Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm

Murray Bookchin

At times Bookchin looks like an angry grampa lamenting for the good old days of the traditional Left, yet he makes some good points and vital distinctions concerning different forms of anarchism past and present. Bookchin’s assault on the work of Michel Foucault and Hakim Bey (to mention two) are for the most part reductive yet humorous. The great observation Bookchin makes here is that there is a huge reinvestment in ego-driven existentialism among members of the “X Generation” who flaunt an anarchist identity. What he describes as lifestyle anarchy deservedly sounds like good old American individualism. Bookchin points out the vital social content in the anarchist ideas of Bakunin and Kropotkin and cites significant events such as the Spanish anarchist struggle of the 1930s as elements not to be overlooked when considering anarchy as a viable option. KH

Publisher: AK
Paperback: 92 pages

To Remember Spain: The Anarchist and Syndicalist Revolution of 1936

Murray Bookchin

Like most of Bookchin’s writing, this book is delivered clearly and easily like a union speech, generous with emotion as well as relevant dates, people and statistics. Bookchin includes some fine descriptions of peasant-based governing structures developed out of particular circumstance and need in resistance to centralized governing structures which overtake and oppress. Bookchin also describes the factioning and Stalinism which pitted Communist against Communist against anarchist, sabotaging the entire effort of the Spanish people to avoid a brutal dictatorship under Franco. This period in Spain was a brief moment that produced radical social forms which actually worked. Bookchin has written a most enthusiastic guide for this vital set of events. KH

Publisher: AK
Paperback: 74 pages

The Transparency of Evil: Essays in Extreme Phenomena

Jean Baudrillard

A new investigation of simulations from Baudrillard edited in a Mythologies-like compilation. The focus: popular notions operating within what Baudrillard considers “delusionary” dialectics. Topics such as: “human rights” (to work, desire, the unconscious), epidemics, aesthetics, transsexuality, technology, terrorism, the Heidegger Nazi question, energy crisis, difference (regulated exchange breeching what is considered “good” or “useful”), immune systems, and more where recycled dialectic thought attempts impossible relations of determined value within the phenomena of “out of control late capitalism”, that is, the “advanced stage of simulacra.”
Baudrillard describes an “epidemic of value” where such a proliferation of values occurs that an overall disappearance of values takes place. Hence—the “transparency of evil.” He states that “it is as impossible to make estimations between beautiful and ugly, true and false, or good and evil, as it is simulataneously to calculate a particle’s speed and position.”
Offering double negations to dismantle the hopes of “progressives” and “post-modernists” alike, the collection closes with an essay entitled “The Object as Strange Attractor” which discusses potential escape from reproducing indifference, refuting claims that Baudrillard is exclusively a theorist of crisis. KH

Publisher: Verso
Paperback: 192 pages

What Is Situationism? A Reader

Edited by Stewart Home

Like some of the other Stewart Home books, this acts as a streamlined sampler of writing critical of “radical” cultural phenomena. There is enough diverse criticism in this book to at once attract young hopefuls who don’t want to inherit their radicalism or read too much, while it avoids becoming just more reductive journalism à la Rolling Stone coverage (even after one of Home’s morally driven intros). This book has essays from Bob Black, Dave and Stuart Wise, and Jimmie Martin, to name three. Home’s “subjective” bashing of co-opted avant-gardism can be humorous, inciting or sometimes banal (like existentialism), but his selections and bibliography in this book, as in his others, are absolutely worthwhile reading. KH

Publisher: AK
Paperback: 204 pages

Fury on Earth: A Biography of Wilhelm Reich

Myron Sharaf

A former patient and student of Reich’s, Sharaf, having been personally invested in Reich and passionate about Reich’s work since discovering The Function of the Orgasm in 1944, gives us a close look at the complex weave of events, people and ideas that made up Reich’s life. Sharaf provides a detailed account of the private and public conflict which Reich endured until his death in an American federal pen on November 3, 1957, ignored or ridiculed by the public at large. The book covers Reich’s childhood, his years as “Freud’s pet,” his breakup with the Communist party and his expulsion from Viennese psychoanalytic circles in 1934, as well as illustrating Reich’s theoretical innovations in psychology, sociology and science.
The book explains Reich’s theoretical development from genital-centered “orgastic potency” to his discovery of the “orgone” (life energy) in 1940. Reich wished to counteract the murderous form of atomic energy with the life-furthering functions of orgone; this branched into the realization of orgone energy accumulators and rain-making machines by the early 1950s.
Reich’s interest in the ideas of Henri Bergson and Friedrich Nietzsche helped push his ideas on “mental health” beyond “mental” phenomena; his work with low-income laborers in clinics led to many theories on how “exploiters” use sexual repression. Reich’s ideas, an inspiration to the work of people like Deleuze and Guattari, point out how neurosis goes from the personal to the social and back, the body and its sexual potential being the very thing which must be contained since capitalist economies use people as natural resources.
By the time Reich began researching life energy itself, in and around people, his ideas of a conspiracy in the U.S. to persecute and discredit him seemed not so far-fetched. Beginning in 1956, the U.S. Government and the FDA burned his accumulators and publications. He was in jail by the following year. This is an easy, thorough and inspirational read about a fascinating life and some of the most important ideas on humanity and its environment. KH

Publisher: Da Capo
Paperback: 550 pages