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Constructing Anarchisms: Definitions, Pluralism, Anarchy

One of the ideas driving Constructing Anarchisms has been the notion that “anarchy” and “anarchism” mark problems that it is necessary to return to again and again, that “becoming an anarchist” is an ongoing and arguably interminable project. And, while that idea may not be exactly popular in anarchist circles, it is undoubtedly connected to the widely-shared intuition that we must allow anarchist theory and practice to retain some significant degree of pluralism. We certainly expect anarchy to manifest itself in a variety of ways, to be amenable to discussion in a variety of vocabularies, to be approachable from a variety of contexts, etc.—and we seem to share a sense that denying some similarly protean qualities to anarchist theory and practice would be some kind of fundamental betrayal of our anarchic ideals. Critiques of “absolutism”—specifically connecting anarchism and anti-absolutism—are surprisingly common lately in online debate.  […]

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Constructing Anarchisms: Notes for a Preface

If asked, I generally say that I have been an anarchist for close to thirty years. And because of all the other things that I have been for much longer—a big nerd, basically—that has translated into nearly three decades of sometimes obsessive research into anarchist history and theory, art and literature, etc. At this point, it’s hard to imagine thinking of myself as anything other than an anarchist. I have worn a large number of hats over the years and continue to do so, but few of them represent anything like an identity. I have mixed feelings, in general, about identities. “I am large, I contain multitudes”—and those multitudes don’t always get along in a particularly unified or even dignified manner. With anarchist, however, the unity and the multiplicity seem to be simultaneously implied. Je suis anarchiste—I am anarchic. […]

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Anarchism: The Formula Explored

Having established a formula for anarchism-in-general, we certainly haven’t established that all anarchisms are created equal. We have simply provided a means by which those anarchisms that take the form suggested by the formula can be rendered comparable. While the proposed formula leaves considerable space for variation among the anarchisms that it will recognize, it also sets a relatively high bar for consideration.  […]

A Beautiful Nihilist

Anarchism: A General Formula

We are proposing anarchism as something that we can make our own, meaning that, in a certain sense, we can each make our own anarchism. Thus, there will be anarchisms, in the plural, that we must learn to identify by their shared characteristics. Part of our task here will be to establish the elements that must be defined in order to present an anarchism. But, in order to be recognizable as an anarchism, each instance must present itself as not just logically or ideologically complete and consistent, but also as intelligible within patterns of historical development.  […]

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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. […]

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Margins and Problems: Individualism and Socialism

The essay that follows originally appeared in 2010 and, for a time, lent its name, “Two-Gun Mutualism and the Golden Rule,” to what is now the “Contrun” blog. It is very much a creature of certain contexts specific to the reemergence of mutualism as an anarchist tendency—contexts that alternately freed and constrained my projects at the time. But it is also a pretty good introduction to Pierre Leroux and his influence on the anarchist tradition. […]