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Margins and Problems: Some Premature Conclusions

There are plenty of useful histories of anarchism, including some general histories that draw from the anarchist past the material by which various conceptions of anarchism might be bolstered and enriched. And the more we know about the complexities of the anarchist past, the less, I think, we can begrudge ourselves or our fellow anarchists these ideological and organizational supports. We pick and choose among the various available narratives on the basis of various kinds of present utility. Sometimes we are more scrupulous and demanding with regard to the accuracy of those various histories or the amount of the anarchist past for which they can account. Sometimes we fall back on a familiar “keep what works and discard the rest” standard—with or without real connection to anarchism’s experimentalist tendencies. […]

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Margins and Problems: Enter the Anarchist

The 1840s opened with a bang, with Proudhon’s declaration: je suis anarchiste. When we’re examining the conditions of possibility for various possible anarchisms, the emergence of anarchist as a role or identity, a means of self-identification, is undoubtedly a moment that will be hard to top. We have seen the various contexts in which libertarian analyses had already emerged—and the degree to which they were emerging from analyses of the mechanisms of government and authority, whether it was a question of the deconstructive reading of someone like Thomas Skidmore or the alleged mental lapse of P. W. Grayson. Something anarchistic was apparently in the air, but it was a decisive step to give it a name—and what a name!—and also to claim that name as a position within the field of social systems. […]