Mid-century US urban development was notorious for breaking up communities inhabited by the poor and people of color. Frequently urban realignments were structured to make way for general civic projects like highways, but racism and class discrimination inevitably guided their specific placement. The State’s power of eminent domain made it feasible to condemn entire neighborhoods for the four-lane blacktop, a kind of public work that simplified new housing construction for a specific private sector. To serve consumers who might purchase suburban houses, a new kind of “public” was conjured, one that needed roads. The matter of which public benefits from urban development is a matter of perspective. It is a decision that should emerge from vigorous debates, but increasingly many cities simply rework their plans for the benefit of those with the most dough. The word, “public” then, effectively refers to a shrinking piece of the demographic pie. Since two decades, the use of strict cost-benefit analysis to structure city finance has seemingly excused governments and their private “partners” from any commitment to maintaining a heterogeneous urban fabric.
Gentrification is too polite a term for the violence that takes a neighborhood away from one group and delivers it to another. The term suggests that a neighborhood is being made genteel – that the new inhabitants are improving the area, civilizing it, rather than savaging it. A more appropriate image is of one animal eating another, like a snake, devouring a creature many times its size, whole, and slowly digesting it. If people with more money—therefore more power—than you consume your neighborhood, then you can no longer afford to live there. Having your house taken is not a pleasant experience; you and your family lose more than just a place to live. You lose years of friendships and associations borne of close proximities. You cede social and bodily knowledge of a landscape, patterns of movement through spaces that are written deeply in your psyche. Neighborhoods, like everything else in a capitalist free market, are open to visceral, bloody consumption—being eaten alive. This Social Darwinism is constructed: people must be convinced that taking the neighborhood is good, harmless, and inevitable.
We are happy to report that ONWARD anarchist newspaper, which was published quarterly and distributed internationally between 2000 and 2003, can once again be found online! We have established a website to archive and make publicly available the contents of the paper. Check it out at: onwardnewspaper.wordpress.com
Jacques Rancière’s political writings have become essential reading for those wanting to extend contemporary political antiauthoritarian thought. Although his major political works, especially Disagreement, were published in the 1990’s, he has recently written a text that addresses contemporary political issues in an anarchist way. In fact, Rancière is the only major thinker in recent French thought who is willing to embrace the term anarchist. “Democracy,” he writes in Hatred of Democracy, “first of all means this: anarchic ‘government,’ one based on nothing other than the absence of every title to govern” ( 41).
A Review of:
Graeber, David. 2007 Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire
I recall that one of the most electrifying experiences of my late teens was a reading encounter with Victor Turner’s The Ritual Process. I enthusiastically interpreted it as a manual of social and political possibilities. I remember being inspired to write what was at the time the longest essay I had ever composed, a sort of grand theory of power and repression in light of the concept of entropy. I also remember, if less well, subtle changes in my relations with my peers—a glimpse, perhaps, of a new sense of community. Teenage utopian pipe dreams! Speculative, roughly hewn attempts to understand everything! Intellectual enthusiasm, precisely! I now find myself asking: how and why did I abandon that sort of reading? But rather than propose an answer to my question (it has to do with my continued engagement with universities, I’m sure, but that’s only so relevant here), I’ll take up what it was that made me go for that sort of interpretation to begin with. However crude my first games with anthropological concepts might have been, there is nothing crude —or so it seems to me now!—about the idea that these texts were effective precisely because above all, they both seemed eminently practical and communicated a feeling of possibility. This reflection was provoked for me by David Graeber’s collection of essays, Possibilities, which in its own way repeatedly summons just that exhilarating sentiment for which his book is named.
We introduce, for your pleasure, The Anarchist Library, an archive of anarchist texts: books, essays, and articles. We hope that this archive grows from its initial selection of over 400 titles (books, essays, and articles) into a comprehensive textual library that spans the entirety of anarchist thought.
Chris Spannos documents his trip to Greece for the B-Fest "Freedom Strikes Back" Conference. Originally published on ZSpace.
May 27th, 2009
Arrived in Athens yesterday. I'm here with others for the B-Fest "Freedom Strikes Back" conference hosted by the Athens Anti-Authoritarian Movement. One of the organizers picked us up from the airport and drove us to our hotel in Exarhia. We are staying at the Museum Hotel right across the street from the Athens Polytechnic. Exarhia and the Polytechnic were central locations for last December's social uprising here and also in 1973 when students rose up and were brutally suppressed by the military.
We were met at the hotel by Nikos Raptis, a long-time friend of Z and regular writer as well. We went around the corner for some beer, food and discussion.
I spent most of the day walking around, absorbing my surrounds, and dealing with technical matters like the 3 times I blew the power in our hotel room due to poor power adaptors from the U.S. While walking around I also chatted with movement people leafleting on the streets. I was told that the occupations movement has grown, with about 40 occupied spaces in Athens alone and serving diverse purposes such as becoming centers for meeting and organizing.