Anarchy Everywhere, Except Online

On AnarchismI suppose this is what you get when you publish a book with “anarchy” in the title. This month I’ve got two new anarchy-related essays, both of which are available in good-old print. Here’s a bit of a taste.

One is an introduction to a new collection of Noam Chomsky’s writings on Anarchism, straightforwardly titled On Anarchism, which comes out this month from the New Press.

The first evening of a solidarity bus tour in the West Bank, I listened as a contingent of college students from around the United States made an excellent discovery: they were all, at least kind of, anarchists. As they sat on stuffed chairs in the lobby of a lonely hotel near the refugee camp in war-ravaged Jenin, they probed one another’s political tendencies, which were reflected in their ways of dressing and their most recent tattoos. All of this, along with stories of past trauma, made their way out into the light over the course of our ten-day trip.

“I think I would call myself an anarchist,” one admitted.

Then another jumped into the space this created: “Yeah, totally.”

Basic agreement about various ideologies and idioms ensued—ableism, gender queerness, Zapatistas, black blocs, borders. The students took their near unison as an almost incalculable coincidence, though it was no such thing.

If you’re in the Boston area on November 18, come hear me introduce Chomsky (and you can stay to hear him speak if you want…) at MIT at 5:30.

The other bit is a retrospective review in Commonweal (the online version is behind a paywall) of Paul Goodman’s 1960 sort-of classic Growing Up Absurd:

Goodman’s prose sets out to dazzle us with its iconoclastic attitude and the striking phrases that clothe the author’s not-always-consistent arguments. He quotes from his previous books at length. Throughout he attempts to reconcile his claim to be an anarchist with his conservative instincts, a tension borne out in his life as well as on the page; he was a married family man who was promiscuously bisexual, a Jew who opposed World War II.

Among the other “mansplainers” of Goodman’s time—to borrow a neologism from the feminist blogosphere—one could be forgiven for preferring Ivan Illich, who presented his similarly adventuresome anarcho-conservative proposals with considerably more rigor and coherence; or James Baldwin, who as a black man in exile came by his prophetic tone more honestly. “Allen Ginsberg and I once pointed out to Stokely Carmichael how we were niggers,” Goodman recalled in a memoir-ish essay, referring to a 1967 BBC broadcast, “but he blandly put us down by saying that we could always conceal our disposition and pass.” Carmichael was right.

For more: stop by a fine newsstand or bookstore near you.