One of the reasons for taking the time to write out these summary and rationale sections is that, even after we have dismissed the notion that the result will be “representative” in any very complete sense, there are still a lot of elements to incorporate into each volume. And it is important that the material necessary to support investigations in later volumes is—as much as possible—presented in earlier volumes. Given the extent to which the research for each volume is likely to raise new concerns, we can expect to miss some things, necessitating some long instances of backtracking. But those can at least be minimized by careful planning now. […]
The first leg of the journey ends with the death of Proudhon—and the interruption of his particular investigation of “the anarchist idea.” The end of that segment will be an occasion to try to sum up the contributions of Proudhon and his contemporaries in a variety of ways. […]
Our Lost Continent and the Journey Back: I. — Sources (1837–1865) Project Page: Our Lost Continent: Episodes from an Alternate History of the Anarchist Idea, 1837–1936 RELATED: P.-J. Proudhon, “Determination of the Third Social Form” […]
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. […]
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. […]
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. […]