Anarchist History: Margins and Problems

Constructing Anarchisms

Part II

Anarchist History: Margins and Problems

An Idiosyncratic Survey

We opened our year-long experiment in making anarchism « our own » with a lengthy and not always straightforward example, as I both laid out some of the basic concepts that figure in my own synthetic approach to anarchist ideas and attempted to highlight a range of questions, concerns and difficulties that others could expect to encounter in their own attempts to put the material of the anarchist past to present use. It was, frankly, a bit meta at times—as perhaps it had to be.

The next phase, a chronological survey of the anarchist past, can be considerably more straightforward, as the problem it seeks to solve is also much simpler.

The best and the worst thing about anarchist history—or the anarchist past, fodder for various anarchist histories—is probably just the fact that there is so much of it. It’s no simple thing just to establish a general sense of the progression of events in time. So the first thing we’ll try to accomplish in this part of the course is to just make our way, decade by decade, from the 1830s to the 1930s, noting the general state of anarchist ideas and movements, together with some of the contexts that seem most useful for understanding the work of anarchists in each period.

We’ll spend roughly two weeks on each decade, during which time I’ll produced roughly four posts.

The first will be a basic historical overview, which will also include a listing of articles from the period summarizing anarchist ideas, drawn from my “Anarchist Beginnings” archive.

The second will involve the close reading of one or more featured texts from the decade in question. (See the Featured Readings list in the other column.) The goal here is simply to practice the careful examination of a variety of kinds of texts from different periods, perspectives and locations. The readings featured will not necessarily be recognized “classics” or even the products of familiar figures. In that sense, this will indeed be an idiosyncratic survey, but they are, I think, all useful as objects of closer examination—particularly in the context of our final project of constructing an anarchism of our own—and I hope that they will provoke some discussion among participants.

The third will be a sort of “ramble” through a variety of other interesting texts from the period, giving a bit more development to the summary posts and suggesting directions in which participants might wish to read more. This series of posts will more closely resemble those from the “Constructing an Anarchism” phase in their range of concerns.

And then the fourth set of posts will engage in a bit of what I’ve called alternate historiography, building on a ongoing project of mine, “The Rise and Progress of the Great Atercratic Revolution,” which plays with the question of what anarchist history and tradition might look like if we had started with different historians, exposed to different material and movements, driven by different concerns, etc. As a personal thought experiment, I’ve sketched out the circumstances under which a number of possible historians of the anarchist past might have got their start and made some basic speculations about the works they might have produced, so that they could work as a foil for figures like Max Nettlau. As the question of “the tradition” continues to be one that I think a lot of participants wrestle with, I hope these creative interventions will help to at least clarify some of the issues involved.

I’ll be continuing to post updates and engage in responses on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Mastodon and the Anarchist News site.

I’ll be posting some reflections on “Constructing an Anarchism” in the next week or so, but “Margins and Problems: An Idiosyncratic Survey” will begin the first weekend of April.

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The latin "āter" means somewhere between "dark", "obscure", "sad", or even "malevolent". Not exactly black.

So it's still like Shawn is trying to impress the audience with big words, but is there anything interesting below the icing?

It's a Greek root (ἄτερ) — without, in the absence of — in a set of clunky 19th century terms (atercratie, atercrat) that, under the circumstances, quite understandably didn't catch on. But it's one of a number of terms that we might have had to live with, instead of anarchism, had the origin story of the emerging anarchist movement initially been cobbled together by different anarchists on a different continent.

I feel that most anarchist movements fail to consider the ingrained weltanschauung in which they are immersed and how resistant it is to their ideas.

There's indeed a rare word "ater" in ancient Greek that means "without" but in the sense of being "aloof" or "apart from" (as when you broke up from a relationship, etc). Which would be a proper use if there wouldn't be a more accurate -and much easier to pronounce and write root word "a-" or "an-" that mean either an absence or sometimes a negation. So "acracy", from "άκρατος" is the form that's been used over the years, often as alternative to "anarkhia".

So I wonder what's the purpose of creating neologisms based in Greek, when Greeks might not have even used...

"ater" is latin, and assumed to come from the Indo-European

"ater" in Galician is different; meaning "to conform" or "to comply"...

I suspect that etymological propriety has seldom played much of a role in the popular acceptance of popular political terms. Proudhon might have had strong opinions about such things, but perhaps Claude Pelletier, who gave us atercratie, only had enough Greek to be dangerous. Anyway, in the context of "Constructing Anarchisms," the point of bringing up the range of proposed alternatives to anarchismatercratie, acracia, anticracy, acéphocratie, libertarian socialism — isn't to quibble about whether or not the proposers were language scholars, but to underline the specific processes by which anarchism emerged as the preferred term.

I think of atercratic as a rather clumsy word, but when I wanted to propose a title for a work of more-or-less anarchist history, which could have been written by someone who came of political age in New York libertarian circles in the 1870s, it seemed the most useful of the historical options available. Pelletier is certainly an unduly neglected figure. Perhaps it's time to finish up my various partial translations of his work, so that atercratie isn't just reduced to my appropriation of the terminology.

The whole Western weltanschauun's etymologically biased preferences towards Latin and Greek further reinforce the feedback and recycling of its own perpetuation. Language connotes values and semantic realities are what social structure depends upon to prevent spontaneous creation, which is what anarchy is.
What if anarchism was named using the Sán word for whirly-wind? " T€#*k€!ism " sounds exciting and atmospherical, what anarchism should sound like.

Forgot the g on weltanschauung's etymologically

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