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Sources: Over the Roofs of the World

We know that there has hardly been a moment in the history of “the anarchist idea” at which it has not been contested—and often hotly contested. This is the reason that, at this phase of the project, it seem necessary to make heavy use of scare quotes around terms that are ultimately the subject of much of the exploration here. My hope is that, in the course of the research, some less awkward means of addressing the definitional difficulties will emerge. For now, however, it seems most useful to underline the potential problems, particularly as one of the recurring tasks of this exploration will be to see if there are perhaps periods during which phrase like “anarchist history,” “the anarchist idea” and “the anarchist tradition” simply cannot cover the diversity of nominally “anarchist” positions and ideas simultaneously expressed. […]

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Sources: Seeking the Source

My mind’s made up and has been for some time. For the purposes of this particular study, as a point of departure for this particular journey, I have chosen 1840 and Proudhon’s What is Property? More specifically, I have chosen the composition of one phrase, in the original French, as not simply the first, but perhaps the most important moment in “the anarchist tradition”—with that tradition defined in terms that will undoubtedly seem broad and inclusive to nearly everyone.

Je suis anarchiste. […]

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Sources: Before the Beginning

We start our journey—start again, that is, as we begin our journey back to the present—in mountainous heights, at the very source of a glacier-fed stream. Below us, farther than the eye can see, stretches the almost impossibly complex system of waterways that represent for us “the anarchist tradition.” Much is, of course, invisible to us, hidden by the twists and folds of a broader landscape more than capable of dwarfing even our most ambitious imaginings of that tradition, with a full accounting of its tributaries and distributaries, and more is simply lost in the far distance. […]

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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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E. Armand, “Plan for an Epitaph” (1923)

f someone asked me what inscription I should like to see appear on my grave marker—if ever the luxury of resting in a tomb was given to me—I would first respond that I desire to sleep my last sleep in the nearest hole in the ground. If my friends insisted, this is the epitaph that I would be pleased to have them place on the slab recalling my memory: He lived. He gave of himself. He died unsatisfied. […]