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Responding to David Harvey’s critique of my paper ‘Why a radical geography must be anarchist’, I once again reiterate the importance of anarchist perspectives in contemporary politics and geographical praxis. In challenging Harvey on the limits to Marx, I urge him to think again about the hidden vanguardism, implied statism, and veiled hierarchy that continue to lurk within the Marxist project, and importantly how these specters constrain both our collective political imagination and the possibilities of radical geography. I am admittedly very critical of Harvey, but I nonetheless refuse to close the door on dialogue between the Black and Red, even in the face of ongoing Marxist ridicule of anarchist politics. Accordingly, I propose an agonistic embrace of a ‘postfraternal’ or ‘postsororal’ politics on the left, where we come to appreciate ongoing conflict as a sign of a healthy leftist milieu. In doing so we can move beyond the misguided idea that all disagreements over strategies, tactics, and organizing methods will ever be resolved. Ultimately, what I have dubbed ‘the condition of postfraternity’ keeps us alert to the continually unfolding possibilities of a thoroughly politicized and forever protean space. By embracing this shifting horizon, not as a static limit to our politics, but as a beautiful enabler of visionary possibilities, the rhizomes of emancipation grow stronger.
The limits to Marx: David Harvey
and the condition of postfraternity
Simon Springer
University of Victoria, Canada
Responding to David Harvey’s critique of my article, ‘Why a Radical Geography Must Be Anarchist’,
I reiterate the importance of anarchist perspectives in contemporary politics and geographical praxis. In
challenging Harvey on the limits to Marx, I urge him to think again about the hidden vanguardism, implied
statism, and veiled hierarchy that continue to lurk within the Marxist project, and importantly how these
specters constrain both our collective political imagination and the possibilities of radical geography. I am
admittedly very critical of Harvey, but I nonetheless refuse to close the door on dialogue between the Black
and Red, even in the face of ongoing Marxist ridicule of anarchist politics. Accordingly, I propose an agonistic
embrace of a ‘postfraternal’ or ‘postsororal’ politics on the left, where we come to appreciate ongoing
conflict as a sign of a healthy leftist milieu. In doing so, we can move beyond the misguided idea that all
disagreements over strategies, tactics, and organizing methods will ever be resolved. Ultimately, what I have
dubbed ‘the condition of postfraternity’ keeps us alert to the continually unfolding possibilities of a thor-
oughly politicized and forever protean space. By embracing this shifting horizon, not as a static limit to our
politics but as a beautiful enabler of visionary possibilities, the rhizomes of emancipation grow stronger.
anarchism, anarchist geographies, David Harvey, hierarchy, Marxism, radical geography, statism
Brotherhood is a two-way street.
—Malcolm X (quoted in Paris, 1978: 1513)
I’m flattered that David Harvey has taken the time to
write a reply to my article, ‘Why a Radical Geogra-
phy Must Be Anarchist’ (Springer, 2014d). Clearly,
he didn’t have to do so, and although he doesn’t
agree with much of my argument, I can’t help but
take his response as a huge compliment. At the same
time, I have to be honest in saying that I feel quite
disappointed with the end result of what he’s
actually written. In asking me to ‘listen’, it’s both
ironic and disheartening that Harvey is not really
offering the same courtesyinreturn.WhileIm
happy to concede that he makes some worthwhile
critiques, at the same time he problematically
pushes the same threadbare Marxist arguments that
anarchists have been responding to for a very long
time. In some instances, these are criticisms that
Corresponding author:
Simon Springer, University of Victoria, 3800 Finnerty Rd,
Victoria, BC V8P 5C2, Canada.
Dialogues in Human Geography
2017, Vol. 7(3) 280–294
ªThe Author(s) 2017
Reprints and permission:
DOI: 10.1177/2043820617732918
Mikhail Bakunin (2002 [1873]) and other anarchists
demonstrated as fallacious Marxist caricatures over
a century ago. Moreover, it is curious that Harvey
chose to focus entirely on my essay alone, rather
than dealing with the broader currents of contempo-
rary anarchist geographies (Springer, 2013), as
though a single article is the beginning and end of
what has been, and might be, said among the diverse
and expanding group of scholars working within
this (re)emerging field (Clough and Blumberg,
2012; Springer et al., 2012). He also entirely
neglects any of my other work, and particularly
my recent ‘Human Geography Without Hierarchy’
(Springer, 2014b), which is far more critical of his
work than the piece he takes aim at. Had he read this
other essay, he might have noticed that it preemp-
tively answers most of his criticisms about horizont-
alism, decentralization, and prefiguration, which
makes his response all the more curious. Perhaps
most confusing of all though is that he also ignores
the rest of the dialogue that my original essay
spawned (Clough, 2014; Gibson, 2014; Ince,
2014; Mann, 2014; Waterstone, 2014), including
my final response (Springer, 2014a), which, again,
already answers some of his critiques. All of this
suggests that Harvey hasn’t really taken the anar-
chist position in geography very seriously at all,
thus making it particularly difficult to think about
the possibility of ‘fertile collaboration’ between
Marxists and anarchists that he speaks to in con-
cluding his essay (2017: 249). To Harvey, I appar-
ently ‘want no part in such a project’ anyway, and
he suggests that I’m ‘mainly bent on polarizing the
relation between anarchism and Marxism as if they
are mutually exclusive if not hostile’ (Harvey,
2017: 234). Well no, not quite. There is an endur-
ing, if not peculiar, sense of kinship between Marx-
ism and anarchism. Certainly, I don’t deny this, not
least because they both spring from the same
socialist roots. Nonetheless, there is something of
a sibling rivalry, where anarchists and Marxists can
bring out both the worst and best in each other
when each side is prepared to listen and respond
to the other’s critiques.
Far from wanting to close down or shut off this
conflict, I think we should view it as a symptom of a
healthy politics on the left. In this regard, I take an
agonistic view of conflict, which implies a politics
of mutual admiration characterized by a sense of
respect for the other party. Agonism affirms the
perpetuity of contestation, a dimension that is fun-
damental to political struggle and social transforma-
tion. So just as children will wrestle and squabble as
part of their growth, a circumstance that will often
continue in various ways into adulthood, such
engagement confirms a fraternal or sororal bond. I
want to argue that such conflict is actually critical in
maintaining the vibrancy of radical politics. With
respect to the relationship between anarchism and
Marxism, we might productively consider the pres-
ent situation to be one of ‘postfraternity’ or ‘post-
sorority’. Of course, my chosen title plays on the
titles of two of Harvey’s (1982, 1989) major works,
which carries forward the emerging theme of this
ongoing dialogue and the tradition started by Marx
(2013 [1847]) when he rearranged the nouns in
Proudhon’s The Philosophy of Poverty (2011
[1846]). Beyond the obvious mirth, I think there is
something very useful in doing so. First, to acknowl-
edge that there are indeed limits to Marx, just as
there are limits to anarchism. There is no fail-safe
solution to politics given that its expression is
always like shifting sands in the winds of social
change. In the second instance, I follow Sidaway
(2000) in his musings on colonialism, where he
identifies one particular sense of ‘postcolonial-
ism’—in its unhyphenated form—as signifying a
continuation meant to suggest that while formal
colonialism has ended, it still has innumerable reso-
nant effects on the present. The same can be said of
socialism. The era of fraternal relations ended with
the First International, but there are many conversa-
tions, confrontations, and consternations left to be
unfurled in the immediate family of radical geogra-
phy, and broader still, among the cousins, aunts, and
uncles of the academic and activist left. I want to
show my respect for Harvey and the profound con-
tributions he’s made by continuing to challenge him
on his reading of anarchism as well as the version of
Marxism he advocates by pointing to the ways in
which he flirts with authoritarianism by perpetuat-
ing state-centrism and vanguardist ideals, even as he
wishes to deny their presence in his thinking. Wel-
come to the condition of postfraternity!
Springer 281
Bowdlerism or balderdash? Radical
geography then and now
It’s so difficult, isn’t it? To see what’s going on when
you’re in the absolute middle of something? It’s only
with hindsight we can see things for what they are.
—SJ Watson (2011: 266)
There are, of course, points of similarity between
Harvey and myself where some form of camaraderie
might be built, and in particular I found the autobio-
graphical components of his response fascinating
insofar as I could easily see myself reflected within
them. Harvey recalls having to publish at an exces-
sive rate to be taken seriously as a Marxist, some-
thing I’ve also felt the weight of as an anarchist. If
the place of radical geographers in the academy was
‘touch-and-go’ in the 1970s, then the problem seems
all the more acute today where the neoliberalization
of academia ensures that the stakes are even higher
as evermore incredibly talented scholars are rele-
gated to the part-time employment of sessional hell
(Purcell, 2007). I too recognized that as a radical
geographer my only chance at career stability was
more than mere ‘publish or perish’, but I nonethe-
less willingly carried with me all the baggage of that
‘vile and dangerous’ word ‘anarchism’ (Goldman,
1969 [1917]: 6). I did so precisely because I insist
this emancipatory philosophy deserves a seat at the
academic table, having much to offer in these times
of systemic crises. Despite being extremely produc-
tive in the first half decade of my own career, this still
wasn’t enough in the eyes of 3 out of 10 members of
my department who silently votedto deny my tenure.
Yet Harvey is less than happy with my apparently
‘bowdlerized’ reading of the development of radical
geography, and in particular his position within it, as
though I somehow wouldn’t understand the precarity
of being a young radical geographer.
I never suggest that Harvey’s prolific writings
‘imprisoned radical geography in the Marxist fold’
(Harvey, 2017: 236). These are his words, not mine.
I wasn’t around in the 1970s to witness the early
development of radical geography, but I can cer-
tainly appreciate all-too-well how difficult the ter-
rain must have been. What is a little peculiar though
is how he expects that I might know all the ins-and-
outs of early radical geography in the same way as
someone who lived through it. ‘Springer should cor-
rect his erroneous view from “hindsight”’, Harvey
scolds, ‘as to what actually happened in radical cir-
cles in North America after 1969’ (Harvey, 2017:
236). Yet isn’t what ‘actually happened’ a particular
claim to a single truth,rather than anadmission of the
multiple intertwined narratives that inform the history
of radical geography? This sort of singular view is
basically my problem with Marxist geography all
along, as though other views or variants of leftist
politics don’t really matter. ‘The idea that I
“solidified what Folke had considered obligatory”
is way off the mark’, Harvey (2017: 236) complains.
But is it? This is where hindsight becomes critically
important. Throughout his essay, Harvey wants to
imply that his version of Marxism is somehow
unorthodox or unusual, a sentiment he repeated sev-
eral times during his talk at a recent American Asso-
ciation of Geographers (AAG) meeting in Chicago
(Harvey, 2015). I don’t buy it. Harvey’s (2008, 2010)
interpretation of the quite heterodox Henri Lefebvre
is, for example, far from progressive. He attempts to
read Lefebvre’s expression of the ‘right to the city’,
and particularly autonomous and radical democratic
social movements, ‘through old lenses: namely ...-
statism, centralism, and hierarchy’ (Souza, 2010:
315). Setting aside the question of how orthodox
Harvey’s Marxism actually is, we can look to the
consistency of his work as having cemented his
legacy as one of the most well-known Marxist figures
to ever grace the academy. Sure, back in the 1970s,
his place in the history of geographical thought was
not assured, but today there standsthe David Harvey,
a legend (Castree and Gregory, 2008).
Harvey’s influence is undeniably monumental.
So when Harvey suggests that ‘it seems mighty odd
that Springer has electedtowritearebuttalto
[Folke’s] not very influential piece some forty two
years after its publication and without, moreover,
paying any mind to its historical and geographical
context’ (2017: 236), one might rightly ask if this is
really a fair criticism? Besides, I actually don’t
begrudge him for being a leading light in the disci-
pline; rather, I simply point to that being a contem-
porary matter of fact. There is no denying that
Harvey’s work has set the tone for a significant
282 Dialogues in Human Geography 7(3)
amount of scholarship that has followed, and
consequently I don’t think my historical reading of
the contemporary shape of radical geography is
actually incorrect. Harvey seems oddly unaware of
his current position in the discipline, suggesting he
has only really mattered in the last 10 years. This is
quite peculiar given that he’s been making waves in
geography for several decades. Social Justice and the
City (Harvey, 1973), The Limits to Capital (Harvey,
1982), and The Condition of Postmodernity (Harvey,
1989) have all made a tremendous impact, where the
latter is one of the most influential social science
books of all time. What is indeed ‘mighty odd’ is that
a tribute to the impact of Harvey’s scholarship would
be written only three short years into his ‘really
“influential writings”’ being published (Castree and
Gregory, 2008), as though anything prior to A Brief
History of Neoliberalism (Harvey, 2005) hadn’t
already assured his legacy.
Even if it is the case that Harvey only came into
his own in the past decade, by the time I embarked
on my PhD in 2005, Harvey was already established
as a household name in geography circles. Perhaps
Harvey is simply very humble, I don’t know. Yet
modest though he may be, Harvey should still be
willing to admit that my original article isn’t any
more a direct rebuttal to Folke (1972) than his piece
is to Bookchin (1986 [1971]). Harvey knows as well
as I do that we both chose these titles as a form of
wry amusement to draw readers into a conversation
about anarchism and Marxism. While this discus-
sion of the contours of radical geography’s histori-
cal trajectory is important to point out in terms of
defending my particular reading of the contempo-
rary dominance of Marxian analysis, it doesn’t form
the crux of my problem with Harvey’s rebuttal. I’m
more concerned with the troubling caricature of
anarchism that Harvey seeks to perpetuate, a con-
cern to which I now turn my attention.
Denial of the state and the state of
denial: The hidden vanguard
As far as my purely personal preferences went I would
have liked to join the Anarchists.
—George Orwell (2000 [1938]: 96)
Harvey’s use of Barcelona in the 1930s as an exam-
ple of anarchism gone wrong is a curious choice, not
least because it was such a successful realization of
anarchist ideas (Breitbart, 1978; Ealham, 2010).
Notwithstanding all that could be said about this
particular case, let’s take the ‘two broad lines of
critique of the conventional anarchist position’ that
arise from Harvey’s reading seriously. The first crit-
icism is the ostensible anarchist contempt for power
and the ‘failure to shape and mobilize political
power into a sufficiently effective configuration to
press home a revolutionary transformation in soci-
ety as a whole’ (Harvey, 2017: 242). We could first
begin by unpacking power in a Foucauldian sense
(Foucault, 1980), which allows us to recognize that
anarchists do not disregard power at all, but actually
use this circuitous and fluid concept quite effec-
tively when considered as an ‘entanglement’ of
social relations (Sharp et al., 2000). We might also
point out that, in order to demonstrate this supposed
anarchist disdain for power, Harvey uses Holloway
(2002), which is amusing insofar as Holloway is, of
course, a Marxist. It also skirts around the argu-
ments I presented against the ‘totalizing spatial
logic’ of a Marxian version of revolution (Springer,
2014d: 262), whereby the Promethean impulse of
remaking everything and sweeping up everyone in
a singular moment of complete transformation dis-
regards the notion that ‘other worlds’ are already
happening (Gibson-Graham, 2008). Not everything
needs to be remade. There is a colonizing character
to such a view of revolution that is undeniable, and
one has to wonder where indigenous peoples and
other minority groups fit in to such a program? Of
course, recognition for such diversity has long been
the Achilles’ heel of Marxism and its class-centric
outlook. In Harvey’s own words, he admits that he
‘personally do[es]n’t trust continuous insurrections
that spring spontaneously from self-activity
....Self-liberation through insurrection is all well and
good but what about everyone else?’ (2017: 243). Here
is the hidden vanguard, sneaking unseen like a 603.500
tall invisible rabbit in a James Stewart film.
Yet what about everyone else? Are they in need
of a grand salvationary gesture? Didn’t European
colonialism marshal the exact same rhetoric in ask-
ing the colonized to trust its motives, all while
Springer 283
perpetuating a deep suspicion of the ‘Other’? For
anarchists, as the insurrectionary ethos moves
through a community, it mobilizes political power
by circulating ideas and making room for voluntary
association. Such a view of power isn’t actually
individualist; rather, it’s necessarily an assemblage,
where the individual and the community are conti-
nually negotiated categories. And what of Marxists
in a revolutionary conjuncture of totalizing change?
The vanguard simply decides what’s best, and those
who don’t want to be liberated or assigned roles are
dragged along kicking and screaming? In spite of
these limits, Harvey remains committed to his state-
centric view of radical politics, arguing, ‘the state
cannot be neglected as a potential site for radicali-
zation’ (2017: X). But doesn’t this perpetuate a nar-
row view of how political power might be
mobilized? Aside from disregarding the inherent
authoritarianism that rests at the heart of any version
of the state, I also wonder if Harvey has given any
thought to the idea that, in advocating for the radi-
calization of the state, he is also actually arguing for
the radicalization of capital? Certainly he is aware
of the interplay between state and capital, noting the
contradiction between ‘the supposedly “free” exer-
cise of individual private property rights and the
collective exercise of coercive regulatory state
power to define, codify and give legal form to those
rights’ (Harvey, 2014: 42). Kropotkin (2002 [1903]:
181) recognized the origin of capital and the state as
irrevocably intertwined, where ‘these institutions
developed side by side, mutually supporting and re-
enforcing each other’. Marx (1976 [1867]) knew this
too, giving it the name ‘primitive accumulation’.
Harvey (2003) has also acknowledged the ongoing
character of this bloodthirsty relationship between
capital and the state, calling it ‘accumulation by dis-
possession’. So why lean on a statist crutch?
Just how deeply this relationship between capit-
alism and the state runs has long been the focus of
anarchists, particularly in critiquing nominally
socialist states as in fact versions of state capitalism
(Goldman, 1996). Bookchin (1986 [1971]: 207)
asked Marxists to ‘listen’ when he argued that,
Marxism .... is assimilated by the most advanced
forms of state capitalist movement—notably Russia.
By an incredible irony of history, Marxian ‘socialism’
turns out to be in large part the very state capitalism
that Marx failed to anticipate in the dialectic of capit-
alism. The proletariat, instead of developing into a
revolutionary class within the womb of capitalism,
turns out to be an organ within the body of bourgeois
In this light, isn’t any view that sees potential in the
state ultimately a fetishization that allows the foun-
dations of capitalism to remain intact? Doesn’t such
a position leave us vulnerable to neoliberalism, par-
ticularly if, as Harvey (2014: 27) contends, ‘some
semblance of state power has to exist in order to
sustain the individualised property rights and struc-
tures of law that, according to theoreticians like
Friedrich Hayek, guarantee the maximum of non-
coercive individual liberty’? In spite of lifting his
title from Bookchin’s essay, the message seems to
have been entirely lost on Harvey who refuses to
accept that state power will always operate in the
narrow interests of the few given the hierarchical
nature of this form of organization. If anarchism is
susceptible to a neoliberal politics in one way, then
Marxism surely is in another. The difference is that
while some Marxists have acknowledged this limit
to Marxism and have responded by moving ever
closer to an anarchist line through the development
of autonomist theory (Wright, 2002), such a critique
of anarchism is only possible through caricature. It
is a willful misreading of anarchism to present it as
synonymous with radical individualism. In a com-
munal spirit, Barker and Pickerill (2012) show us
why it is important for anarchists to understand and
learn from indigenous peoples, while Kahnawake
Mohawk scholar Taiaiake Alfred (2005) articulates
a case for anarcho-indigenism. Yet Harvey attempts
to discredit the communal forms of action advanced
by indigenous communities, and championed by
Chomsky (2007) and Scott (2009), by implying that
such examples are not real invocations of anarchist
praxis. This insinuation is not only misguided given
that harmony (Clark and Martin, 2013), mutual aid
(Kropotkin, 2008 [1902]), and a certain sense of
spiritualism (Springer, 2014c) are core themes of
anarchism, but equally it is indicative of Harvey’s
(2017: 247) own ‘non-negotiable ideological
284 Dialogues in Human Geography 7(3)
position’ that the state can be reformed. Given the
deep communal roots of anarchism, the use of anar-
chist themes by neoliberals is quite frankly non-
sense, and nothing more or less than the
misappropriation of ideas.
I’m willing to nonetheless accept that anarchists
need to be vigilant against neoliberal infection, in
the same way that Marxists should be weary of the
colonizing potential of the state (Springer, 2012).
The Khmer Rouge radicalized the state in Cambo-
dia. We know the result, but here’s the rub: The
Communist Party of Kampuchea’s leadership were
also in denial about their vanguardism, and in fact
they continue to be to this day as the ongoing tribu-
nal has made clear. Obviously, I’m not accusing
Harvey of secretly harboring genocidal machina-
tions to ensure his Marxist project is seen through,
but genocide was not Pol Pot’s dream either. In my
recent book, I recount my Khmer language teacher’s
history with Saloth Sar, a man she remembers as
gentle and kind (Springer, 2015). Prior to becoming
known as Brother Number One, having transformed
himself into Pol Pot, Saloth Sar was her childhood
teacher. Here, in this most startling example, we
find Hannah Arendt’s (1963) ‘banality of evil’,
wherein history’s profoundest moments of malice
are seen as being fulfilled not by sociopaths or fana-
tics but by the blinkered recklessness of ordinary
people. Yet we might correct Arendt’s formulation
because the banality of evil is not actually banal at
all. Instead, it represents an acceptance of the pre-
mises of the state, its function as the institutionali-
zation of power, and the erasure this brings in our
ability to see the violence it unleashes.
Evil is not of the everyday. Pol Pot was not born a
monster. He was once a sweet and innocent baby.
Arendt could only view evil as banal because she
failed to notice the banality of the state itself, with
its ugly, twisted trawls of codified rules, vested not
in specialization or common good, but in the inter-
ests of an elite, a vanguard. The moment we attempt
to crystallize our relations in concrete form and
invest them with authority is the exact same moment
that we fail in our radical, revolutionary trajectory.
So we see mass killings as a common feature of
Marxism put into practice, not because there is
something wrong with socialist ideas, but rather
because the state represents the apotheosis of the
human capacity for violence. People are not good
or bad. Neither are co-ops, and surely they are only
as good as their members’ desire to make them such.
It follows, then, that organization is not good or bad,
yet states are of an altogether different stripe. They
do something to us. They arrange the circuits of
power in such a way that attempts to make it flow
in one direction. They render us cogs in a fixed
machine with a self-replicating logic, rather than
voluntary associates within a continually unfolding
process. The state can never be radical. It is an
abomination that always serves the few, while
demanding blind obedience from the many. Such a
demand is achieved in the best incidents through
flags waved and anthems sung and in the worst
through shots fired and bloodshed.
Stretching the horizontal vision:
Federation beyond hierarchy
and authority
Life already shows in which direction the change will
be made. Not in increasing the powers of the State, but
in resorting to free organization and free federation in
all those branches which are now considered as attri-
butes of the State.
—Peter Kropotkin (2002 [1887]: 68–69)
The second major claim that Harvey draws from
Barcelona is that anarchism lacks the ability ‘to
stretch the vision of political activism from local
to far broader geographical scales’ (2017: 242). Har-
vey means to warn us of what he elsewhere refers to
as the ‘fetishism of organizational preference’
(2012a: 7), which he assumes to be a mistaken prior-
itization of the method of organizing over its desired
outcome. To Harvey, such a prefigurative politics,
which is the here and now of anarchism (Ince, 2012;
Springer, 2012), supposedly prevents anarchists
from being able to plan major infrastructures, man-
age environmental concerns, or service transport
and communication networks. Of course, I already
provide a partial answer to this in my original essay
(Springer, 2014d), where I point to Colin Ward’s
(2004) example of postal services functioning not
Springer 285
through a central world authority, but via voluntary
agreements. Kropotkin (2002 [1887]) makes the
same point with respect to the independent federa-
tion of European railways in his time. Harvey
attempts to preempt being called out on the inaccu-
racy of his claim by stating that ‘anarchist town
planners (including Bookchin) understood this
problem but their work is largely ignored within the
anarchist movement’ (2017: 242–3). To say this work
is overlooked only reveals Harvey’s limited knowl-
edge of the literature and the scant attention he pays
to anarchist writings, and particularly to anarcho-
syndicalism, anarchism’s oldest answer to industrial
relations wherein worker-managed production sys-
tems are networked into a stateless socialist society
(Rocker, 2004 [1938]; Solidarity Federation, 2012).
Harvey knows of Bookchin’s libertarian municipal-
ism, but he doesn’t take it seriously. Demonstrating
the depths of his state-centric imagination, he lam-
poons it by saying ‘if it looks like a state, and feels
like a state, and quacks like a state, then it’s a state’
(Harvey, 2012c: n.p.). Elsewhere, he suggests Book-
chin’s idea about assemblies is ‘well worth elaborat-
ing as part of a radical anti-capitalist agenda’
(Harvey, 2012a: 85), yet instead of actually doing
so, Harvey falls back on a centralization argument,
where the state takes center stage.
Perhaps the most confounding statement in Har-
vey’s entire essay is that the
dialectic between decentralization and centralization
is one of the most important contradictions within
capital ...and I wish all those, like Springer, who
advocate decentralization as if it is an unalloyed good
would look more closely at its consequences and
Given that I dedicate an entire essay to this exact
question (Springer, 2014b), it’s unfortunate that
Harvey asks me to listen when he clearly doesn’t
do so himself. Far from treating decentralization as a
pure virtue, I attempt to work through what a pro-
gressive, anarchist view of decentralized horizont-
alism actually means. In the process, I identify the
contradictions that lurk within Harvey’s hierarchi-
cal political outlook, arguing that he ‘poisons the
well of decentralization by pre-emptively refusing
its possibilities and positioning every movement
towards a more autonomous political arrangement
as a device that somehow necessarily greases the
rails for a neoliberal future’ (Springer, 2014b: 403).
Harvey dismisses anarchism’s coupling of
decentralization with anti-capitalism precisely
because Marxism cannot accommodate prefigura-
tive politics, treating horizontality as a charming,
but ultimately limited if not futile, distraction from
realizing the bigger revolutionary picture. Horizont-
alism is consequently positioned as something that
might happen after the promised great withering of
the state, and so we can see plainly that the ‘stages of
history’ is not a caricature, but an unacknowledged
specter that continues to haunt the Marxist project.
Failing to understand this particular limit to Marx-
ism, Harvey invokes the idea that ‘it is difficult if
not impossible take consensual horizontality
to much larger scales’ and that it is
impossible to proceed without setting up ‘confederal’
or ‘nested’ (which means inevitably hierarchical in my
view but then this too may just be semantics) structures
of decision-making that entail[s] serious adjustments
in organized thinking as well as forms of institutiona-
lized governance. (2017: 248)
I’ve already offered a lengthy response, where
I make clear that the relationship between scale and
hierarchy is not mere semantics (Springer, 2014b),
yet Harvey is content to ignore the whole critique of
the scalar imagination and the emancipatory politics
that flow from a flat ontology (Marston et al., 2005;
Woodward et al., 2012). To Harvey it would seem
that a caricature of authority is a better reply than
thinking through how a rhizomic politics can indeed
‘stretch the vision of political activism’ (2017: 242),
and how it does so without resorting to the hierarch-
ical politics that are necessarily implied by scalar
thinking. Federalism is, of course, the long-standing
anarchist answer to hierarchy (Proudhon, 1980
[1863]; Ward, 2011), yet Harvey apparently can’t
be bothered to work through their differences.
Instead of a serious discussion of authority, we
get nuggets like
I certainly would not welcome a pilot landing at JFK
proclaiming that as a good anarchist she does not
286 Dialogues in Human Geography 7(3)
accept the legitimacy of the air traffic controllers’
authority and that she proposes to disregard all avia-
tion rules in the landing process. (Harvey, 2017: 239)
While Harvey assumes he has stumbled upon the
ultimate trump card, he simply confuses specialist
knowledge with authority. This is a question that
Bakunin (2010 [1882]: 24) answered long ago when
he wrote:
In the matter of boots, I refer to the authority of the
bootmaker; concerning houses, canals, or railroads,
I consult that of the architect or the engineer. For such
or such special knowledge I apply to such or such a
savant. But I allow neither the bootmaker nor the
architect nor savant to impose his authority upon me.
I listen to them freely and with all the respect merited
by their intelligence, their character, their knowledge,
reserving always my incontestable right of criticism
and censure.
This isn’t good enough for Harvey though, and he
routinely ridicules horizontal organization, using
extreme examples like nuclear power plants and air
traffic control to make his case. For example, in a
lecture delivered at London School of Economics
(LSE), he argued that horizontalism is impractical
there are many aspects of contemporary life that are
now organized in what you might call ‘tightly-coupled
systems’ where you need command and control struc-
tures. I wouldn’t want my anarchist friends to be in
charge of a nuclear power station. (Harvey, 2012b:
Yet since horizontal organizational tactics in anar-
chism are usually part of a broader class struggle
(Solidarity Federation, 2012), it is absurd to suggest
that there would ever be a time where anarchists
would enter into assembly—federated or other-
wise—during a nuclear meltdown or the complex
operation of landing an airplane. Indeed, without a
discernable hierarchy to oppose, ‘in what possible
circumstance would collective struggle be neces-
sary during such risky periods?’ (fkshultze, 2013).
Nonetheless, mutual aid in times of disaster—both
natural and manufactured—is a recurrent human
theme, where people regularly come together and
organize themselves effectively around an ensuing
crisis in the complete absence of a centralized
authority. We saw this with spectacular effect in the
wake of Hurricane Katrina, where the state was
more concerned with restoring ‘law and order’ and
criminalizing desperate people than it was with
relief and rescue efforts. In response to the state’s
failure, people instead helped themselves and each
other, particularly through the formation of the
Common Ground Collective. For Kropotkin (2008
[1902]: 137), the tendency for mutual aid ‘has so
remote an origin, and is so deeply interwoven with
all the past evolution of the human race, that it has
been maintained ...notwithstanding all vicissitudes
of history’.
The Marxist cartoonist and the
anarchist other: Of caricature
and insurrection
You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in
the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
—Walt Disney (quoted in Disney Miller, 1959: 89)
Some of Harvey’s response is so willfully mis-
guided that I can’t help but find significant humor
in it. He entirely misses the political implications of
reciprocity, active critical thinking, and a healthy
skepticism for authority that rest at the center of
both my essay and anarchist praxis (Springer,
2014d). Rather than appreciating that what I am
speaking to with my examples of the mundanity of
anarchism are principles of mutual aid, voluntary
association, self-management, and direct action,
Harvey reduces his argument to silliness. ‘Perpe-
tually questioning authority, rules and codes of
behavior, and disobeying stupid or irrelevant rules
is one thing’, Harvey writes, ‘disobeying all such
mandates on anarchist principle as Springer pro-
poses is quite another’ (2017: 239). Of course I
don’t propose any such thing, and the idea of an
anarchist ‘mandate’ is preposterous. The only hard
and fast proposition present here is Harvey’s polit-
ical imagination, which appears to be cast in ideo-
logical stone. Although Harvey says he is tempted
by parody, he doesn’t actually resist the urge to dive
Springer 287
headfirst into mockery where his distaste for anar-
chism becomes palpable.
What of polarization and hostility? While disre-
garding a posted sign that says ‘poisonous snakes
are in this area’ is an amusing analogy, ask Rosa
Parks in 1955 about a sign that said ‘Negroes at the
back of the bus’ and it isn’t so funny anymore. Sud-
denly, we become well aware of the emancipatory
potential of a single act of disobedience or personal
insurrection. This sentiment isn’t meant as senseless
violence, but in Stirner’s (1993 [1845]) etymologi-
cal sense of insurrection as an act of rebellion, a
‘rising up’ above oppressive socio-economic and
politico-ideological conditions. The point is that
anarchism is a form of politics that compels us to
think critically about rules and whose interest they
actually serve. The caricature Harvey perpetuates is
that anarchists have no rules at all. Maybe there is a
sensible reason to follow a sign, such as a warning
about venomous animals, but if a ‘Whites only’ sign
is posted outside a bathroom, there exists a very
good reason to challenge it. While Rosa Parks was
just one of many who took such a risk, when refus-
ing to sit at the back of the bus she liberated herself
as an act of insurrection. Her defiance was part of a
broader movement, but she didn’t wait for a van-
guard to show her how everyone else could be lib-
erated. She took direct action herself because she
was tired of giving in, a moment of remarkable
courage that allowed the rhizomes of emancipation
to grow stronger.
Harvey finds the assertion that all authority is
illegitimate ‘ridiculous if not dangerous’ (2017:
239), which of course he should, but his ridicule is
misdirected and should be aimed at the cartoon he’s
drawn. His caricature of anarchists’ thinking on
authority doesn’t ‘give anarchism a bad name’, it
gives Harvey one, and if he placed more value on
hindsight he might be slightly embarrassed in hav-
ing attempted to pin such nonsense on anarchism.
There is not a willy-nilly disregard of anything and
everything. We are talking about anarchy,not
anomie, which means that there is critical thought
about what rules are silly and what rules work.
Anarchism doesn’t mean ‘no rules’. It means ‘no
rulers’. Shouldn’t we be willing to question any set
parameters, particularly when they have been nailed
down and codified as sovereign law? When anar-
chists call the legitimacy of authority into question,
this is meant to imply that authority is fundamen-
tally contestable and any decision to follow must be
entered into via one’s own volition, not through
force or fraud. As Bakunin (2010 [1882]: 24)
[i]f I bow before the authority of the specialists and
avow my readiness to follow, to a certain extent and as
long as may seem to me necessary, their indications
and even their directions, it is because their authority is
imposed on me by no one, neither by men nor by God.
Yet it would appear that Harvey resorts to parody
because he has little else to go on. When one starts to
take the possibilities of anarchism seriously, rather
than perpetuating ridicule, it becomes clear just how
much potential it has to offer. Harvey has dedicated
his career to Marxism, so perhaps we shouldn’t be
surprised that he protects the citadel, but he does so
by building walls with the stonework of contempt.
Yet, to Harvey, I am the mason, and he accuses me
of constructing ‘a fantasy narrative of anarchism in
geography as victimized by Marxism to support his
central objective which is to polarize matters at this
particular historical moment (for reasons I do not
understand)’ (2017: 237). Thanks be to Harvey for
informing me of my ‘central objective’, but yet
again he’s unfortunately missed the mark.
Why isn’t it fair game to identify ongoing blind
spots within Marxian analysis? Why can’t we have a
dialogue about the lack of attention that has been
afforded to anarchism, owing in no small part to the
strength of Marxism in contemporary geographical
thought? Why am I blamed for perpetuating ‘para-
noid nonsense’ simply because I’ve raised a series
of questions about the limits of Marx and suggest it
is time for a reexamination of the anarchist roots of
radical geography and an exploration of the promise
that anarchist geographies might hold today? The
dismissive and derisive responses I’ve received
from Marxists aren’t exactly indicative of brotherly
love (Mann, 2014; Waterstone, 2014), and the idea
that there shouldn’t be an ongoing conversation
about how the left is organized seems highly apoli-
tical. Harvey speaks to openness but then closes the
288 Dialogues in Human Geography 7(3)
door in my face through his liberal use of satire.
Obviously, an insurrectionary swell has to be more
than me borrowing my mother-in-law’s car, but this
is an expression of reciprocity located in the every-
day where we actually exercise our agency. The
point here is to signal a politics of possibility, which
finds its impetus in mundane acts of ordinary insur-
rection (Scott, 2012). In the same way, surely Har-
vey sees his writing as pointing to a politics and
doesn’t imagine that an entire revolution will be
born from, and live its life through, the tip of his
pen. His contribution consists of the radical geogra-
phical imaginations that he conjures by the words
that flow across his page.
The point of horizontalism and the negation of
vanguardism is that we all play a role, we all con-
tribute, we all matter. But I’m not here to speak to
victimhood. I’m happy to take a kick in the teeth, but
my lament all along has been that geographers have
scarcely paid attention to anarchism. It is undeniable
that the bulk of radical critique over the past 40
years has been in a Marxian vein. And, yes, the
profound influence of Harvey has something to do
with this whether he’s willing to admit it or not. This
statement shouldn’t be misread as blame, but rather
as a testament to the quality and strength of his
analyses. Make no mistake: David Harvey has done
a hell of a lot of good for geography!But he’s not
beyond critique. I’d like to think that Harvey would
necessarily agree. I’m not the first challenger to
arrive on the scene in contesting the Marxist ortho-
doxy in radical geography. Both Rosalyn Deutsche
(1991) and Gibson-Graham (1996) got Harvey’s
goat many years ago by dismantling the totalizing
impulses of Marxism. In Chicago, he admitted to
being ‘pissed off’ with the latter, saying ‘these were
supposed to be colleagues’ and so he ‘took a little
cut at them, but ...frankly, I think they actually
deserved it’ (Harvey, 2015). Fair enough, I suppose,
as such back and forth is the nature of healthy
debate, representing the continual unfolding of, and
need for, politics. I certainly hope that late in my
career I have young guns giving me a tough time
because it will mean that my work has mattered, that
I’ve given the geographical community something
to chew on, and that the essence of radical intellec-
tual critique lives on.
It’s only castles burning:
Disagreement and the politics
of listening
Blind man running through the light of the night with
an answer in his hand.
—Neil Young (1970)
Anarchism is a serious contemporary imperative
that can no longer be ignored. The fact that Harvey
is taking some notice suggests to me that some-
where, perhaps very deep down, he is cognizant that
there is a changing of the guard on the political left.
There is no doubt that Harvey has made a tremen-
dous impact on the shape of geographical thought,
but if ‘Listen, Anarchist!’ is the standard by which
the relevance of contemporary Marxian theory is to
be measured, then I think it is in even worse shape
than I had considered in my original essay
(Springer, 2014d). One of the key problems is Har-
vey’s inability to also listen without simply falling
back on his own caricatural assumptions. At times
he does take heed, suggesting that ‘[i]f, as Springer
says, anarchism is primarily “about actively rein-
venting the everyday through a desire to create new
forms of organization” then I am all for it’ (Harvey,
2017: X). Such an admission is welcome because at
a fundamental level this is what anarchism is all
about. It is the embrace of the everyday, where the
here and now of anarchism form the geography of
insurrectionary change. No rhetoric, no hyperbole,
with anarchism the revolution is literally at our feet!
Yet elsewhere Harvey frustrates with his obvious
lack of attention. For someone concerned about the
apparent ‘quota of misrepresentations, exaggera-
tions and ad hominem criticisms’ within my article,
Harvey certainly could have spent more time con-
sidering how he replicates these attributes, wherein
‘the critique incorporates and mirrors far too much
of that which it criticizes’ (2017: 244). A case in
point is when he refers to my positioning of hori-
zontalism as the optimal organizational form as
‘exclusive and exclusionary dogma’ (Harvey,
2017: 249). Of course, I answer the question of hor-
izontalism at length elsewhere (Springer, 2014b),
but clearly he paid it no mind. In my response to
Springer 289
those involved in the original dialogue, I also made
my position on radical geography very clear by stat-
ing that,
My mission is only to call for the necessary space
wherein we can collectively decide for ourselves what
is possible within geography, rather than being bound
to particular methodologies and parochial
ideas ...You can call this ‘anarchism’, ‘critical anti-
hegemonic iconoclasm’, ‘paradigm destabilizing
recalcitrant analysis’, ‘non-conformist insurgent
praxis’, or ‘don’t tell me what to do theory’ for all I
care. The point is, we are talking about a mindset of
breaking archetypes, tearing up blueprints, and scrib-
bling over leitmotifs. (Springer, 2014a: 306)
Yet Harvey is content to make unfounded antago-
nistic statements like, ‘Strange that Springer, the
open-minded freedom-loving anarchist, should seek
to foreclose on the intellectual and political possi-
bilities open to us at this time in this way’ (2017:
237). The problem again, of course, is that Harvey
isn’t really listening at all, which speaks to a soul
tormented by an unacknowledged vanguardism.
Others must listen to his answers, but there is a
limited willingness to return the favor.
The shape of contemporary social movements
looks very different from the politics Harvey imagi-
nes. As the winds of change blow through the social
sciences, his response reads like a reactionary effort
to stay relevant when instead Harvey should be put-
ting up his sail and enjoying the ride!He no longer
needs to ensure his legacy. It is cemented. Harvey is
one of the greatest minds to ever grace our field, and
he is rightfully an inspiration to us all. One thing is
certain: I would not be an anarchist if Harvey wasn’t
first a Marxist. For this, I owe him a huge debt of
gratitude. I have a deep sense of respect for the
contribution he’s made, which will remain a tremen-
dous gift to the (re)radicalization of geography. But
this doesn’t change where we are at today in the
current conjuncture of heightened authoritarianism
and a wolven state that hides in neoliberal sheep’s
clothing. The state can no longer represent the limit
of our geographical imaginations, and it is for this
reason that the Marxist sun is setting in our field.
More and more young scholars are awakening to the
vibrant potential of an anarchist dawn. This isn’t
mere ideology. Instead, as the Occupy movement
made crystal clear, the political climate of the world
actually demands it. As academics, we need to listen
to the politics of the people, and not simply feign
that we are. Fortunately, not all Marxists are as stal-
wart to the ‘spirit and letter of Marx’ as Harvey
(Walker, 2004: 434), and there is an increasingly
autonomist character among those who seem to
recognize anarchism as ‘the ultimate horizon of all
forms of radical politics’ (Newman, 2010: 18). If the
Black and Red are to resolve their differences, then
we would all do well to recognize and appreciate
this outer edge of radical possibility, not as a limit,
but as an aspiration to live into. The limits to Marx-
ism are to be found in the stunted idea that there
should be parameters to radical possibility, a char-
acter that defines the ongoing politics of waiting, the
hidden vanguardism, and the continuing state-
centric appeal to authority that Harvey demonstrates
so clearly. We must instead become the horizon,
living and breathing its possibilities without consid-
ering it as a static endpoint or fixed boundary, but as
a beautiful enabler (Springer, 2016). After all, a
stateless society characterized by free association
was also Marx’s future vision. The difference is that
anarchists are not content to reside in the fragile
dreams of tomorrow, gathering strength today by
turning castles in the air into earthly dwellings here
and now.
There is no foreclosure within my version of rad-
ical geography, only a notion that there is much to
be gained by returning to anarchism and exploring
once more the emancipatory terrain traversed by
Kropotkin and Reclus. In this light, Harvey’s see-
mingly apolitical lament that
[s]adly, this comes not only at a time when the con-
juncture is right for a revival of interest in Marxist
political economy, but it also coincides with a political
moment when others are beginning to explore new
ways of doing politics (2017: X)
seems both ironic and misguided. Those studies that
remain Marxist are moving ever closer to an anar-
chist line, something Harvey (2012a) rails against in
Rebel Cities, but there is nothing ‘sad’ about rekind-
ling a conversation around political organization,
290 Dialogues in Human Geography 7(3)
unless of course one’s point is to attach a defibrilla-
tor to an expired version of Marxism that no longer
resonates with the political realities of emancipatory
struggle on the left (see Dean, 2012). And so Harvey
suggests that the gulf between anarchism and Marx-
ism is one that I am ‘concerned to deepen if [I] can’
(2017: 246), which entirely misses the point. I only
want to reassert and reinsert anarchist ideas into
contemporary geographical praxis. Throwing down
the gauntlet was an attempt to compel Marxists to
listen (and in turn for them to ask me to also listen)
and thereby open a renewed dialogue,hencethe
publication of my original article here in Dialogues
in Human Geography.Tomychagrin,Inaively
didn’t anticipate the ridicule and attack from some
Marxists that followed (Mann, 2014; Waterstone,
2014), and it remains unknown to me why some feel
the need to defend Marxist thought to such an absurd
and self-defeating extent. If in this response I’ve
been extremely critical of Harvey, it is only because
I view him as a worthy adversary with something
very important to say. I embrace adversarial politics
in an agonistic sense, which means I see Harvey as
representing a legitimate rival.
As an anarchist, I don’t think we need a consen-
sual politics where conflict is avoided or eradicated.
Instead, I embrace the possibility of difference and
dissent against the apolitical end-state utopianism
that assumes we’ll all ever agree (Springer, 2011,
2014c). So I propose that perhaps we might embrace
a postfraternal or postsororal politics on the left,
where we move beyond the idea that everything will
be resolved between anarchists, Marxists, feminists,
poststructuralists, situationists, autonomists, and so
forth. I want to argue that with any healthy family
comes some degree of adversity and an acceptance
of disagreement. The condition of postfraternity
keeps us alert to the continually unfolding possibi-
lities of a thoroughly politicized space in the sense
that Massey (2005) avows but also acknowledges
our enduring kinship on the left. Postfraternal poli-
tics are more than a two-way street; they are a busy
intersection without traffic lights!But like those
European planners who are experimenting with the
removal of traffic signs, we can begin to recognize
that the approach actually works. The number of
accidents can be dramatically reduced so long as
we are willing to listen to each other, interacting
‘as brethren—by means of friendly gestures, nods
of the head and eye contact, without the harassment
of prohibitions, restrictions and warning signs’
(Schulz, 2006: n.p.). In the spirit of postfraternity,
I take my hat off to David Harvey.
Thanks to Jamie Gillen, Marcelo Lopes de Souza, Richard
J. White, Reuben Rose-Redwood, James Sidaway, Chris
Wilbert, and Anthony Ince for their helpful comments.
Although these colleagues helped to refine my argument,
the ideas herein along with their deficiencies are my
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest
with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publica-
tion of this article.
The author(s) received no financial support for the
research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
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... The (false) antagonism between anticapitalism and postcapitalism that Miller (2015) and others observe links to the debate between Marxism and anarchism that characterizes large parts of the history of the socialist left (Kellermann, 2011(Kellermann, , 2012(Kellermann, , 2014 and is reiterated recently in human geography (Harvey, 2015;Springer, 2014bSpringer, , 2017. This debate is largely between the more utilitarian, institutional, oppositional, and ruptural imaginaries of Marxism and the prefigurative, spontaneous, pluralistic, and interstitial imaginaries of anarchism. ...
... The (tendentially anarchist) notion of prefiguration demands congruence between the two while (often Marxist) visions of a revolution suggests that the end justifies the means. The discrepancy between means and ends has been subject to much debate and, simply speaking, constitutes a major divide between anarchism and Marxism (Harvey, 2015;Springer, 2017; see chapter 2). For the present purposes, the juxtaposition of means and ends sheds light on the spectrum of strategies available to degrowth which, in turn, inform the notion of degrowth practices. ...
... Harvey has been criticised as a rock in a hard place (Thrift, 2006) for his unchanging perspective on capital and class relations. 'Harvey is no crude materialist, of course', Thrift states (2006: 225), but a member of his time, that is, a US radical scholar, who has not substantially changed his theoretical argument on class struggle and social justice since the 1970s (see Castree and Gregory, 2006;Springer, 2014Springer, , 2017. In light of Harvey's renewed interest in alienation as a meaningful theoretical category to meaningless social practice, Thrift's critique of Harvey is somewhat shaken, which is timely. ...
... Searching for historical progress and alternatives to capitalist urbanisation, similar debate took place in human geography. Here, Simon Springer (2014Springer ( , 2017 has challenged the primacy of Marxist critique in radical geography and confronted David Harvey's analysis to be stuck in the waiting room of history. Arguing for two theoretical routes to socialism, Springer (2014) relies on anarchist theory and criticises Harvey's work to be rather static and totalising: overemphasising the role of the state, while neglecting the role of decentralised ideas of the good and everyday c08.indd 166 20-02-2021 17:37:43 practices of self-organisation. ...
... The (false) antagonism between anticapitalism and postcapitalism that Miller (2015) and others observe links to the debate between Marxism and anarchism that characterizes large parts of the history of the socialist left (Kellermann, 2011(Kellermann, , 2012(Kellermann, , 2014 and is reiterated recently in human geography (Harvey, 2015;Springer, 2014bSpringer, , 2017. This debate is largely between the more utilitarian, institutional, oppositional, and ruptural imaginaries of Marxism and the prefigurative, spontaneous, pluralistic, and interstitial imaginaries of anarchism. ...
... The (tendentially anarchist) notion of prefiguration demands congruence between the two while (often Marxist) visions of a revolution suggests that the end justifies the means. The discrepancy between means and ends has been subject to much debate and, simply speaking, constitutes a major divide between anarchism and Marxism (Harvey, 2015;Springer, 2017; see chapter 2). For the present purposes, the juxtaposition of means and ends sheds light on the spectrum of strategies available to degrowth which, in turn, inform the notion of degrowth practices. ...
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In the light of social and environmental unsustainability and injustice, the continuing attachment to the idea that a growth-based economy is reconcilable with ecological limits seems increasingly implausible. Tracing and dissecting the complexities of social change, this book speaks about the development of visions, alternatives, and strategies for a radical transformation beyond growth-based economies. Covering an empirical sample of 24 eco-social organizations, projects, and groupings in the city of Stuttgart (Germany), the study drills down into the social, spatial, and strategic dimensions of transformation. It advances a conceptually and empirically grounded assessment of the possibilities and limitations of community activism and civic engagement in shifting transformative geographies towards a degrowth trajectory.
... Introducing and putting green and anti-civilization anarchism into conversation with decolonial thought is not only theoretically beneficial to 'academic decolonization', but it also illuminates a praxis and body of literature outside the university, rooted in permanent conflict and against the 'colony' or, more accurately, civilized progress. Decolonial academic literature, like Marxism (see Springer, 2016Springer, , 2017, appears comfortable with divisions of laborallowing an 'intelligentsia'and hierarchy, which speaks to the issues of organization, the state and the reproduction of colonial forms of organizationand/or colonialitythat green and anti-civilization anarchism are preoccupied with reducing, if not eliminating. Anarchism, while distinctly anti-authoritarian, embraces radical plurality that embraced Indigenous and rural forms of organization (Roman-Alcalá, 2021). ...
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Where are green anarchist and anti-civilization thoughts in academia? This article offers an encounter between green anarchism and decolonial theory to demonstrate its relevance as an action-oriented practice carried out across the world by groups or individuals rejecting domination and subjugation by state, capital, and other forms of power. This article begins with an anecdote to reveal weak points within academic decolonial theory, specifically readings of non-Western civilizations, political ambiguities, and corresponding engagements with the state–corporate nexus. Next, it revisits anti-civilizational anarchism, highlighting theoretical development, conflictive debates, and insights. The article concludes by encouraging anarchist decolonial perspectives that articulate permanent tensions against divisions of labour, hierarchies, statist-colonial organizational forms, and industrial/digital technologies. These mechanisms necessitate careful attention to avoid reproducing coloniality and extractivism under different names.
... If the birth of CAS may be traced back to Marx's Capital, written under the influence of (and in debates with) Proudhon, and early Russian agrarian populists engaged with anarchist theories and sought counsel from Marx on the role of peasants in revolution (Gamblin 1999;Shanin 2018), we can see how drawing hard lines between lineages in CAS serves little but polemic value. Rather than continuing generations-long polemics, it seems preferable to start with a normative appreciation of both traditions and the importance of linking these in writing and action, as indicated in recent debates in geography and sociology (el-Ojeili 2014, 462;Harvey 2017;Springer 2017). Still, I touch upon some overlaps and divergences in CAS traditions, in order to better see what anarchism specifically has to offer. . ...
... If the birth of CAS may be traced back to Marx's Capital, written under the influence of (and in debates with) Proudhon, and early Russian agrarian populists engaged with anarchist theories and sought counsel from Marx on the role of peasants in revolution (Gamblin 1999;Shanin 2018), we can see how drawing hard lines between lineages in CAS serves little but polemic value. Rather than continuing generations-long polemics, it seems preferable to start with a normative appreciation of both traditions and the importance of linking these in writing and action, as indicated in recent debates in geography and sociology (el-Ojeili 2014, 462;Harvey 2017;Springer 2017). Still, I touch upon some overlaps and divergences in CAS traditions, in order to better see what anarchism specifically has to offer. . ...
... To trace and comment on this debate, we need to separate between the issues of if and how community activism can be transformative.Historically, questions around (de)centralization, hierarchy, and diversity have most visibly been divided between anarchist and Marxist positions. Similar sensitivities still accompany recent critical geographical examinations of social change (see e.g.,Harvey, 2015;Springer, 2014Springer, , 2017, albeit less stark and with a number of attempts to join or reconcile both lines of thought. Scholars broadly working in the post-structuralist tradition rightly problematize essentialist perspectives on scale and hierarchy that limit theories of transformation(Gibson- Graham, 1996Marston, Jones, & Woodward, 2005). ...
... Autonomous Marxism, from squat networks to autonomous territories, exemplify the most complementary versions of radically democratic counter-institutions. George Katsiaficas's documentation of "the (anti)politics of autonomy" in order to resist the "colonization of everyday life" in Europe (2006 [1997]) and John Holloway's (2010: 11) theory of immediacy of action both reject state power and seek to break capitalism "in as many ways as we can" to "expand and multiply the cracks and promote their confluence.". Predictably, Harvey (2017: 247) "disagree[s]" with Holloway's view of radical decentralization (see Springer 2017). Holloway's idea of a "multiplicity of interstitial movements running from the particular" arising from an "anti-politics of dignity" in "mutual recognition of persons" and resonates with insurrectionary political ecology (Holloway 2010: 39 (TIC 2009(TIC [2007: 42) proposal for developing a network of anti-state communes is based on affinity, and represents an important organizational proposal, even if lacking an (explicit) ecological practice as well as critiques of divisions of labor and patriarchy. ...
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This article proposes a political ecology of resistance. This is done by putting forward insurrectionary political ecology as a lens of research and struggle, through the confluence of the complementary "political" practice of insurrectionary anarchism and the "ecological" method of "no-till natural farming." While seemingly different, the article argues that these practices are compatible, animating a political ecology of resistance around anti-authoritarian political and ecological lifeways. This direction, or compass, of insurrectionary political ecology is discussed in relation to other autonomous tendencies, as it complements and strengthens existing critical schools of thought heavily influenced by political ecology, such as (decolonial) degrowth, environmental justice and post-development. Insurrectionary political ecology deepens connections with scholarly rebels in political and ecological struggles outside—and rejecting—the university system. The article includes discussions of research ethics, various conceptions of "activism", autonomous tendencies and existing differences between the concepts of "revolution" and "insurrection", in order to debate notions of "counter-hegemony" and "duel-power." The overall purpose here is to offer a theoretical ethos for a political ecology of resistance that invigorates political praxis to subvert the ongoing socio-ecological catastrophes. Keywords: Resistance; insurrectionary political ecology; post-development; decolonization; degrowth; insurrectionary ecology; environmental justice
... If the birth of CAS may be traced back to Marx's Capital, written under the influence of (and in debates with) Proudhon, and early Russian agrarian populists engaged with anarchist theories and sought counsel from Marx on the role of peasants in revolution (Gamblin 1999;Shanin 2018), we can see how drawing hard lines between lineages in CAS serves little but polemic value. Rather than continuing generations-long polemics, it seems preferable to start with a normative appreciation of both traditions and the importance of linking these in writing and action, as indicated in recent debates in geography and sociology (el-Ojeili 2014, 462;Harvey 2017;Springer 2017). Still, I touch upon some overlaps and divergences in CAS traditions, in order to better see what anarchism specifically has to offer. . ...
Full-text available
This paper applies an anarchist lens to agrarian politics, seeking to expand and enhance inquiry in critical agrarian studies. Anarchism's relevance to agrarian processes is found in three general areas: (1) explicitly anarchist movements, both historical and contemporary; (2) theories that emerge from and shape these movements; and (3) implicit anarchism found in values, ethics, everyday practices, and in forms of social organization – or ‘anarchistic’ elements of human social life. Insights from anarchism are then applied to the problematique of the contemporary rise of ‘authoritarian populism’ and its relation to rural people and agrarian processes, focusing on the United States. Looking via an anarchist lens at this case foregrounds the state powers and logics that underpin authoritarian populist political projects but are created and reproduced by varying political actors; emphasizes the complex political identities of non-elite people, and the ways these can be directed towards either emancipatory or authoritarian directions based on resentments towards state power and identifications with grassroots, lived moral economies; and indicates the strategic need to prioritize ideological development among diverse peoples, in ways that provide for material needs and bolster lived moral economies. The paper concludes with implications for the theory and practice of emancipatory politics.
People around the world are confused and concerned. Is it a sign of strength or of weakness that the US has suddenly shifted from a politics of consensus to one of coercion on the world stage? What was really at stake in the war on Iraq? Was it all about oil and, if not, what else was involved? What role has a sagging economy played in pushing the US into foreign adventurism? What exactly is the relationship between US militarism abroad and domestic politics? These are the questions taken up in this compelling and original book. In this closely argued and clearly written book, David Harvey, one of the leading social theorists of his generation, builds a conceptual framework to expose the underlying forces at work behind these momentous shifts in US policies and politics. The compulsions behind the projection of US power on the world as a "new imperialism" are here, for the first time, laid bare for all to see.
The Anarchist Roots of Geography: Toward Spatial Emancipation sets the stage for the radical politics of possibility and freedom through a discussion of the insurrectionary geographies that suffuse our daily experiences. This book is the first major study of the concept of anarchist geographies. It realigns radical geography away from Marxism and back to its original trajectory of anarchism. It ultimately encourages a relational understanding of space, wherein anarchism is recognized as a holistic and everyday form of emancipationfrom statistic, capitalistic, homophobic, racist, sexist, and imperialistic ideas.
Neoliberalism--the doctrine that market exchange is an ethic in itself, capable of acting as a guide for all human action--has become dominant in both thought and practice throughout much of the world since 1970 or so. Writing for a wide audience, David Harvey, author of The New Imperialism and The Condition of Postmodernity, here tells the political-economic story of where neoliberalization came from and how it proliferated on the world stage. Through critical engagement with this history, he constructs a framework, not only for analyzing the political and economic dangers that now surround us, but also for assessing the prospects for the more socially just alternatives being advocated by many oppositional movements.
This article offers a critical response to Simon Springer’s ‘Why a Radical Geography Must Be Anarchist’. From a Marxist perspective, the autonomist and anarchist tactics and sentiments that have animated a great deal of political activism over the last few years (in movements like ‘Occupy’) have to be appreciated, analyzed, and supported when appropriate. To the degree that anarchists of one sort or another have raised important issues that are all too frequently ignored or dismissed as irrelevant in mainstream Marxism, dialogue—let us call it mutual aid—rather than confrontation between the two traditions is a far more fruitful way to go. Conversely, Marxism, for all its past faults, has a great deal to offer to the anti-capitalist struggle in which many anarchists are also engaged. Judging from his piece, however, Springer would want no part in such a project. He seems mainly bent on polarizing the relation between anarchism and Marxism as if they are mutually exclusive if not hostile. There is, in my view, no point in that. Honest disagreements should not be a barrier to fertile collaborations in anti-capitalist struggles. So the conclusion I reach is this: let radical geography be just that: radical geography, free of any particular ‘ism’, nothing more, nothing less.
Before saying what is meant by federation, it is as well to devote a few pages to the origin and context of the idea. The theory of the federal system is quite new; I think I may even say that no one has ever presented it before. But it is intimately bound up with the theory of government in general—to speak more precisely, it is its necessary conclusion.
What is the relevance of anarchist thought for politics and political theory today? While many have dismissed anarchism in the past, Saul Newman contends that anarchism's heretical critique of authority, and its insistence on full equality and liberty, places it at the forefront of the radical political imagination today. With the unprecedented expansion of state power in the name of security, the current 'crisis of capitalism' and the terminal decline of Marxist and social democratic projects, it is time to reconsider anarchism as a form of politics. This book seeks to renew anarchist thought through the concept of postanarchism.