Academic journal article Anarchist Studies

Are These Bubbles Anarchist? Peter Sloterdijk's Spherology and the Question of Anarchism

Academic journal article Anarchist Studies

Are These Bubbles Anarchist? Peter Sloterdijk's Spherology and the Question of Anarchism

Article excerpt

In her contribution to The Continuum Companion to Anarchism entitled 'Where to Now? Future Directions for Anarchist Research', Ruth Kinna pointed out a gap in anarchist literature concerning the question of solidarity (Kinna 2012, p316). Little has been written about anarchism with a key focus on solidarity and virtually nothing can be found on a philosophical concept of solidarity in relation to anarchism. In this paper I will attempt to fill in this gap in anarchist literature and discuss solidarity from the perspective of Peter Sloterdijk's work. His Spheres project (1998-2004) and his You must change your life (2009) are the key foci of this paper.1 I will examine selected features of Sloterdijk's theory of spheres that are relevant to anarchism. Here I will work with Uri Gordon's definition of contemporary anarchism in practice that he elaborates in Anarchy Alive! (2007). My claim is that Sloterdijk's spherology can be useful for thinking about solidarity in the context of anarchism, and in particular for eco-anarchist movements. Sloterdijk's work also allows for a theoretical support of the anarchist idea of slow, everyday transformation that is often contrasted with the model of social change achieved through the means of a revolution. As his description of society is based on the concept of mimesis and training - defined as a bodily repetition of available models - Sloterdijk's ideas can be useful for thinking about anarchist collectivities. These collectivities try to introduce alternative, daily practices into their micro social structures as a way to permanently change the surrounding world. I will show that this is where Sloterdijk's mimetic concept of training can be used as a valuable conceptual tool towards understanding anarchist collectives. My claim throughout this paper is that contemporary anarchism in practice is an effective form of harnessing mimesis towards a more habitable world. What is more, Sloterdijk's theory of spheres offers an alternative structure to the usual philosophical model that anarchists use in order to describe anarchist collectives, that is, Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze's rhizomes (see Gordon 2008). Although rhizomes are a powerful image, they emphasise the network links between entities rather than the spaces in which these entities are embedded. I wish to argue that spaces, which anarchists create through their practices and which they inhabit, are crucial for understanding contemporary anarchism in practice. Sloterdijk's structure has a form of bubbles and foams and is based on the concept of immunity that we share not only with other human beings but also with the environment, the plants, the animals, architectural structures, meta-narratives, technology. I wish to demonstrate that although Sloterdijk himself is not an anarchist,2 he provides a valuable theoretical framework to understand and think about contemporary anarchist movements.

Before we begin, it is relevant to describe briefly Sloterdijk's position both in the Anglophone academic world and in Germany. Peter Sloterdijk, besides Jürgen Habermas, is the most important contemporary German philosopher, yet he remains less well known among the Anglophone academic audience. This is partly because only few of his books have been translated into English. Among the works that I am going to discuss here, only the first two volumes of his trilogy Spheres are available in English and the translation of Du mußt dein Leben ändern (2009) (You must change your life) was published in 2013. In Germany, Sloterdijk does not receive the scholarly attention he deserves even though he is the most widely read philosopher by the German general public. On the one hand, this might be due to the fact that he blurs the distinctions between philosophy and literature in his style of writing and his style of thinking. This makes it particularly challenging for academic scholars to engage with him on a strictly philosophical level. On the other hand, the scholarly silence around Sloterdijk among his German colleagues might be due to the infamous 'Sloterdijk-Habermas' scandal at the end of the 1990s. …

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