Project Priorities

I feel overwhelmed by the number of projects that I have lined up for myself. None of them have deadlines and they are all fairly demanding. This post is just an attempt to come up with a plan to complete at least some of them…


At the beginning of the year, I thought that I would focus on psychology and put other things to the side. Instead, I haven’t focused at all on psychology. I have written about morality, been a guest on shows to talk about the I.W.W., Herbert Marcuse, and Post-Anarchism. I have told Julian Langer that I would read his work and provide feedback. I suggested to C. Derick Varn that I would read up on Italian Marxism for a future episode. I have reached out to Bernard Harcourt to discuss his new book Cooperation and we are supposed to follow up soon when he has more time for an interview. I also reached out to Carl Eugene Stroud about continuing our videos on Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason. And I have been moving through Proudhon’s writings, in part on my own and in part with a reading group hosted by Ben Burgis.

All of these projects have required substantial research and that is only the beginning. They also generate feedback from others. This feedback highlights weak areas in my knowledge of the subjects and also suggests future, related projects…

At the same time, my bookshelf continues to grow and that is something I try to avoid. A short list of the topics that I have acquired books for includes:

  1. Jewish Anarchism and Existentialism
  2. Black Anarchism and Existentialism
  3. Early United States History
  4. Social History of Art
  5. Libertarian Socialism and/or Anarcho-Marxism
  6. Phenomenology and Existentialism
  7. Alternative or Radical Education
  8. Anarchists: P.J. Proudhon, Mikhail Bakunin, Erich Musham, Gustav Landauer, Daniel Guerin, Colin Ward, Kevin A. Carson, Wolfi Landstreicher, and some other general texts

The worst part about all of this is that these topics just don’t seem to be what anyone is interested in! One cause for that situation is that after 20+ years of being an anarchist, I have burnt myself out on many topics that people are still discussing. And not only have I burnt myself out on them, but I have formed my conclusions, moved on, and forgotten what source material I had drawn from to form those conclusions. So I feel like I can’t even do justice to the topics if I were to write about them.

I spent my adolescent years in used bookstores and libraries. I was reading the classic texts of Marx and Engles, Freud, Nietzsche, Foucault, A. S. Neill, Anti-Psychiatry Movement stuff, bell hooks, Emma Goldman, Peter Kropotkin, the typical anarchist readers, An Anarchist FAQ, Camille Paglia, and whatever subculture books I could get my hands on. I then spent a long period after this reading individualist and insurrectionary material: Max Stirner, Alfredo Bonanno, At Daggers Drawn, Killing King Abacus, etc. Though I never spent much time on Murray Bookchin, I did spend time on ecological material as well. This was all supplemented by classes in philosophy, psychology, and some anthropology as well. I feel like these are still the topics that people want to focus on, but I am just so done with them!

There are a few topics that I am almost always confronted with when I discuss my ideas with other people. I never feel like I have a satisfying depth of knowledge related to them. Maybe this is where I should begin.

Those topics are:

  1. Anarchism vs. Marxism
  2. Strategy and Tactics
  3. Contemporary Culture
  4. Identity (Politics)

Let’s take those in order and see what can be done with them…

Anarchism vs. Marxism

This is by far the most demanding topic that comes up. One thing that makes it so demanding is that knowledge of history plays such a central role in the discussion. Marxism is fundamentally historical. An argument doesn’t seem to have value for a Marxist unless it can be based on specific historical developments or events. If a knowledge of the history of capitalism were all that was relevant, that would be slightly easier. However, Marxists expect an understanding of Marxist history as well. For anarchism, this is very frustrating because Marxists are often wrong about their own history and the history of anarchists. And when it comes to anarchist history, there is far less scholarship on it and so much of the history has been written by opponents of anarchists. Even someone like Eric Hobsbawm just gets a lot of shit wrong. What a Marxist seems to want from all of this is a clear articulation of what anarchists have thought, said, and done, especially when it comes to anarchist theory about capitalism. Worse still, Marxists prioritize large-scale history… well, non-Marxists do too, but Marxists definitely do. And when it comes to large-scale history, anarchists have participated in many large-scale events without leading them.

The absolute shittiest thing about all of the above is that contemporary anarchism and anarchists are very different from the past. Not only are the anarchists themselves different, but their place in society is also very different. This is also true of Marxists, of course.

So how can this mess be sorted out? Well a lot of those books on my shelf are an attempt to do that, but it’s fucking mammoth. There needs to be a way to deal with this question without becoming an encyclopedia of Modern history.

Strategy and Tactics

Related to the above, questions of strategy and tactics are a hot topic. There is also high demand for historical knowledge when it comes to these questions. Both anarchists and Marxists have adopted different strategies and different tactics depending on situations they have found themselves in. Even today, they both divide themselves according to the strategies and tactics that they promote. I also include in this topic the question of organization…

It may even be the case that debates about strategy and tactics (S&T from hereon) lead into the questions above. Again, there needs to be a way to cut back on the amount of historical knowledge that people tend to answer these questions with.

Contemporary Society

One of the most difficult things for me is surveying and mapping contemporary culture. This is a million times more difficult for anywhere outside of the United States. I don’t think I’m alone in this struggle. In fact, I think most of us have a hard time figuring out what the major features are of the societies that we live in. I think that this is one of the major reasons why so much weight is put onto history. With history, we have so much more information: the people involved, the discourse from a wide variety of sources, and the conclusion to large struggles. For our own times, access to valuable information is hard to come by and the knowledge is produced by often exclusive institutions, both governmental and commercial. The Intelligence Community is constantly studying contemporary societies. So are marketing and public relations institutions. While academics certainly produce some important studies, they tend to be at least a few years behind. Public intellectuals are often just guessing about shit. Some of the most respected public intellectuals are able to acquire research specifically for their topics of interest, like Noam Chomsky. But most of us are relying on our own experiences, news, and at least a little bit of outdated research.

Identity (Politics)

Finally, questions if identity and the role identity plays in politics accounts for a good chunk of the reading material on my shelves. I try to start with identity issues that I can relate to the most: punk, anarchism, queer theory, Judaism, blackness, etc. Since these identity topics are discussed ubiquitously, they are one of the primary gateways to more robust social and political theories.

Digging Deeper

One thing that stands out from the above is that my projects combine an interest in topics for the sake of my own intellectual development and other topics for the sake of participating in contemporary anarchist, Leftist, revolutionary, or whatever discourse. I think that I have a pretty good path laid out already for my own development, so what I really need to work out is that second set of topics. In other words, these are the topics for my potential audience. That can be the audience of people I have intimate relationships with, or it can be the audience of strangers that may come across my writing, videos, or whatever else online. So I think I am going to constrain my thoughts here within the framework of reception.

Having noted the role history plays in the minds of my audience, I am now brought back to something I wrote years ago about the role of history in the development of people’s political beliefs and in culture generally. I think that it is worth returning to the conclusions from that text and expanding on it so that I can really figure out what to aim at here:

The things to take away from that piece and some additional ideas are:

  1. Politics is concerned with categories that transcend individuals. Categories that live in a world of legal concepts and group identities. Even the concept of “individual” is defined within the context of these categories. Therefore, individualism isn’t very useful for social theory. Individualism often disguises forms of collectivity. This is different from prioritizing the individual, but there is no need to describe that difference in detail here.
  2. People’s worldviews are shaped by stories, by both historical and ahistorical narratives. Since most people only know a little bit of history and since even that history is probably inaccurate in numerous ways, worldview shaping narrative is mostly fictitious.
  3. The world develops historically. Not always in continuous progressions, but the world today is built on some portion of the world yesterday. For material culture, this is easily demonstrated. For intellectual culture, development is a bit less straightforward. Ideas are created, are abandoned, are sometimes revived, and are sometimes undermined by changes in the other ideas and things they reference.
  4. Historical narrative (real or fiction) sets our expectations, our sense of purpose, our notions of privilege and status, our sense of belonging, our trust in others, our concepts of nature and human nature, and many other things that bear on our politics.

My Audience

I have almost no insight into who my audience is. I get very little feedback and over the years I have only been contacted about my content a handful of times. Without knowing who my audience is, I tend to study the audiences that I want instead. I would love it if I had an audience like Anark, or Vaush, or Destiny, or any number of other popular leftist youtubers. There are some immediately obvious problems with me having that goal:

  1. I’m not very aggressive and I’m not very dramatic. Basically, I think I lack the kind of charisma those audiences look for.
  2. I haven’t honed the skill of reacting to current events in an interesting way.
  3. I barely know who anyone in politics is, whether that is the Establishment or the talking heads on youtube or where ever.

In other words, my interests are super-niche and my style is way too conscientious to play in the sport of amatuer political commentary. This is why I do so many interviews.

I don’t know how much of this I can really change, but I’m willing to try!


Well I think I’ve done everything in this brainstorming text to make conclusiveness impossible. If I were giving advice to someone else who wrote all this, I’d tell them to play off their strengths and to just get through the process of creating some content on those topics that people want to talk about. I’ll have to figure out what those strengths are. And in the meantime, I have quite a few books to get rid of or ignore for a while.