Academic journal article Anarchist Studies

'Nothing Is Permitted Anymore': Postanarchism, Gnosticism, and the End of Production

Academic journal article Anarchist Studies

'Nothing Is Permitted Anymore': Postanarchism, Gnosticism, and the End of Production

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Despite its emergence as a serious field of academic study, postanarchism harbours a number of ontological, epistemological, and even theological hang-ups - at least if CrimethInc., primitivism, and cyberpunk are any indication. Using a pair of postanarchism's more celebrated references - Jacques Lacan and Michel Foucault - against it, then, this essay explores how many postanarchists' refusal of copyright and intellectual property in the digital age rather than helping free and/or empower postmodern subjects instead obscures their subjectivity, and perhaps their very humanity. In so doing, postanarchism too often panders to an elitist and naïve contemporary version of Gnosticism, which has itself re-emerged alongside the networked economy in the form of scientology, Kabbalah, and other 'secret', anti-world fundamentalisms in the West.

Keywords: Postanarchism, Gnosticism, cyberpunk, Lacan

He had tried when possible to pass over these thoughts ... to see no more than what was in front of his face and to let his eyes stop at die surface ofthat. It was as if he were afraid diat if he let his eye rest for an instant longer than was needed to place something ... the thing would suddenly stand before him, strange and terrifying, demanding that he name it and name it jusdy and be judged for the name he gave it. He did all he could to avoid this threatened intimacy of creation.

Flannery O'Connor.1

In a widely reproduced post to a Z Magazine Internet forum in the mid- 1 990s, Noam Chomsky decries what he sees as the crumbling of Western intellectual culture, specifically the emergence of 'postmodernist cults' led by, among others, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault.2 Because die discourse of these writers too often fads to meet the minimal standards of evidence-based argumentation required in all other academic fields, and exhibits 'appalling' scholarship 'based on padietic misreading',3 Chomsky considers any conclusions regarding mind and culture reached by diese 'dieorists' as so much nonsense, admitting elsewhere diat 'no one seems to be able to explain to me [what] the latest post-this-and-that is ... other dian truism, error, or gibberish'.4 Chomsky's colleague Murray Bookchin lucewise feels postmodernism has had a 'disquieting effect on the need for a coherent and rational body of radical political ideas' through its obtuse discourse which stifles debate and thus 'cannot be justified'.5 If such criticism were isolated to anarchism's elder statesmen, die advocates of postmodernism could perhaps ignore the chaUenge to their programme; however, the shift away from 'practical' dieory and toward postmodern or poststructuralist readings of anarchism has annoyed many younger voices within the anarchist community too, as any glance at several anarchist websites and 'zines' suggests. The pseudonymous Waldorf and Stader (named for The Muppet Show's balcony critics), for instance, argue in Green Anarchy that '"Post-" anything should be used for hitching horses'.6 Or, as one user put it to the well-read forum 'Anarchism and Poststructuralism' on the anarchist clearinghouse Infoshop.org, ? hate poststructuralists and deconstructionists, it seems like they can say the most ridiculous and confusing things and somehow they tell you diat they are correct'.7

Not to be deterred, several scholars have contributed heavdy to this emerging field in recent years, developing a body of academic literature dedicated to exploring what has come to be called 'postanarchism'. The Pluto Press anthology Post-Anarchism: A Reader is only the most obvious in this regard, offering essays by many of the discipline's seminal voices, including Todd May and Hakim Bey.8 Also in the anthology are Saul Newman and Lewis CaU, who contributed important book-lengdi pieces to the field in the last decade. In Postmodern Anarchism, for example, Call sought to surpass a 'dangerously inaccessible' body of nineteenth-century theory by exploring the anarchism embedded in Foucault, Jean Baudrdlard, and die cyberpunk fiction of Wdliam Gibson and Bruce Sterling. …

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