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Saturday, April 19 2014 @ 05:32 PM CDT

Why I’m Returning my Copy of The Anarchist Turn

Anarchist Opinion

In 2011, Simon Critchley, Chiara Bottici, and Jacob Blumenfeld organized a conference entitled “The Anarchist Turn” at the New School for Social Research. Naturally, the conference was exciting news for anarchist scholars. I was originally attracted to the conference because it seemed to toy with post-anarchist ideas in a way that had mass appeal. In other words, it seemed to grant further legitimacy to the specific forms of inquiry that have been generating incredible innovations in anarchist thinking over the last two decades.

Why I’m Returning my Copy of The Anarchist Turn

by duanerousselle2013

In 2011, Simon Critchley, Chiara Bottici, and Jacob Blumenfeld organized a conference entitled “The Anarchist Turn” at the New School for Social Research. Naturally, the conference was exciting news for anarchist scholars. I was originally attracted to the conference because it seemed to toy with post-anarchist ideas in a way that had mass appeal. In other words, it seemed to grant further legitimacy to the specific forms of inquiry that have been generating incredible innovations in anarchist thinking over the last two decades. It was all the more exciting because the conference seemed to attract highly respected public intellectuals such as Judith Butler, Alberto Toscano, Todd May, Miguel Abensour, among others. It seemed to me that these highly respected scholars had themselves made a turn toward thinking through and renewing the anarchist tradition; I call this a “turn” because they had not previously made sustained and lasting contributions in the field of anarchist studies.

Their contributions reflected the stated objective of the journal that I edit, namely Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies. In fact, Sureyyya Evren and I, in collaboration with our advisory board, inaugurated the journal precisely as a journal of post-anarchist scholarship. We knew that the name would probably be short lived, but it was the spirit of post-anarchism that we wanted to capture. It was a spirit of exploration, an intellectual derive, a fascination with making radical breaks with tradition while forging new connections with other traditions. Even so, post-anarchism seemed to want to build a new tradition, to read the classical tradition in different ways by adding and removing this or that iconic thinker or by focusing on marginal comments within Kropotkin or Bakunin rather than the oft-citing contributions. To demonstrate this scope, check out some of the things written about our journal from Lewis Call, printed in the editorial of our first issue:

The existence of this journal, Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies, has convinced me that the time to hesitate is through. A decade into the third millennium, post-anarchism has become a self-realizing desire, a kind of Deleuzian desiring machine. [...] This journal contains thoughtful, passionate defences of post-anarchism, and equally insightful, equally passionate critiques of it. Some of the essays in this volume are not particularly post-anarchist in their outlook or method, yet even these share certain concerns with post-anarchism: concerns, for example, about architecture, territories, the organization of space. These essays follow lines of flight which sometimes intersect with post-anarchism, and these points of intersection are rich with potential.

All of this is to merely state the case that Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies has been one of many projects that I have been involved in that have attempted to renew and rethink the anarchist tradition. Moreover, this broader project has always had as its explicit goal an attempt to rethink the tradition but always in fidelity to the tradition itself (rather than from outside of the tradition). Our point of departure, therefore, has always been to find a way not just to make an anarchist turn but also to make an anarchist re-turn. This means that anarchism comes first. There is a certain spirit to the anarchist milieu that ceaselessly seems to erupt from within the anarchist tradition in order overcome the tradition itself. My concern, and in many ways it has been the concern of my co-editor Sureyyya Evren, has been that some post-anarchist scholarship really does move against the grain of anarchist thinking in a way that is unproductive for the anarchist milieu.

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