What Happens When We Do This‭?

Post-Anarchism Today‭
Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies‭ (‬ADCS‭) ‬2010.1
Edited by Duane Rousselle‭ & ‬Sϋreyyya Evren
Published and distributed by Little Black Cart

‬Underneath Anarchism…‭ ‬Post-Anarchism‭

Recently,‭ ‬I finished reading issue‭ ‬#1‭ ‬of‭ Post-Anarchism Today:‭ ‬Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies‭ (‬ADCS‭)‬.‭ ‬As the name implies,‭ ‬it is a journal of post-anarchist cultural studies encompassing articles on a variety of subjects‭ ‬-‭ ‬from architecture,‭ ‬identity,‭ ‬and morality‭; ‬all the way to film studies,‭ ‬black blocs,‭ ‬book reviews,‭ ‬poetry and the old faithful Karl Marx.‭ ‬Overall,‭ ‬the material is quite dense,‭ ‬although not surprising,‭ ‬being that much of the text comes from a rather academic standpoint,‭ ‬if you will.‭ ‬Academia aside,‭ ‬which has been one of the most prevalent critiques of post-anarchy so far‭ (‬supposedly rebuffed in this journal’s introduction‭) ‬-‭ ‬there are some really good articles,‭ ‬and then there are some that are not-so-good.‭ ‬It seems like a promising start and the future of what has come to be known as post-anarchism looks theoretically intriguing.‭ ‬In this brief review I plan to look at three of the more meaningful texts,‭ ‬including Alejandro de Acosta’s‭ Anarchist Meditations‭‬,‭ ‬Allan Antliff’s‭ Adrian Backwell’s Anarchitecture‭‬,‭ ‬and Saul Newman’s‭ Voluntary Servitude Reconsidered‭‬.‭

First off,‭ ‬a note on the medium.‭ ‬Like many great things in life,‭ ‬the contents of ADCS is available for free online at‭ The Anarchist Library‭‬.‭ ‬It has also been brought into this world in‭ “‬journal‭” ‬format,‭ ‬which is actually much more‭ (‬exactly‭) ‬like a book.‭ ‬As with most things,‭ ‬I recommend the book‭ ‬-‭ ‬but the simple idea of sharing these texts for free over the Internet in an age where‭ “‬print is dead‭” ‬is a thoughtful and a beautiful idea that should be noted.‭ ‬A quick note:‭ ‬I found that I really had to try and be on my toes while reading the journal if I was going to try to write a review‭ ‬/‭ ‬critique of it‭ ‬-‭ ‬unlike,‭ ‬say a work of fiction‭ ‬-‭ ‬non-fiction is something one just can’t breeze through.‭ ‬I’m also not that well versed in post-anarchist material,‭ ‬and it is something rather new to me.‭ ‬I read it once all the way through,‭ ‬but then reread some individual articles two,‭ ‬three,‭ ‬four,‭ ‬even fives times before I felt like I really had something to say…‭ ‬I’m still not completely certain I do.‭ ‬Is this a good summer time book‭? ‬In my opinion no,‭ ‬but it is still an intriguing read.‭ ‬Perhaps more well suited for the long cold solitary winter months,‭ ‬unless of course you don’t have winter‭ ‬-‭ ‬then well…‭ ‬I’m not sure what to tell you,‭ ‬other than you’re lucky.

‬I dreamed I turned off my cell phone‭

In‭ ‬Anarchist Meditations,‭ ‬or:‭ ‬Three Wild Interstices of Anarchism and Philosophy‭ ‬by Alejandro de Acosta he looks into the somewhat estranged relationship between anarchists and philosophy.‭ ‬According to Acosta:

philosophers allude to anarchist practices‭; ‬philosophers‭ (‬usually in search of theory to add to the canon‭)‬.‭ ‬What is missing in this schema,‭ ‬I note with interest,‭ ‬is anarchists alluding to philosophical practices.‭ ‬These are the wild interstices:‭ ‬zones of outlandish contact for all concerned‭ (‬p.‭ ‬118‭) 

Why is anarchism so intriguing then for philosophers‭? ‬Acosta points out that anarchism has‭ “‬never successfully manifested itself as a theoretical system‭” ‬and it is herein that lies the excitement of exploring the unknown.‭ ‬The text goes on to state that the‭ “‬apparent theoretical weakness of anarchism‭” ‬is perhaps one of its‭ “‬greatest virtues.‭” ‬While some may scoff here at this claim,‭ ‬I can find understanding in it,‭ ‬because after all anarchy in many senses is the idea of having no ideals.‭ ‬And what of these zones of outlandish contact for anarchist meditation that were mentioned earlier‭? ‬Acosta gives us three‭ wild styles‭ ‬-‭ ‬daydreams,‭ ‬field trips,‭ ‬and psychogeography to draw from.‭

The first zone of outlandish contact are‭ daydreams‭‬.‭ ‬What is a daydream‭? ‬A daydream is exactly what one may imagine it to be‭ ‬-‭ ‬a‭ meditative affirmation‭ ‬or even‭ negation‭‬.‭ ‬Acosta goes on to describe the differences between the two.

The difference between meditative affirmation and negation is that in affirming I actively imagine a future that I do not take to be real‭; ‬I explore its details to act on my own imagination,‭ ‬on my thought process,‭ ‬to contract other habits.‭ ‬In negation,‭ ‬as in affirmation,‭ ‬there is no future,‭ ‬just this present I must evacuate of its meaning.‭ ‬This meditation is a voiding process,‭ ‬a clearing of stupidities.‭ ‬It is what I do when I can find nothing to affirm in the present.‭ (‬p.‭ ‬127‭) 

Perhaps,‭ ‬I do too much daydreaming‭ ‬-‭ ‬perhaps even,‭ ‬not enough.‭ ‬But,‭ ‬the idea of thinking things through,‭ ‬mulling it over from various angles,‭ ‬and using your imagination to develop a deeper understanding of things can be surprisingly simple,‭ ‬but not exactly common.‭ ‬Touching on only the‭ ‬superficial,‭ ‬rushing around from place to place,‭ ‬hoping to find the joy of all philosophical pursuit becomes difficult when we fail to take the time and patience to look on a deeper level.‭ ‬This is not to say that being spontaneous is the problem‭ ‬-‭ ‬what it is saying though is that often,‭ ‬especially here in American society‭ ‬-‭ ‬we have too much going on,‭ ‬too many things to worry about,‭ ‬and not enough time in the day to find our joy and happiness.‭ ‬How often have you heard that before‭? ‬In affirming or negating these meditations‭ “‬the question is that of another attitude,‭ ‬another tone of thought,‭ ‬another voice.‭”

The second zone of outlandish contact are‭ field trips‭‬.‭ ‬Here Acosta looks into the act of adventuring to some significant unfamiliar location,‭ ‬engaging it,‭ ‬and creating an abstract‭ “‬thesis‭” ‬unto that experience.‭ ‬A field trip,‭ ‬is a field trip and I’m reminded of younger school days of going someplace far off on a bright yellow bus.‭ ‬What made these field trips important and exciting is that they seem to make meditations more meaningful.‭ ‬No longer are you just daydreaming,‭ ‬traveling the great expanse of the human mind‭ ‬-‭ ‬but now you are a doing-being…‭ err… or, something like that… whatever. ‬Digging your hands in the dirt,‭ ‬uncovering the past,‭ ‬and finding out for yourself what it means to be alive.‭ ‬Citing Frere Dupont’s‭ Nihilist Communism‭‬,‭ ‬Acosta states:

we always need new practices of thought,‭ ‬new contemplations,‭ ‬that habituate us to overcoming our profoundly limited common sense about what is human,‭ ‬what the human or its societies can do and be.‭ (‬p.‭ ‬131‭) 

The third and last wild style is‭ psychogeography‭‬.‭ ‬This can be thought of along Situationist terms in the dérive,‭ ‬although psychogeography is not strictly for the urbanlandscape‭ ‬.‭ ‬I imagine this almost like a field trip,‭ ‬but with less of a specific structure and aim.‭ ‬It is going out in the world‭ ‬-‭ ‬observing and experiencing.‭ ‬Acosta writes:

‬I am referring to what is collectively called‭ “‬hanging out.‭” ‬Going to the public library,‭ ‬for example,‭ ‬for no other reason than to witness what in it is anarchic‭ ‬-‭ ‬or again,‭ ‬to a potluck.‭ ‬This practice involves another way of inhabiting familiar spaces.‭ ‬It brings out what in them is uncannily,‭ ‬because tendentially,‭ ‬anarchic.‭ ‬It multiplies our sites of action and engagement and could shape our interventions there.‭(‬p.‭ ‬132‭) 

Psychogeography is the most appealing wildstlye for me.‭ ‬There is something about taking hours to wander through the woods,‭ ‬walk from one end of the city to the other,‭ ‬with no strong intentions other than to explore,‭ ‬to feel,‭ ‬to try and make sense out of your surroundings,‭ ‬and find the anarchic meaning hiding right in front of your eyes.‭ ‬Exploring by foot,‭ ‬bike,‭ ‬train,‭ ‬plane,‭ ‬car, and/or…‭ (you get the point).

Overall,‭ ‬I find that the point of these meditations is to find a deeper and more profound understanding‭; ‬or to find the joy and happiness that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning.‭ ‬It is far from easy,‭ ‬as the aspects of mental health in our friends and society have made it glaringly apparent.‭ ‬Something is not right,‭ ‬and there are some approaches we may be able to take‭ ‬-‭ ‬and this is the reason anarchist meditations are not only important,‭ ‬but necessary.‭ ‬Or as Acosta writes,‭ “[‬t]hese wild styles ought,‭ ‬eventually,‭ ‬to put into question every political project‭ ‬-‭ ‬first,‭ ‬as project,‭ ‬and,‭ ‬again,‭ ‬as political.‭” (‬p.‭ ‬135‭)

‬u mad? u jelly? When Nature Calls‭

Ever notice how all the airports look the same‭? ‬Where ever you go,‭ ‬it seems like you are always arriving and departing for the same location‭ (‬or is that just me‭?)‬.‭ ‬Is it the comfort of knowing your surroundings or has modern day travel and globalization lost their imaginations‭? ‬It’s not just airports,‭ ‬but the entire assemblage of society‭ ‬-‭ ‬gas stations,‭ ‬supermarkets,‭ ‬and restaurants all made to look the same.‭ ‬In the article‭ ‬Adrian Blackwell’s Anarchitecture‭ (‬see link for images‭) ‬by Allan Antliff the tension between capital and architecture is examined.‭ ‬Or in the words of Antliff,‭ “‬Blackwell has developed the antagonistic aspect of anarchist aesthetics by creating zones of tension enacted in the spaces between art and architecture.‭” (‬p.‭ ‬165‭)

The question is asked‭ ‬-‭ ‬how can one‭ “‬radicalize the social potential of architecture‭?” (‬p.‭ ‬167‭) ‬Growing up in the rolling ghost lands of abandoned farms and crumbling wooden red barns‭ ‬-‭ ‬I would dream of the possibilities of what these places once looked like and what their futures could hold.‭ ‬What if the grain silo that now lays empty,‭ ‬except for the dead bird bones scattered across its floor,‭ ‬had a glass staircase winding up to the top of it to look over the majestic country side‭? ‬What if that barn with old rotting hay in it,‭ ‬was turned into a workshop of sorts or maybe even an indoors basketball court-‭ ‬instead of just being an utter rats nest‭?

What happens when architecture takes the opposite approach‭? ‬When it aims to quell the social potential of individuals‭? ‬I’m reminded of the insane idea of staircases that are meant to hinder rioting,‭ ‬or if you will,‭ ‬insurrection.‭ ‬At least that is what I always think when I encounter stairs that are irregular and difficult to walk up‭ ‬-‭ ‬are they purposely designed this way‭? ‬I believe their actually may be some validity to this idea,‭ ‬however far off the truth actually is‭ ‬-‭ ‬after all I know I’m not the only one who has mentioned this before.

Antliff’s article on Adrian Blackwell,‭ ‬explores this axis of architecture and modern society.‭ ‬One that is
“constantly searching for avenues that break out of alienation,‭ ‬transparencies that bridge the gap between artist and audience,‭ ‬ruptures that draw us into contested social ground,‭ ‬where we discover our own freedom.‭” (‬p.‭ ‬177‭) ‬Thoughts of a giant tree houses and forgotten parks within the city,‭ ‬abandoned power plants and deserted subways tunnels,‭ ‬spiced with Frank Lloyd Wright all spring to mind.‭ ‬It tells the tale of the Canadian government and private developers who‭ “‬found common cause in the popularization of a familiar gentrification equation:‭ ‬poor people‭ = ‬danger.‭” (‬p.‭ ‬168‭) ‬Toilet humor aside:‭ ‬Blackwell installed a portable toilet,‭ ‬with a two way mirror acting as the door.‭ ‬This allowed those on the inside to see out,‭ ‬and those on the outside to see a reflection of themselves and the environment.‭ ‬The rest of the article goes on to document some of Blackwell’s other adventures in architecture,‭ ‬including some pinhole camera photography that is in color none-the-less‭ (‬at least the online version‭)‬.

‬Do I get paid for this…‭?

Last,‭ ‬but not least for this review is an article by Saul Newman entitled‭ ‬Voluntary Servitude Reconsidered:‭ ‬Radical Politics and the Problem of Self-Domination‭‬.‭ ‬The text asks the question of‭ “‬why do people at some level desire their own domination‭?” (‬p.‭ ‬33‭) ‬If information wants to be free,‭ ‬why don’t human beings‭? ‬Thankfully,‭ ‬this domination over us‭ “‬is a condition of our own making‭ ‬-‭ ‬it is entirely voluntary‭; ‬and all it takes to untie us from this condition is the desire to no longer be subjugated,‭ ‬the will to be free.‭” (‬p.‭ ‬33‭) ‬It all sounds easy enough,‭ ‬but like many things‭ ‬-‭ ‬it is often much easier said than done.

Newman goes on to state that‭ “‬democracy itself has encouraged a mass contentment with powerlessness and a general love of submission.‭” (‬p.‭ ‬35‭) ‬Lovers of submission is a bit strongly worded,‭ ‬but life under democracy definitely quiets a lot of people down.‭ ‬Then again,‭ ‬so does television.‭ ‬Some people have often asked me why I don’t vote,‭ ‬finding it difficult to understand why something so important for them,‭ ‬just doesn’t matter for me.‭ ‬Others have even gotten extremely angry with me‭ ‬-‭ ‬to the point of no return,‭ ‬were they don’t even want to be friends.‭ ‬Most of the time though,‭ ‬I think that people think it is just a matter of being lazy‭ ‬-‭ ‬but that couldn’t be further from the truth.‭ ‬Again for Newman,‭ “‬the state relies on us‭ allowing‭ ‬it to dominate us.‭” (‬p.‭ ‬42‭)

So,‭ ‬what does mean for those human beings who want to be free‭? ‬Newman writes:

We can take from this that radical politics must not‭ only‭ ‬be aimed at overturning established institutions like the state,‭ ‬but also at attacking the much more problematic relation through which the subject is enthralled to and dependent upon power.‭ (‬p.‭ ‬44‭) 

A little further one and more in-depth,‭ ‬Newman states specifically that:

This would mean thinking about what freedom means beyond the ideology of security‭ (‬rather than simply seeing freedom as conditioned by or necessarily constrained by security‭)‬.‭ ‬We also need to think what democracy means beyond the state,‭ ‬what politics means beyond the party,‭ ‬economic organization beyond capitalism,‭ ‬globalization beyond borders,‭ ‬and life beyond biopolitics.‭ (‬p.‭ ‬45‭) 

However simplified and full of catch-phrases these last two quotes may seem,‭ ‬I think it really puts the nail-in-the-coffin regarding what Newman is aiming for.‭ ‬While theoretically intriguing,‭ ‬the study rehashes a lot of ideas that seem secretly well-known.‭ ‬Like everyone knows‭ this‭‬,‭ ‬but is‭ this‭ ‬enough to push them over the edge‭? ‬Or are we just going in for a dip today‭? ‬Maybe even,‭ this‭ ‬will just have a drive there,‭ ‬have a look at the beautiful view,‭ ‬and return to work.‭ ‬If the majority of people honestly believe that they have everything that they need‭ ‬-‭ ‬what is there for them to be angry about‭? ‬I’m angry because more people are not angry; and also because not enough people can laugh at everything (not in a Lulzsec kind of way though, even though that is still funny… very funny [tm]).

‭***

On the whole,‭ ‬the future of ADCS looks promising.‭ ‬Recently,‭ ‬they released‭ ‬The Anarchist Turn‭‬,‭ ‬which is a collection of mostly audio and video from New York City about…‭ ‬the anarchists turn‭ (‬insert joke about anarchists taking turns here‭)‬.‭ ‬When I think of cultural studies,‭ ‬I think of something like a dialogue on hip-hop in the Caribbean,‭ ‬or and examination of Mexican migrant workers in the USA‭ ‬-‭ ‬or something like that.‭ ‬ADCS seems to expand upon the field of cultural studies,‭ ‬especially in a more theoretical direction.‭ ‬It works and the journal brings some good‭ (‬some bad‭) ‬discussions to the field of post-anarchism.‭ ‬As the journal has said,‭ ‬the toughest part is just starting because after all,‭ the secret is to really begin‭‬.

If you’d like,‭ ‬you can order the journal here:

‬Post-Anarchism Today‭

Or,‭ ‬if you are curious about more post-anarchist texts,‭ ‬you can check out the post-anarchism tag at the Anarchist Library:

‬more post-anarchism texts‭