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A Schematic Anarchism: Anarchism-in-General

For me, the last few years have involved a rather public renegotiation of my relationship with anarchism—and more specifically with the possibility of an anarchism-in-general that is not just a jumble of incommensurable theories with some superficial resemblances. I have most often presented that work as a matter of synthesis, with a very specific reference to Voline’s 1924 essay, “On Synthesis,” where he gives that notion—so often limited in anarchist discourse to debates about the organization of federations—a considerably more general significance. […]

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A Schematic Anarchism: Rethinking Anarchism Without Adjectives and Synthesis

The schematic anarchism introduced over the last few months is at once a comparatively adjectiveless anarchism and a tool for synthesis. It is, however, not an example of anarchism without adjectives or anarchist synthesis in their most familiar senses. Exploring the ways in which those ideas are transformed in the context of this new conceptual toolkit should help clarify the character and uses of the new apparatus. […]


A Schematic Anarchism (Introduction)

One way to get at what is constant in the widest senses of anarchy and anarchism is to begin with what is least contestable about the elements of those terms. Etymology is certainly no definitive source of meaning — and few things are more tiresome than the attempt to resolve ideological debates with dictionaries — but if we are going to take inspiration from the interpretive freedom extended by Proudhon to his readers, we don’t really have much but the words themselves as references. […]

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Embracing Anarchy — Introduction

We become anarchists by embracing and internalizing anarchy. We express that internalized anarchy by constructing anarchisms. I take this to be a kind of general formula, describing the relations between three key concepts — anarchy, anarchist and anarchism — in their most general senses. This formula should be applicable to any form of anarchism that defines itself in terms of a commitment to anarchy. It should serve us as a rough schematic as we analyze and construct various anarchisms. […]


Polity-form (External constitution)

If we are to follow Proudhon’s an-archic account of social organization, we can expect the social collectivities that we encounter to be self-organizing associations of human beings, onto which some kind of governmental framework has been imposed from the outside. The authoritarian pretense is that society — human association in all its dynamic forms — has not really been established until the material relations of association have been seconded in some way by the establishment of an authority, sitting atop some kind of fundamentally political hierarchy. The anarchic response is that authority and hierarchy are inessential elements that we must learn to do without. […]


Legal Order

In the anarchist context, it is common to approach the question of legal order by asking whether anarchists truly desire a society in which nothing is prohibited. This is, it seems to me, only half of the question that needs to be asked, as an anarchic society would also be one in which nothing is permitted. And it is probably this second aspect that is most helpful in evaluating the antinomian character of anarchy. […]

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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. […]