Today Aragorn! announced his new book Occupy Everything: Anarchists in the Occupy Movement – 2009-2011 from LBC Books. This is a very exciting project for a number of reasons: (1) it is the first book to address the centrality of traditional anarchist philosophy and practice in the occupy movement, (2) it is the first of what I hope to be many titles from an original and under-recognized anarchist writer, (3) it compliments two recent volumes on the Occupy movement from Minor Compositions and Verso Books, and (4) it might be the first major title to really attract people to what will prove to be a cutting-edge new anarchist printing press (LBC Books and Little Black Cart Distribution).
This brings me to one of my central contentions about the anarchist milieu. There is a tendency in North America for anarchists to devalue intellectual labour and to disproportionately privilege anarchist practice. Moreover, there is an over-sensitivity inherent to privilege discourse which lapses into normative discourse on the best of days and ad hominem on the worst of days. Unfortunately, this over-emphasis on sensitive practice produces lags in the intellectual development and appropriation of good theory. In turn, it permits folks to over-emphasize petty personal feuds while delegitimizing the projects of folks who decided to sacrifice (a few precious ideals or standards, some money, some friendships, etc) in order to make a leap into something new and exciting. I admire and respect anybody who does this. Anarchism is nothing unless it is able to constantly re-invent itself.
What breaks my heart is the way in which North American anarchists devalue all of the work that is being done by other anarchists. Moreover, whenever an anarchist breaks with the traditional rules for play another dozen anarchists promptly respond with ad hominem without making any attempt to understand why the initial move was made. Secondly, I am concerned with the lack of respect that many anarchists have for pseudonymity (for all its faults, the scholarly world has a much better hold on this than anarchists do); perhaps they do not realize that information that goes onto the internet is permanently stored. Finally, I am most of all concerned with the conflation, demonstrated in the comments section of the book announcement, between taking control and having control. There is a real attack on Aragorn! for initiating and sustaining too many projects. In the failure of most anarchists to take control of the projects that they want to see in the world (I mean this as a synonym for ‘taking charge’ and ‘taking responsibility’), Aragorn!’s projects have actually come into being and have been sustained over long periods of time. I suspect that his projects work because he is willing to accept responsibility for his work and he realizes that things will not happen unless somebody takes a leap/risk, beyond overly-sensitive and moralizing practice, and actually brings something new into the world.