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3 Returning to Geography’s Radical Roots Anarchist society, a society which organizes itself without authority , is always in existence, like a seed beneath the snow, buried under the weight of the state and its bureaucracy, capitalism and its waste, privilege and its injustices, nationalism and its suicidal loyalties, religious differences and their superstitious separatism. . . . Far from being a speculative vision of a future society, [anarchism] is a description of a mode of human organization, rooted in the experience of everyday life, which operates side by side with, and in spite of, the dominant authoritarian trends of our society. —­Colin Ward It is often said that Anarchists live in a world of dreams to come, and do not see the things which happen today. We do see them only too well, and in their true colors, and that is what makes us carry the hatchet into the forest of prejudice that besets us. —­Peter Kropotkin Responding to David Harvey’s (1972) influential essay on revolutionary and counterrevolutionary theory in geography, which in hindsight effectively inaugurated a “radical turn”for the discipline,Steen Folke (1972) outlined an argument as to “why a radical geography must be Marxist.” The upper-­ middle-­ class background of most academics and the realization that geography had up to that point largely developed in a way that expressed dominant social forces troubled both scholars.These were welcome and long overdue criticisms,but the problem with both of these accounts is that anarchist ideas were nowhere to be found,which is troubling precisely because an earlier tradition of radical geography existed, and indeed thrived, a century before Folke claimed radical geography as exclusively Marxist. Harvey’s profound influence and prolific output 65 ANARCHIST ROOTS OF GEOGRAPHY book interior.indb 65 5/14/16 11:21 AM 66 returning to geography’s radical roots since that time merely solidified what Folke had considered obligatory. Radical geography—­ at least until the late 1980s and early 1990s, when feminist critique began to demand our collective attention—­had become essentially synonymous with Marxian analysis.Yet how could a “radical” geography truly be radical without digging down into the foundations that had been laid by the anarchist geographies of Élisée Reclus and Peter Kropotkin? The pair were extremely influential in their time: each had written a surfeit of radical geographical literature from an anarchist perspective as the sun was setting on the nineteenth century. Did Folke not consider it important to explore these roots? Indeed, the contemporary usage of the word radical comes from the Middle English sense of “forming the root” and earlier still from the Latin radix, meaning quite literally “root.”How can geography claim itself as “radical,”then,without engaging with this earlier tradition of anticapitalist geographical thought? In what has evolved into a long career of critical geographical scholarship , Harvey’s work has only very minimally touched on Kropotkin and Reclus, and when he has addressed their work, it has been with a certain sense of ambivalence.1 To the credit of other radical geographers emerging in the 1970s, scholars like Richard Peet (1975; 1978),Myrna Breitbart (1975),Bob Galois (1976), and Gary Dunbar (1978) did in fact engage with Kropotkin and Reclus in their attempts to inaugurate a new critical trajectory for the discipline. Anarchism also received wider attention through special issues of the Union of Socialist Geographers Newsletter (Lauria 1978) and the journal Antipode (Breitbart 1978b). As demonstrated in the first chapter, although interest in anarchism by geographers has waxed and waned over the last century, it has continued to crop up through periodic bursts of interest, with Cook and Pepper’s (1990) special issue of Contemporary Issues in Geography and Education representing another high point of engagement.Yet the irregularity of these initiatives meant that they were essentially eclipsed by the sustained attention that Marxist perspectives received,where Harvey’s work in particular has subsequently become the touchstone for the vast majority of radical geographers who have followed. That Marxian geographers have chosen to largely ignore anarchism is actually nothing new. Marxists have long demonstrated a tendency to define anarchism as nothing more than opposition to the state, while ANARCHIST ROOTS OF GEOGRAPHY book interior.indb 66 5/14/16 11:21 AM returning to geography’s radical roots 67 also dismissing—­ or at least affording little consideration to—­anarchism’s shared rejection of capitalism and its refusal of the institution of private property.But as John Clark (1984,128) contends,the essence of anarchism...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781452951720
Related ISBN
9780816697731
MARC Record
OCLC
953381991
Pages
240
Launched on MUSE
2016-07-11
Language
English
Open Access
No
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