Journal (February 22, 2018)


I’m going to try something new here. As I seem to be headed into another phase where most of the new material on the site is either on the heavy or the cryptic side, I’m going to see if I can’t get into the habit of posting some lighter fare, consisting of brief updates on projects and less elaborate sorts of anarchist commentary, but also quick takes on current events, beer and entertainment reviews, etc. I’m hoping to rearrange my daily work schedule a bit, so that this becomes a way of starting the day, staging the day’s projects, reflecting on the past day’s events, etc., but first things first.

SITE UPDATE: Everything from all of the old blog installations has now been assembled here and all of the old sites except Contr’un have been archived and removed. That is going to mean some broken links for a short while, as the link-checking plugin and I work to identify and fix the remaining problems, but everything should be here and be searchable. For now, the folks who complained about the problems of decentralization can complain about the problems of centralization. Down the road, perhaps we’ll all have less to complain about, at least where site architecture is concerned.

WRITING: I’m in the midst of trying to learn some new skills, translating entries from the Encyclopédie Anarchiste and trying my hand at writing some similar entries for the Contr’un Glossary project. I am admittedly most at ease as a writer when I am exploring and experimenting with ideas. I would always prefer to ask questions than to presume to give answers. But, for a variety of reasons, I can’t really avoid playing the expert in a number of the projects I have in front of me, in part because what I have to say is so likely to seem like some kind of provocation or experiment, despite the logical and historical support I can muster for it. Now, that’s not a bad place for me, ultimately, but occupying it requires that I think about what I’m doing a bit differently. For better or worse, the necessity of working up a glossary for Proudhon: Between Science and Vengeance encouraged me to wade back into the world of radical dictionaries and encyclopedias, where I was pleased to find a model that seems likely to serve me in good stead. In a work like the Encyclopédie Anarchiste, there is an entertaining game being played, where the task of simply defining concepts is mixed with the business of providing anarchist commentary. In some cases, the concept to be simply defined (ham-acting, cacophony, etc.) is not directly related to anarchist concerns at all, but does provide a sort of familiar reference point, from which the authors then generally make some excursion into the world of anarchistic critique. And where the relationship is more obvious (authority, law, etc.) the pattern is generally much the same, with a bit of familiar, more-or-less neutral ground being established and then the anarchistic exploration follows. What I hope I’m gradually learning through this work, and through the translation of some anarchist texts structured more like school texts or religious catechisms, is the balance between the familiar and the exploratory.

HISTORY: For those who haven’t seen them yet, the “Omega” articles by William Batchelder Greene are a real treat. To finally track them down after so many years and to find that there was essentially a third volume of material to go with the original Equality and Mutual Banking was a pleasure, but to find that the previously unknown material was directly related to anarchistic thought was much more than I could have dared hope for. There are fewer research moments that really feel like triumphs these days, but this discovery has been one of them.

And returning to Greene inspired some new thoughts about The Blazing Star, which finally gave me my excuse to ask the provocative question: Does everyone who wishes to call themselves an anarchist really see anarchy as a real guide and inspiration? It’s a question that others have asked and answered in the negative, like Max Nettlau (“anarchy to the anarchists“) in 1902. I think I agree. I even think I may begin to see how his proposed methods of dealing with the problem (panarchy, “mutual tolerance”) might not be so far from consistent anarchist practice as I have sometimes thought. It will take some work to clarify my thought on these questions, but the Glossary entry on “Anarchy: Historical, Abstract and Resultant” is certainly the first stride in that direction.

TRANSLATION: I’m happy to be able to share a combined list of my Working Translations, with collapsible sections for major sections so that the full list is a bit more manageable. One of the new features is that I am providing a lot more of my translations in parallel form, with the original and translation side by side, and marking those texts on the master list. So, for example, translations from French will have “(FR/EN)” after the link is both languages are available. This is part of an attempt to treat the multilingual nature of the anarchist literature as normal and not segregate foreign language texts on the site.

BEYOND THE LABYRINTH: I’ve just finished up Modus, an 8-episode Swedish detective thriller from 2015, currently streaming on Walter Presents. It has been well reviewed and, while there is very little new under the sun in the world of television, it really is a fine example of the genre, with its occasionally unlikely plot consistently saved by canny manipulations of formula and solid acting by an appealing cast. Melinda Kinnaman has a leading role and, by accident, I found myself alternating between episodes of Modus and episodes of Altered Carbon, where her half-brother Joel Kinnaman is the leading man. (More on Altered Carbon, I suspect, when I finish up the last few episodes.)

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About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.