Let's Read Together (2)

Revisting Emma Goldman's Anarchism Essays Part II

This is part II of "Revisting Emma Goldman's Anarchism Essays".


In choosing the idea of a "mass" and setting "the intelligent [hu]man" as its counterpart, it is being actively assumed that there are few intelligent and/or highly educated people and many that are uneducated ("Mass" is implying a large group and "the intelligent man" would be sticking out of it). What happens here is the construction of the indivual and an anonymous "main stream", connotating the first one positively and the latter negatively. This is a rhetoric strategy to provoke a feeling in the reader to not wanting to belong to the latter. This strategy is old and not only, but very often used in leftist theory. To a degree, it is a narrative of "Avangardism" and Elitism and needs to be criticized. Having established those figures of "intelligent individual" and "mass", the essay explores what the objections were that people had towards anarchism. According to Goldman the counter arguments towards Anarchism were usually that

- although a nice idea, Anarchism was impractical

- stood for violence and destruction.

Like mentioned in part I before, the Goldman's text is concerned with the practicability of Anarchism. It elaborates on how the theory can become practical and argues we should implement anarchism step by step into our lives. The thesis being we should be pragmatic about it and adapt anarchism to our realities, but, and this is a key point with Goldman, we should only adapt it to the current system while never accepting said system and its conditions. Goldman tries to promote and emphasize the narrative that anarchism „builds and sustains new life“, already having conotated „new“ very positively before, in the first paragraph oft the essay. After proposing that own narrative, she is going back to critisizing the outside perspective narratives anarchist theory is confronted with. She is coming back to the points of destruction and violence. Goldman is making the point that those narratives surrounding violence are working in a way to evoke disapproving emotions in "the ignorant [hu]man", whom she, however, infantilizes.

"The emotions of the ignorant [hu]man are continuously kept at a pitch by the most blood-curdling stories about Anarchism. Not a thing too outrageous to be employed against this philosophy and its exponents. Therefore Anarchism represents to the unthinking what the proverbial bad man does to the child […]."

What do I think

I still disklike the [hu]man - mass thing, especially the infantilization. I still like the focus on how to do anarchy in a set system