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Anarchist History: No End of Beginnings

After a couple of decades in the wilderness of history, in search of the elusive headwaters of the anarchist tradition, you stop beside some particularly active mountain spring and think that, while no serious seeker would every claim a single source for that tradition, you’ve probably been in the right neighborhood for some time now. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about the return trip. […]

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Anarchist History: The Metaphor of the Main Stream

As tools for historical and cultural understanding, metaphors are obviously in the “use with great care” category and, as often as not, reveal more about our interpretive preconceptions than they do about the material we seek to interpret. But sometimes that’s just what is called for, as what needs to be more closely examined is at least as much the lens through which we are looking as it is the object of our scrutiny. […]

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Joseph Déjacque or Imre Madách?

The internet is often much better at creating and perpetuating mistakes than it is at correcting them. An exemplary case is the confusion that has grown around the question of whether or not a portrait existed of Joseph Déjacque. For a long time, it appeared that Déjacque was among those important early anarchist figures for whom we could not put a face to the name. And then a portrait appeared on Wikimedia Commons—and what a portrait! Perhaps we should have know that mustache was simply too good to be true. […]

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Anarchist History: A Mutualist’s-Eye-View

My understanding of anarchist history is clearly—and quite consciously—the product of certain trajectories through the field of anarchist studies and through the sectarian landscape of the anarchist milieus. It is perhaps important to underline this fact, particular as it is such a central point of my analysis that the dominant narratives regarding anarchist history have a similar character—and that “anarchist history” might, through relatively small changes in the times and places where it was told, have looked very different and perhaps gone by different names. […]

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Anarchism as a Fundamentally Unfinished Project

My argument about the anarchist tradition, in its most modest form, is that there is nothing about the history of variously “anarchist” ideas—particularly when the tale begins in 1840 or before—that precludes a real, future convergence toward an anarchism that both focuses on anarchy (in its strongest senses) and provides a vehicle for the sort of social reforms that have most often been promoted in the name of “anarchism.” […]