that must ultimately yield that revolutionary self that can act upon, change and manage
an authentic society”.2
Anarchists by and large no longer tend to understand revolution, if they even use the term, as a
horizon event but as an ongoing process. This, as opposed to traditional anarchism’s political
imaginary which unmistakably included the notion of revolution as an event, a moment of large scale
2 Murray Bookchin (1980), “Anarchism Past and Present”, Comment 1:6 qualitative change in social life. Bakunin spoke of “a universal,
worldwide revolution...[the] formidable
reactionary coalition can be destroyed only by the greater power of the simultaneous revolutionary
alliance and action of all the people of the civilized world”.3 It is certainly true that anarchists carried
this view of revolution one step away from gross millenarianism, by insisting that the revolutionary
horizon can be and was traversed during exceptional moments. The Paris Commune of 1871, the Italian
factory occupations of 1919-1920, the Spanish Revolution of 1936 and the French May 1968 uprisings
are the most obvious examples of events that were interpreted by
anarchists in this way, with their
transience and localisation doing nothing to diminish their qualitative significance.4 Still, these were
exceptional moments. The ultimate failure of these events and the
deterioration of rare revolutionary
“successes” into authoritarian nightmares debased the coin of Revolution for anarchist movement.
With the re-emergence of anarchism in later decades, the revolutionary horizon would become more
and more attracted into the present tense, culminating in its complete absorption as a potential
dimension of everyday life. Colin Ward’s focus on the pedestrian
interactions which functio'n without
hierarchy and alienation, and the many Situationist-influenced
explorations of an anarchist micropolitics
of resistance and reconstruction in everyday life, are prominent
contributions to this process.5
In the words of U.S. anarchist publishing collective CrimethInc.,
Our revolution must be an immediate revolution in our daily lives; anything else is not a revolution but a
demand that once again people do what they do not want to do and hope that this time, somehow, the
compensation will be enough. Those who assume, often unconsciously, that it is impossible to achieve
their own desires – and thus, that it is futile to fight for themselves – often end up fighting for an ideal or
cause instead. But it is still possible to fight for ourselves, or at least the experiment must be worth a try; so
it is crucial that we seek change not in the name of some doctrine or grand cause, but on behalf of
ourselves, so that we will be able to live more meaningful lives.
Similarly we must seek first and foremost
to alter the contents of our own lives in a revolutionary manner, rather than direct our struggle towards
world-historical changes which we will not live to witness. In this way we will avoid the feelings of
worthlessness and alienation that result from believing that it is necessary to “sacrifice oneself for the
cause”, and instead live to experience the fruits of our labors…in our labors themselves.6
3 Mikhail Bakunin (1866), “The Revolutionary Catechism”, in Sam Dolgoff (ed., 1971) Bakunin on Anarchy (New York:
Knopf)
4 Mikhail Bakunin (1871), The Paris Commune and the Idea of the State (New York: Alfred A. Knopf); Errico Malatesta (ed.
Vernon Richards, 1965), Life and Ideas (London: Freedom Press), p. 134; Murray Bookchin (1994), To Remember Spain:
The Anarchist and Syndicalist Revolution of 1936 (Edinburgh: A.K. Press); Roger Gregoire and Fredy Perlman (1970),
Worker-Student Action Committees, France May '68 (Detroit: Black & Red), §§14, 16, 22; Murray Bookchin (1971), “The
May-June events in France I: A Movement for Life”, in Post-scarcity Anarchism (Montreal, Black Rose Books).
5 Colin Ward (1973), Anarchy in Action (London: Allen and Unwin); Raoul Vaneigm (1983), The Revolution of Everyday
Life (London: Left Bank Books and Rebel Press).
6 CrimethInc. (2001), “Alive in the Land of the Dead”,
http://www.crimethinc.com/library/alive.html
Is such an approach sustainable? What kind of political understandings can ground it, beyond just
“explaining” it on the level of social movements' construction of
“collective action frameworks”? And
what significance does this present-tense orientation have for the concrete choices that anarchists make
about their political projects, as well as about the sensibilities ? 3. Two pessimistic arguments against Utopia
Let me then examine what I believe is the mainspring of anarchism's present-tense orientation: an
open-ended tendency, one that eschews the rhetoric of a post-revolutionary resting point. Now the
basic idea is not new, and was expressed with increasing strength by anarchists throughout the
twentieth century. To Landauer's epigram in the opening of this essay may be added this statement by
Rudolf Rocker:
Anarchism is no patent solution for all human problems, no Utopia of a perfect social order, as it has so
often been called, since on principle it rejects all absolute schemes and concepts. It does not believe in any
absolute truth, or in definite final goals for human development, but in an unlimited perfectibility of social
arrangements and human living conditions, which are always straining after higher forms of expression,
and to which for this reason one can assign no definite terminus nor set any fixed goal.7
Rocker bases his anti-utopian stance, on the one hand, on the refusal of absolutes, and on the other
on the assertion that social arrangements display an inherent proclivity for change. For him, however,
the change in question is regarded in optimistic terms – it tends towards improvement, and for this
reason cannot be limited in scope. What I want to do now is to offer two different arguments, of a more
pessimistic character, which I think substantiate the anti-utopian stance that animates the
contemporary movement. Both arguments are geared towards an understanding that even the most
thoroughgoing realisation of anarchist social transformation does not amount to a culmination of the
anarchist project.
It should be clarified that the pessimism of these arguments is not related to the oft-forwarded
claims that anarchism is impossible due to an inherently selfish,
competitive and/or malevolent human
nature. To this anarchists need only reply with their own familiar arguments, referring to the
complexity of human beings and to the importance of social relations for shaping our behaviour and
selfhood, as well as in-your-face “state of nature” arguments drawing on anthropological evidence.
However, by invoking an inherent instability of individual human
behaviour, or by anticipating a
7 Rudolf Rocker (1938/1989) “Anarchism: Its Aims and Purposes”, in Anarcho-Syndicalism (London: Pluto), p.30
constant flux of relationships between diverse and decentralised
communities, anarchists are in fact
also denying their project the possibility of utopian stability. Here the first pessimistic argument can be
forwarded: it is impossible to be sure that even under whatever conditions anarchists would consider
as most fruitful to sociability and cooperation, some individuals and groups might not successfully
renew patterns of exploitation and domination in society. This type of argument has long been evaded
by many anarchists, who have endorsed the expectation inspired by
Kropotkin, that a revolution in
social, economic and political conditions would encourage an essentially different patterning of human
behaviour – either because it would now be able to flower freely under nurturing conditions, or
because revolution would remove all hindrances to the development of human beings’ cooperative /
egalitarian / benevolent side. Peter Marshall has argued in this vein that “it is not only the mind but
also our emotional and sexual drives which regulate themselves when not interfered with by artificial
restrictions imposed by coercive institutions”8.
Others, however, have heeded the warning and internalised it to a certain extent. Let me look at two
examples of recent anarchist-inspired works which have done so. The first is Ursula Le Guin's novel The
Dispossessed, perhaps the most honest attempt at portraying a functio'ning anarchist society. Referring to
the work as an “anarchist utopia”, however, is misleading precisely for this reason, since the society it deals
with is far from perfect or unproblematic. The protagonist, Shevek, is driven to leave his anarchist society on
the moon of Anarres, not because he rejects its core anarchist ideals but because he sees that some of them
are no longer adequately reflected in practice, while others need to be revised in order to give more place to
individuality. In the hundred and seventy years since its establishment, following the secession of a mass of
revolutionary anarchists from the home-planet of Urras, Anarresti society has witnessed the growth of
xenophobia, informal hierarchies in the administrative syndicates, and an apparatus of social control
through custom and peer pressure. All of these contribute to a conformity that hinders Shevek's selfrealisation
in his pursuit of his life project, the development of a ground-breaking approach in theoretical
physics. Shevek embodies the continuing importance of dissent even after the abolition of capitalism and
government. Through his departure and founding of the Syndicate of Initiative, he becomes a revolutionary
within the revolution and initiates change within the anarchist society: “It was our purpose all along – our Syndicate, this journey of mine – to shake up things, to stir up, to break
some habits, to make people ask questions. To behave like anarchists!”9 Shevek's project renews the spirit of dissent and non-conformism that animated the original
creation of the anarchist society on Anarres in the first place. As Raymond Williams observes, this
8 Peter Marshall (1992), Demanding the Impossible (New York: Fontana) 9 Ursula Le Guin (1974/2002) The Dispossessed (Lodnon: Gollancz), p.316 dynamic portrays The Dispossessed as “an open utopia: forced open, after the congealing of ideals, the
degeneration of mutuality into conservatism; shifted, deliberately, from its achieved harmonious
condition, the stasis in which the classical utopian mode culminates, to restless, open, risk-taking
experiment”.10
In addition to Le Guin's novel, we may look to evidence of this
realisation in the anarchist-inspired
vision of an alternative society forwarded in the book bolo’bolo by the Zurich-based writer P.M.. Again
the application of the word “utopia” to this book is misleading, since it not only acknowledges but
treasures the type on instability and diversity of social relations that can be ushered in by the removal
of all external control on the behaviour of individuals and groups. The world anti-system called
bolo’bolo is a mozaic in which every community (bolo) of around five hundred residents is as
nutritionally self-sufficient as possible, and has complete autonomy to define its ethos or “flavour”
(nima). Stability is afforded by a minimal but universal social contract (sila), enforced by reputation and
interdependence. This contract guarantees, for example, that every individual (ibu) can at any time
leave their native bolo, and is entitled to one day's rations (yalu) and housing (gano) as well as medical
treatment (bete) at any bolo. It even suggests a duel code (yaka) to solve disputes between individuals
and groups”.11 However,
There are no humanist, liberal or democratic laws or rules about the content of nimas and there is no State
to enforce them. Nobody can prevent a bolo from committing mass suicide, dying of drug experiments,
driving itself into madness or being unhappy under a violent regime. Bolos with a bandit-nima could
terrorize whole regions or continents, as the Huns or Vikings did. Freedom and adventure, generalized
terrorism, the law of the club, raids, tribal wars, vendettas, plundering – everything goes.12
While most anarchists might not want to go that far, the point here is that if this is the case, then any
anarchist theory which acknowledges the absence of law and authority must also respond to the
possibility of a re-emergence of patterns of domination within and/or among communities, even if at a
certain point in time they have been consciously overcome. Thus, on one interpretation, anarchists have
been drawn to regard the ultimate telos of opposition to domination as utopian fantasy, accepting that
“eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”.13
If the first argument challenges the achievability of an anarchist “post-revolutionary resting point”,
the second one questions it on the conceptual level. It is close to what I think Noam Chomsky has in
10 Raymond Williams (1978), “Utopia and Science Fiction” Science Fiction Studies 5:3
11 P.M. (1985), bolo’bolo (New York: Autonomedia), pp.68-70
12 bolo’bolo, pp.77-8
13 This saying has been attributed, in various phrasings, to Edmund Burke, President Andrew Jackson and abolitionist
Wendell Phillips.
mind with his remark that anarchism constitutes “an unending struggle, since progress in achieving a
more just society will lead to new insight and understanding of forms of oppression that may be
concealed in traditional practice and consciousness”.14 The generalisation of anarchist resistance to
encapsulate not only the state and capital but all forms of domination in society – patterns of systematic
inequality and exclusion such as patriarchy, racism and heterosexism – moves its notions of social
transformation beyond their previous formulation as the replacement of institutions to the redefinition of
social patterns in all spheres of life. However, such a generalisation also means a shift in the understanding
of the horizons of the anarchist project. While it has been possible to speak within a coherent framework
about the abolition of institutions, the way in which anarchists have come to conceptualise domination
(under the influence of critiques emanating from radical feminist, anti-racist and queer liberation
movements) presents it with a concept to which the idea of abolition is not so easily attached. On such a
reading, in fact, a condition without any form of domination or
discrimination in society is literally
unthinkable. This is because in order to speak of the abolition of domination, we need to have access to
its total picture, to the entire range of possible patterns of social inequality and exclusion – and we can
never be sure that we have such a complete picture.
To clarify this, think for a moment about the ideals said to have animated the U.S. Declaration of
Independence, as present in famous passages such as “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all
men are created equal” etc. Even with “people” replacing “men”, this passage justly strikes us today as
irredeemably hypocritical. Dr. Johnson was the first to puncture the pretensions of American
revolutionaries when he pointed to the bitter irony “that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among
the drivers of Negroes”.15 Thomas Jefferson was, after all, a slave holder, as were many of the other
signatories to the Declaration. They were all representatives of most prosperous section of the colonial
elite, their wealth resting not only on slavery but also on the genocidal dispossession of North
America’s indigenous peoples. And they had no intention of realising these “natural” to women.
However, while hypocrisy or voluntary blindness can seem to be obvious explanations in hindsight,
it is not certain that everything is attributable to such factors. We can still ask with honesty whether the
American “Founding Fathers” truly realised, amid their declarations of freedom and equality, that
Africans and Indigenous Americans were human beings, and that slavery, genocide and the denial of
rights to women stood in stark contradiction to their own declared principles. Even if it does seem
impossible to us that they did not, can we safely say the same about their attitudes to other forms of
discrimination that are blatantly evident to us today, such as those against children? Few people are
aware that until the 1880s the age of sexual consent for women in the U.S. was ten, and that the first
14 Noam Chomsky (1986), “The Soviet Union versus Socialism”, Our
Generation 17:2, pp. 47-52.
15 Samuel Johnson (1775/1913), “Taxation no Tyranny”, in The Works of Samuel Johnson (Troy, NY: Pafraets), vol.14,
pp.93-144. Anecdotally, in the same essay Johnson refers to the American secessionists as “those zealots of anarchy”
state legislation in protection for children was passed only in 1875 (in New York). And what of the only
recent recognition that “mentally disabled” people are not inferior, or that non-heterosexual practices
are not sinful and unnatural? In light of what seems to have been an utter unawareness to such axes of
inequality and oppression, it seems not entirely unlikely that such forms of domination as were entirely
“off the radar” for people in the past.
This leads to the crux of my second argument: How can we know that there are no forms of
domination that remain hidden from us today, just as some that we do recognise were hidden from our
predecessors? If we are at least prepared to entertain doubt on this matter, then we can no longer put
ourselves in a position from which we can speak with any coherence about the abolition of all forms of
domination. Here the objection that the writers of the Declaration of Independence were far from
anarchists is irrelevant, since the history of anarchist movement is just as embarrassing in this respect.
Instances of outright bigotry surrounding racism, sexism and homophobia are more abundant in
anarchist literature than many anarchists would care to recall. Pierre Joseph Proudhon was, on any
modern assessment, a despicable misogynist and anti-Semite. “Man’s primary condition is to dominate
his wife and to be the master”, he wrote, while “women know enough if the know how to mend our
socks and fix our steaks”.16 “The Jew”, moreover, “is the enemy of humankind. It is necessary to send
this race back to Asia, or exterminate it”.17 Bakunin’s writings are also famously rife with anti-Semitic
and anti-German attitudes.18 Kropotkin and many other Russian anarchists supported the first World
War.19 And as late as 1935 the prominent Spanish anarchist periodical Revista Blanca could still carry
the following, typically homophobic, editorial response to the question “What is there to be said about
those comrades who themselves are anarchists and who associate with inverts [sic]?”:
They cannot be viewed as men if that “associate” means anything apart from speaking to or saluting
sexual degenerates. If you are an anarchist, that means that you are more morally upright and physically
strong than the average man. And he who likes inverts is no real man, and is therefore no real anarchist.20
Although nobody chooses their ideological ancestors, such statements should nevertheless compel
16 Pierre Joseph Proudhon (1875), Pornocracy, or Women of Modern Times – unpublished fragment, cited in Edward
Hyams (1979), Proudhon: His Revolutionary Life, Mind and Works (London: John Murray), p. 274. On Proudhon’s
vituperative replies to contemporary feminists Georges Sand and Juliette Adam see Antony Copley (1989), “Pierre-
Joseph Proudhon: A Reassessment of his role as a Moralist”, French History 3:2
17 Pierre Joseph Proudhon (1843-64), Les Carnets, in Selected Writings (ed. Stewart Edwards), p.228n
18 Mikhail Bakunin (1873), Statism and Anarchy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp.104ff and 175ff.
19 Paul Avrich (1967), The Russian Anarchists (Princeton: Princeton University Press), pp.118-119
20 Cited in Richard Cleminson (1995), “Male Inverts and Homosexuals: Sex Discourse in the Anarchist Revista Blanca”,
in Gert Hekma et. al. (eds.), Gay Men and the Sexual History of the Political Left (Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press),
pp.259-272
anarchists to endorse a healthy scepticism about the comprehensiveness of their own, contemporary
accounts of domination. As a result, the idea of an end to all forms of domination becomes, to use a
somewhat bombastic philosophical expression, an epistemological
impossibility. We cannot think such
a state of affairs since we do not possess the full list of features that are supposed to be absent from it,
let alone being capable of speaking of the forms of social life that might replace them. Admittedly, we
might have a better idea about forms of domination today simply because there are more voices
expressing them. Movements endorsing indigenous, queer, and youth
liberation have taken their place
much more vividly in the public sphere over recent years, and thus contributed to the articulation of
resistance to domination in forms that have not been explored before. But this is not enough to ensure
us that all possible axes along which domination operates have been exposed.
4. Anarchist Individualism Redux
As a closing thought, let me look at an important implication of this view for anarchist visions of
social transformation. If we insist on the potential need for anarchist agency under any conditions, then
the notion of an “anarchist society” as an achievable goal loses its meaning. To be sure, the frequency of
the need to exercise such agency may hopefully diminish to a great extent, in comparison to what an
anarchist approach would deem necessary in present societies, but we have no reason to think that it
can ever be permanently removed. Where does such a state of affairs leave anarchists today?
The primary conclusion that I think anarchists can (and often do) draw form the dissociation of their
project form a utopian horizon, and the transposition of their notion of social revolution to the presenttense,
is to revitalise the individualist commitments of social anarchism, elevating projects of selfrealisation
and the liberation of desire to a pivotal place in the process of social transformation.
As the anarchist revolutionary horizon constricts itself into the present tense, revolutionary
commitments, in turn, come to reflect and respond to the aspirations of living, experiencing
individuals. Utterances that militate against the individual’s unfreedom and celebrate her or his selfrealisation
are no longer content to do so in the abstract. They must insist on the centrality of immediate
liberation, to the extent to which it can be achieved, in order to have any relevance for an anarchist
“revolution in everyday life”. At the same time, the re-contextualisation of anarchist individualism in
the present tense and its concretion in empirical subjects reflects back on its (anti-)political content. An
anarchist individualism which demands realisation within society as it exists today, rather than as it
could be, defines its realisation as-against this existing society and serves as an immediate motivation
for action.
Anarchists are increasingly stressing that the point of their struggles is not only to help bring about
social transformation along anarchist lines, but also to liberate
themselves to the greatest degree
possible. On such a reading, a central motivation for anarchist action – not least so in its prefigurative
idiom – lies in the desire to inhabit, to the greatest extent possible, social relations that approximate
anarchists' ideals for society as a whole. Hence personal liberation and the confrontation with a
homogenising and oppressive social order can be seen to each supply the other’s motivation: the
individual’s own experience of restriction supplies a direct impulse for social action, whereas the
experience of struggle itself becomes a site of present-tense liberation. The revolution is now, and we must let the desires we have about the future manifest themselves in the
here and now as best as we can. When we start doing that, we stop fighting for some abstract condition for
the future and instead start fighting to see those desires realized in the present. Through this process we
start pushing back the veil of submission and domination towards the periphery of our lives, we start
reclaiming control over our own lives...Whether the project is a squat, a sharing of free food, an act of
sabotage, a pirate radio station, a periodical, a demonstration, or an attack against one of the institutions of
domination, it will not be entered into as a political obligation, but as a part of the life one is striving to
create, as a flowering of one's self-determined existence.21
Feeding back into such an individualist grounding , we can say that anarchist modes of interaction –
non-hierarchical, voluntary, cooperative, solidaric and playful – are no longer seen as features on which
to model a future society, but rather as an ever-present potential of social interaction here and now.
Such an approach promotes anarchy as culture, as a lived reality that pops up everywhere in new
guises, adapts to different cultural climates, and should be extended and developed experimentally for
its own sake, whether or not we believe it can become, in some sense, the prevailing mode of society.
Also, it amounts to promoting the view of anarchy as a feature of everyday life, in mundane settings
such as “a quilting bee, a dinner party, a black market...a neighborhood protection society, an
enthusiasts' club, a nude beach”.22 The task for anarchists, then, is not to introduce a new society but to
realise an alternative society as much as possible in the present tense. 21 Terrence Hodgson, “Towards Anarchy”, online at
http://groups.msn.com/AnarchistAlliance/ towardsanarchy.msnw
22 Hakim Bey (1991), “The Willimantic/Rensselaer Questions”, in Mike Gunderloy and Michael Ziesing, Anarchy and
the End of History (San Francisco: Factsheet Five Books), pp.87-92


 

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