Friday, November 6, 2009

Saul Newman: Postanarchism between Politics and Anti-Politics

I would like to share a string of videos of a Saul Newman talk from Sept 2 - 4 at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. I would also like to apologize that many of these posts are exceedingly long. I am working on hacking the blogspot template to allow for a "Read More" link. Enjoy.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Post-Anarchism at NAASN

Please join us at the first ever North American Anarchist Studies Network Conference. Our panel is called "Visions of Post-Anarchism":

Roger Farr, Michael Truscello, Thomas Nail, (Duane Rousselle)

In a yet to be released essay from Lewis Call (author of “Postmodern Anarchism”, Lexington Books, 2002), it is argued that a sort-of “post-anarchist” moment has finally arrived (Post-Anarchism: A Reader, forthcoming) and yet equally, there appears to be growing sentiment that the post-anarchist critique has been somewhat internalized in the minds of many anarchist researchers and therefore rendered stagnant as an independent position that one can argue either 'for' or 'against'. What is the place of post-anarchism today? Can it still be defined largely by its critique of traditional anarchism or are there other ways of interpreting it? Have we possibly moved beyond post-anarchism and, if so, does it continue to cast a shadow on the way we study anarchism? This panel begins with three paper presentations on particular post-anarchist interventions and then moves into a discussion on their points of connection and difference (between the panelists and the participating audience). The Visions of Post-anarchism panel represents an attempt to outline what post-anarchism means for anarchist researchers today and what it may mean tomorrow.

Individual paper outlines follow:

Michael Truscello will examine the concept of necessity as a reference to the means by which revolutionaries could survive in the context of continuing revolution. This meaning of necessity divided the earliest socialists and anarchists. As Murray Bookchin writes, “The problem of dealing with want and work—an age-old problem perpetuated by the early Industrial Revolution—produced the great divergence in revolutionary ideas between socialism and anarchism. Freedom would still be circumscribed by necessity in the event of a revolution. How was this world of necessity to be 'administered'? (2004: 46). Marxists proposed the state as the means by which necessity could be administered and revolution could persist, and anarchists offered the solution of free communities (Bookchin, 2004: 46). “The problem of want and work,” writes Bookchin, “was never satisfactorily resolved by either body of doctrine in the last century" (2004: 47). Bookchin's own solution was "social ecology," which required technology to "replace the realm of necessity by the realm of freedom" (2004: 48), a proposal met with derision by anarcho-primitivists. The problem of necessity in the period of late capitalism is intimately bound to the problem of technology, since most people who live in industrial societies depend on massive technological systems for sustenance, and since the current population of the planet greatly surpasses the number that could be supported by living as hunter-gatherer societies, the primitivist ideal. To revolt against these technological systems from within industrial societies would seem to be an act of self-destruction; to preserve these systems would be equal folly. For anarchists, the problem of the technological society therefore necessitates a paradoxical solution. I will discuss the possibility that this paradoxical solution might resemble Saul Newman's concept of "unstable universalities."

Thomas Nail argues that poststructuralist philosophy, anarchism, and radical politics share a similar commitment against statism, capitalism vanguardism, and economic reductionism, but share an ambivalence toward more positive visions of today's radical and anarchist organizations. If, following Todd May, one understands post-anarchism as the dual commitment to “anti-authoritarianism” and the “affirmation of difference,” how are we to understand the concrete consistency of political experimentations beyond their mere potentiality to “become different than they are.” That is, what would a post-anarchist political analysis look like took seriously the concrete analysis of specific anarchist practices and their organization? In this paper I argue that while anti-authoritarianism and potentiality are crucial for understanding the core of radical politics today, they are ultimately insufficient for understanding the consistency and organization of today’s actual alternatives to capitalism and domination. What I will begin to develop in this paper instead is a vision of post- anarchism amended by a philosophical constructivism of the concrete conditions, elements, and agencies that compose post-anarchist political experimentations. In particular I will exemplify this analysis in the case of one of the first post-anarchist revolutions: Zapatismo.

Roger Farr investigates the increasingly common demands in various anarchist periodicals for greater clarity and accessibility in movement discourse. A recent issue of Rolling Thunder, for instance, argues that the “exclusive language” of certain milieus is unable to “make a welcoming space for a broad range of participants,” and that these “obscurantists” should rather express themselves “in the language they use when they talk with their neighbors or relatives.” While debates around language use have been, and continue to be, critically important for anarchists, we need to move beyond the “clarity good / jargon bad” binary that too frequently provides a structure for the discussion, which in the end usually leads to vague indictments of “in-group” languages and “exclusionary” linguistic practices, in favour of what sounds very much like a call for even more anonymous, mass communication. Drawing on Alice Becker-Ho’s work on argot – “the language of the dangerous classes” – this talk asks what anarchists might learn from the study of such “anti-languages,” and argues that in the struggle over our language we arrive at “the heart of all the struggles between the forces striving to abolish the present alienation and those striving to maintain it.”

Duane will provide an overview at the end and stimulate discussion.


Roger is the author of a book of poetry, SURPLUS (Line Books, 2006), a contributor to the co-research project N 49 19. 47 - W 123 8.11 (Recomposition, 2008), and is the editor of the sporadically published journal PARSER: New Poetry and Poetics. His writing on social movements and the avant-garde has appeared or is forthcoming in Anarchist Studies, Fifth Estate, Islands of Resistance: Pirate Radio in Canada, Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, The Poetic Front, and XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics. His critical introduction to a new English translation of Alice Becker-Ho’s The Essence of Jargon is forthcoming from Autonomedia. He teaches in the Creative Writing and Culture and Technology Programs at Capilano University in Vancouver, BC.

Michael is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. His work has focused on the postanarchist politics of digital culture (especially software), and has been featured in journals such as Postmodern Culture, Technical Communication Quarterly, and TEXT Technology.

Thomas is a visiting scholar at CERIS—The Ontario Metropolis Centre in Toronto, Canada. He has written on the post-structuralist philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and Alain Badiou. Awarded a U.S. Fulbright scholarship to complete his dissertation in Canada, he is currently writing his Ph.D in philosophy (University of Oregon) on the concept of revolution in the political philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. He was the assistant editor for the journal, Environmental Philosophy 5:2 (2008) and 6:1 (2009).

Duane is embarrassingly undecided. He is the editor of the forthcoming book “Post-Anarchism: A Reader” and a decidedly excommunicated anarchist.