Rainer Barbey and Heribert Tommek (eds), Literatur und Anarchie: Das Streben nach Herrschaftsfreiheit in der europaischen Literatur vom 19. bis ins 21. Jahrhundert.

Author:Schaffner, Raimund
Position:Book review
 
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Heidelberg: Synchron Wissenschaftsverlag der Autoren, 2012, 235pp.; ISBN 978-3-939381-43-3

This volume is a collection of twelve studies devoted to the relationship between anarchism and literature/art. Taking a comparative and interdisciplinary approach, it covers several European countries and the period ranging from the second half of the nineteenth century to the present.

The first two essays explore the role of anarchism in the German avant-garde at the beginning of the twentieth century. Walter Fahnders clarifies the links between the anarchist intellectuals Gustav Landauer and Erich Muhsam and the Bohemian scene. While Landauer made a clear distinction between anarchism and the anti-bourgeois Bohemian lifestyle, Muhsam revitalized the Bohemian concept by merging it with the Bakunian view of the lumpenproletariat as a potential subject of rebellion. Drawing on a close analysis of the German anarchist press and the writings of Proudhon, Kropotkin and Tolstoy, Hubert van den Berg contends that these anarchist thinkers rejected revolutionary aesthetic forms in favour of conventional idealist concepts of art and literature, emphasizing their political, social, ideological and educational functions. Consequently, he takes issue with Andre Reszler over the latter's attempt in L'Esthetique anarchiste (1973) to deduce an anti-authoritarian aesthetic from classic anarchist writings, although he concedes that the work and life of a number of modernist artists reveals close affinities between the artistic and political avant-gardes.

In one of the two contributions on wider philosophical issues, Martin Lohnig discusses the relationship between state and society in liberal theory, in Erich Muhsam's Die Befreiung der Gesellschaft vom Staat (1932) and in contemporary political thought. He dismisses Muhsam as a radical romantic and idealist and surprisingly accuses him of all people of not having defended the Weimar Republic against the communist and fascist threat. Achim Geisenhansluke analyses Walter Benjamin's treatise Zur Kritik der Gewalt (1922). Placing it within the context of the philosophy of history and law, he problematises the tension between violence, law and justice, broaches Benjamin's reception in deconstructionist writings and finally illustrates the 'anarchist subversion of the law', using Franz Kafka's story Der neue Advokat (1920) as an example.

With Rainer Barbey we return to a conventional literary approach. He studies Hermann...

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