Wednesday 5 September 2012

Reflections on #AnarchistStudies Conference

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear (1 John 4: 18)
The Anarchist Studies Network held their second conference this week. Although I had to miss all the afternoon sessions it was great to be a part of the event and to know that there are so many activists and academics interested in working out the implications of anarchist thought in new contexts.

I decided to stick with the Religious Anarchism stream throughout, partly because of a lack of time to explore the others. I'm glad I did though as it was interesting to see trends emerge and stick throughout. The most obvious is the almost ubiquitous references to Mikhail Bakunin in almost every paper in this stream.

Bakunin was yet another Russian prince turned anarchist, but unlike Kropotkin, the 'gentle anarchist' Bakunin was most likely to be found in the thick of the action of protest and resistance in varoius places around Europe. Both found themselves locked up at one time or another for their actions and views.

Bakunin begin academic life as a theologian but is most famous for coining the phrase, "No Gods, No Masters" that has become something of an anarchist credo. Despite this antipathy to religion it seemed the overwhelming view of contributors to the Religious Anarchism stream that Bakunin had much in common with religious anarchist perspectives. I know!

There was a real mix of content and style at the conference - some very carefully referenced or nuanced, others a little more like apologetics than anything else, but there was a real openness to scruting from all the contributors I saw and a desire to learn from one another.

What I took away of most value from all of this was the idea that anarchism is not about freedom at all, since personal autonomy is really an illusion, but rather it is about a particular freedom: freedom from fear.

It is freedom from fear that allows us to choose the constraints, socially, lingusitically, philosophically, in which we choose to live our lives in relation to the rest of material and spiritual reality.

So the words I want to reflect on as my walking prayer this week:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.(1 John 4: 18).