Rainer Barbey and Heribert Tommek (eds), Literatur und Anarchie: Das Streben nach Herrschaftefreiheit in der europäischen Literatur vom 19. bis ins 21. Jahrhundert Heidelberg: Synchron Wissenschaftsverlag der Autoren, 2012, 235pp.; ISBN 978-3-939381-43-3
This volume is a collection of twelve studies devoted to the relationship between anarchism and literature/ art. Taking a comparative and interdisciplinary approach, it covers several European countries and the period ranging from the second half of the nineteenth century to the present.
The first two essays explore the role of anarchism in the German avant-garde at the beginning of the twentieth century. Walter Fahnders clarifies the links between the anarchist intellectuals Gustav Landauer and Erich Mühsam and the Bohemian scene. While Landauer made a clear distinction between anarchism and the anti-bourgeois Bohemian lifestyle, Mühsam revitalized the Bohemian concept by merging it with the Bakunian view of the lumpenproletariat as a potential subject of rebellion. Drawing on a close analysis of the German anarchist press and the writings of Proudhon, Kropotkin and Tolstoy, Hubert van den Berg contends that these anarchist thinkers rejected revolutionary aesthetic forms in favour of conventional idealist concepts of art and literature, emphasizing their political, social, ideological and educational functions. Consequendy, he takes issue with André Reszler over the latter s attempt in L'Esthétique anarchiste (1973) to deduce an anti-authoritarian aesthetic from classic anarchist writings, although he concedes that the work and life of a number of modernist artists reveals close affinities between the artistic and political avant-gardes.
In one of the two contributions on wider philosophical issues, Martin Löhnig discusses the relationship between state and society in liberal theory, in Erich Miihsam's Die Befreiung der Gesellschaft vom Staat (1932) and in contemporary political thought. He dismisses Mühsam as a radical romantic and idealist and surprisingly accuses him of all people of not having defended the Weimar Republic against the communist and fascist threat. Achim Geisenhanslüke analyses Walter Benjamins treatise Zur Kritik der Gewalt (1922). Placing it within the context of the philosophy of history and law, he problematises the tension between violence, law and justice, broaches Benjamins reception in deconstructionist writings and finally illustrates the 'anarchist subversion of the law', using Franz Kafka's story Der neue Advokat ( 1 920) as an example.
With Rainer Barbey we return to a conventional literary approach. He studies Hermann Broch s cliché-ridden novel Esch oder die Anarchie (1903), which equates anarchism with violence and destruction, social disintegration, moral decline and mental degeneration. Employing Adornos concept of the authoritarian personality with its dialectics of submission and rebellion, Barbey interprets the protagonist's anarchist leanings as an emotional act of rebellion by a confused and alienated social outsider.
Walter Koschmal traces the origins of Russian anarchism in the country's literature, giving special emphasis to Kropotkin's Russian Literature: Ideals and Realities (1915). He demonstrates how the avant-garde painters Kazimir Malevic and Wasilij Kandinsky advocate the use of innovative means of expression against traditionalists like Kropotkin who ignore the aesthetic dimension of literary texts and instead give priority to their utilitarian and didactic aspects. Kandinsky is also the topic of the arthistorical essay by Sebastian Karnatz, who points out structural analogies between political anarchism and Kandinsky s theory of art. He is particularly concerned with how Kandinsky, in the stage composition Der gelbe Klang (1909), translates his theory of a gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) into practice. …