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Anarchism and the Hermeneutics of Faith

© 2020 Johns Hopkins University Press

M. Proudhon has the misfortune of being peculiarly misunderstood in Europe. In France, he has the right to be a bad economist, because he is reputed to be a good German philosopher. In Germany, he has the right to be a bad philosopher, because he is reputed to be one of the ablest French economists. Being both German and economist at the same time, we desire to protest against this double error.

—Karl Marx, foreword to The Poverty of Philosophy, 1847

Even more than the attacks on it from the right, it has been the attacks on it from the left that have relegated anarchism to the margins of academic discourse. It appears however that anarchism’s fortunes are changing. Though the casual dismissal of it as simply “some vague embrace of chaos, anti-intellectualism, or disorganized violence” is still commonplace, a more complex reception of anarchism has been developing since the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle.[1] In 2002, David Graeber was among the first to propose that academics need to come to grips with the fact that “most of the creative energy for radical politics is now coming from anarchism” and that “taking this movement seriously will necessarily also mean a respectful engagement with it.”[2] Eight years later, Todd May declared similarly, but with a focus on anarchism’s adherents, rather than detractors: “Anarchism is back on the scene. Theoretically as well as practically, anti-authoritarian thought is in a resurgence that has probably surprised many of those who have been involved in it in one way or another over the years.”[3] May, in fact, has proposed that we are witnessing a “third wave” of anarchist discourse (after the first wave in the late 1800s–early 1900s and the second in the 1960s) (May, introduction to New Perspectives on Anarchism, 1).[4]

Nevertheless, what Graeber said about anarchism in 2004 is still largely true today:

Most academics seem to have only the vaguest idea what anarchism is even about; or dismiss it with the crudest stereotypes. (“Anarchist organization! But isn’t that a contradiction in terms?”) In the United States there are thousands of academic Marxists of one sort or another, but hardly a dozen scholars willing openly to call themselves anarchists.[5]

Indeed, the greatest impediment to the advancement of anarchist thought is not the everyday misperception of it as a philosophy of chaos and violence but the Marxist dismissal of it as theoretically immature and naively utopian.[6] For scholars like Allan Antliff and Jesse Cohn, the hegemony of Marxist thought had relegated anarchist studies to the distant margins of their respective fields (art history and literary studies). As Cohn notes, despite the recent attention to the role of anarchist thought within the development of literary history, the question of anarchism in literary theory has been “consigned to official oblivion.”[7] Likewise, Antliff draws attention to the fact that “for most of its [Art History’s] existence anarchism in the arts has figured, if at all, as a marginal subject. . . . The situation has not been helped by the numerous Marxist-oriented art historians firmly ensconced in the academy who are already predisposed towards taking anarchism less than seriously or attacking it as a threat to their perspective.”[8]

What is the source of the Marxist predisposition to dismiss anarchism as unserious? There are a number of ways to approach this question, but I propose we begin with the conflict between David Harvey and Simon Springer that erupted a few years back in “Why a Radical Geography Must Be Anarchist.” There, Springer argues that radical geographers, including Harvey, have all but ignored the “anarchist tradition that thrived a century before radical geography was claimed as Marxist in the 1970s.”[9] Harvey, among the most influential of the Marxist geographers of the 1970s, is singled out by Springer for having persisted in defining anarchism “as nothing more than opposition to the state, while also dismissing—or at least affording little consideration to—anarchism’s shared rejection of capitalism and its refusal of the institution of private property” (Springer, “Radical Geography,” 250). Harvey’s lengthy riposte was titled “Listen, Anarchist!,” recalling Murray Bookchin’s enormously influential anarchist essay of 1969, “Listen Marxist!” Following Bookchin’s call for dialogue, and against what he perceived as Springer’s Manichean opposition between Marxism and anarchism, Harvey proposed that “dialogue—let us call it mutual aid—rather than confrontation between the two traditions is a far more fruitful way to go.”[10] Though Harvey is keen to reject what he calls Springer’s vision of Marxism and anarchism as openly hostile, it seems he can only imagine their reconciliation so long as Marxism is identified with reason and anarchism with emotion. When speaking of Marxism, Harvey typically describes it as theory; when speaking of anarchism, he more often than not refers to it as sentiment.[11]

It is precisely this alleged distinction between a theoretically rigorous Marxism on the one hand and an emotionally compelling anarchism on the other that has led Graeber to conclude that anarchism may forever be incompatible with academic discourse: “Marxism has an affinity with the academy that anarchism never will. It was, after all, the only great social movement that was invented by a Ph.D., even if afterwards, it became a movement intending to rally the working class. . . . Anarchism, in the standard accounts, usually comes out as Marxism’s poorer cousin, theoretically a bit flat-footed but making up for brains, perhaps, with passion and sincerity” (Graeber, Anarchist Anthropology, 3). Anarchists themselves have tended to distinguish the two along different lines—not those of theory and sentiment, but of theory and ethics. Graeber, for instance, holds that “Marxism has tended to be a theoretical or analytical discourse about revolutionary strategy,” while “anarchism has tended to be an ethical discourse about revolutionary practice” (Anarchist Anthropology, 6). Similarly, Simon Critchley has proposed that “anarchism is not so much a grand unified theory of revolution based on a socio-economic metaphysics and a philosophy of history, as a moral conviction, an ethical disposition that finds expression in practice and as practice” (introduction to The Anarchist Turn, 4).[12] In light of the frequent identification of it as an ethical enterprise, one wonders if the recent turn to anarchism (May’s “third wave”) has not benefited, at least in part, by the so-called “turn to ethics” of the past two decades.[13]

Evidence of an authentic “anarchist turn” includes the handful of anthologies that have emerged in the past several years. Building on new theorizations of anarchism by figures like May (The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism, 1994), Saul Newman (From Bakunin to Lacan: Anti-Authoritarianism and the Dislocation of Power, 2001), Lewis Call (Postmodern Anarchism, 2003), and others, contemporary anarchist thought has been anthologized by presses both radical (Pluto Press) and mainstream (Routledge, Bloomsbury).[14] Nevertheless, and despite Ruth Kinna’s observation that “twenty years ago the task of compiling a research guide to anarchism would have been a more straightforward task than it is today,” the anarchist theoretical tradition is not—not yet at least—anywhere near as robust as the Marxist tradition.[15] Though fully rejecting the notion that anarchism lacks a coherent theoretical framework, May nonetheless notes that “the anarchist theoretical tradition is, in many ways, a thin one” and that “the thread running from the nineteenth century up to recent developments is frayed along much of its length” (introduction to New Perspectives on Anarchism, 3). For May, however, the thin and frayed thread of anarchist theory from Proudhon to the present is as much an opportunity as a threat: “If theoretical anarchism is not nearly as rich as theoretical Marxism,” May writes, “neither is it as sclerotic. Precisely because of its leanness—and because of its openness to all struggles—theoretical anarchism is rife for development” (3).

Marxism and the Hermeneutics of Suspicion

Within modernist studies, evidence of anarchism’s openness to new developments includes Allan Antliff’s proposal to write the history of art from an anarchist perspective, a project he argues must begin with “the willingness to explore the limits and possibilities out of which the past under consideration is constituted” (“Anarchism and Art History,” 76).[16] Similarly, Cohn insists that the anarchist historian “seek[s] to enter a dialogue with the text, not only to critique it from an external perspective seen as superior, but to reconstruct our perspective with the aid of the text itself” (“Anarchist Literary Theory,” 117). Both Antliff’s identification of the anarchist historian as committed to a “position of partial knowledge in relation to the past” and Cohn’s conception of anarchist practice as an embedded dialogue rather than external critique point toward a third understanding of anarchism: not as social theory or political practice, but as interpretive method (Antliff, “Anarchism and Art History,” 76).

I would argue that the question of interpretive method—even more than that of theory or practice—has been the greatest impediment standing in the way of anarchism’s full acceptance within the academy. The problem with anarchism is not that it is insufficiently theoretical (as Harvey suggests), or that it is bound to an ethical, rather than economic, discourse (as Graeber argues). Rather, the core of the problem—particularly for theorists and historians of cultural production—is that anarchism and Marxism interpret the world through fundamentally different lenses. Marxism is, as Paul Ricoeur has shown, a “hermeneutic of suspicion,” a method of interpretation aimed at “both the process of false consciousness and the method of deciphering.” As Ricoeur notes, “The two [the identification of false consciousness and the method of deciphering] go together, since the man of suspicion carries out in reverse the work of falsification of the man of guile. . . . Marx attacks the problem of ideologies from within the limits of economic alienation, now in the sense of political economy.”[17] Though Ricoeur makes no mention of anarchism, I would like to propose that it is a model instance of what Ricoeur refers to as a hermeneutic of faith: “It is a rational faith, for it interprets; but it is a faith because it seeks, through interpretation, a second naïveté. . . . ‘Believe in order to understand, understand in order to believe’—such is its maxim; and its maxim is the ‘hermeneutic circle’ itself of believing and understanding” (Freud and Philosophy, 28). If, as Graeber argues, “Marxism has an affinity with the academy that anarchism never will,” it is, I would argue, because anarchism refuses to abide the hermeneutics of suspicion (Anarchist Anthropology, 4). To cite Graeber again: regarding anarchism, “we are talking less about a body of theory, then, than about an attitude, or perhaps one might even say a faith: the rejection of certain types of social relations, the confidence that certain others would be much better ones on which to build a livable society, the belief that such a society could actually exist” (4).

To gain a foothold on the difference between these two hermeneutics, we should return to the source: Marx’s preface to the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859). Astonishing in its brevity and richness, the preface simultaneously outlines a social theory, a political practice, and, what matters most here, a hermeneutics from which to derive both theory and practice:

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. . . . It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production. . . . Then begins an era of social revolution.[18]

Before attending to Marx’s text, let us set it alongside an appropriately canonical text from the anarchist tradition. This is a trickier assignment, since, unlike Marxism, anarchism lacks an urtext; it is a discourse founded on multiplicity. In keeping with this, I propose we adopt Colin Ward’s definition of anarchism, a definition explicit in its understanding of anarchism as fundamentally multi-authored:

[Anarchism] is a description of a mode of human organisation, rooted in the experience of everyday life, which operates side by side with, and in spite of, the dominant authoritarian trends of our society. This is not a new version of anarchism. Gustav Landauer saw it, not as the founding of something new, “but as the actualisation and reconstitution of something that has always been present, which exists alongside the state, albeit buried and laid waste.” And a modern anarchist, Paul Goodman, declared that: “A free society cannot be the substitution of a ‘new order’ for the old order; it is the extension of spheres of free action until they make up most of social life.”[19]

As an outline for a social theory, Marx’s preface identifies the relations of production as the “real foundation” of social life. From this Marx derives his crucial distinction between base and superstructure, and with it, his analysis of ideological formations. In contrast, Ward’s outline of anarchism attends not to economic production, but rather to the distinction between free action and authoritarian control. Ward’s understanding is echoed in May’s claim that anarchism’s concern with domination makes it a more “elastic” discourse than does Marxism’s focus on exploitation: “Domination, unlike exploitation, can occur in any realm of social experience. Exploitation, although its effects ramify out across the social spectrum, is specifically located in a particular social sphere: the sphere of work.”[20] As an outline of political practice, Marx’s text outlines a largely autonomous process by which “productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production” (preface to Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy). The work of activists is, in Marxist terms, thus limited to that of either catalyst or retardant; history moves linearly, and is either advanced or retreated, with no possibility of bifurcation. Anarchism, as Ward presents it, depicts the social realm as composed of multiple potentialities, a field of interpersonal, political, environmental, and economic relations existing “side by side” with one another. At any given moment, there exists a dominant system, but its dominance is never total and its future never prescribed. As such, change is effected not by the destruction of the dominant system, but rather by the expansion of alternative systems. Where the Marxist method is dialectical (proceeding via negation), the anarchist method is dilational (proceeding via expansion).[21]

In addition to outlining theories of the social order and proposals for political intervention, both texts establish the interpretive frameworks within which these theories and practices emerge. With its claim to have identified “the real foundation” of social life in the economy rather than in the more visible, and apparently determinative structures of law and politics, Marx’s preface implicitly establishes the theorist as one who dismantles lies by unmasking hidden foundations. In his well-known letter to Arnold Ruge, Marx described the work of the social theorist as the “ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.”[22]

As Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Bruno Latour, and, most recently, Rita Felski have shown, Marx’s conception of “ruthless criticism” has come to dominate the field of cultural analysis.[23] The evidence for their conclusions is everywhere apparent: for example, in Fredric Jameson’s distinction between modernism and postmodernism (“modernism was still minimally and tendentially the critique of the commodity and the effort to make it transcend itself. Postmodernism is the consumption of sheer commodification as a process”), as well as Terry Eagleton’s affirmation of Bertolt Brecht’s conception of modernist realism (“Realism for Brecht is less a specific literary style or genre, ‘a mere question of form’, than a kind of art which discovers social laws and developments, and unmasks prevailing ideologies by adopting the standpoint of the class which offers the broadest solution to social problems”).[24]

The identification of modernism with critique is also crucial to Peter Bürger’s theory of the avant-garde in which a venerated “critical cognition of reality” is set against the avant-gardist blurring of art and life: “[T]he (relative) freedom of art vis-à-vis the praxis of life is at the same time the condition that must be fulfilled if there is to be a critical cognition of reality. An art no longer distinct from the praxis of life but wholly absorbed in it will lose the capacity to criticize it, along with its distance.”[25] Such an art—now stripped of the capacity to criticize—can no longer perform the Marxist hermeneutic of suspicion. It can, however, as we will see, perform an anarchist hermeneutic, since anarchism does not function according to the logic of ruthless criticism.

Bürger’s argument regarding the dilemma of the avant-garde has been applied as well to the neo-avant-garde—the art of the fifties, sixties, and seventies in which the negation of art’s status as autonomous was reasserted and rearticulated. Bürger saw the neo-avant-garde as a hopelessly inept repetition of avant-garde negation, but theorists such as Benjamin Buchloh and Hal Foster have made it clear that while some aspects of the neo-avant-garde deserve to be dismissed according to Bürger’s logic, others do not. For Buchloh, artists like Marcel Broodthaers, Hans Haacke, and Daniel Buren transformed the “auto-critical investigations” of minimalism and conceptual art into a properly materialist critique of the institution of art. As Buchloh has argued, Broodthaers, Haacke, and Buren’s work transformed aesthetic self-critique into a critique of “the social institutions. . . . in which artistic production is transformed into a tool of ideological control and cultural legitimation.”[26] In a similar vein, Foster reconsiders pop art as torn between the logic of critique and the logic of the spectacle (in a sense, divining Brechtian realism from Jamesonian postmodernism). Though often engaged in what Foster calls “[the] sheer delight in popular culture,” he is insistent that the work of Warhol, Hamilton, and Richter “at times… highlights cultural contradictions in ways that do produce critical consciousness.”[27] In this way, Foster, like Jameson and Eagleton before him, transposes Marx’s “ruthless criticism” to the logic of cultural production. Complicity or critique: the hermeneutics of suspicion allows but two options.

Toward a Hermeneutics of Faith

Both Sedgwick and Felski acknowledge their debt to Ricoeur. Surprisingly, however, they do not address in any detail what Ricoeur understood as suspicion’s antithesis: faith.[28] This is surprising, given Ricoeur’s acknowledgement that it was not suspicion but faith that “animates all my research” (Freud and Philosophy, 30).

The contrary of suspicion, I will say bluntly, is faith. What faith? No longer, to be sure, the first faith of the simple soul, but rather the second faith of one who has engaged in hermeneutics, faith that undergone criticism, postcritical faith. (28)

For Ricoeur, suspicion and faith offer antithetical responses to the textual objects with which we engage. In the case of faith, one acts with sensitivity to them and their potential meanings; textual objects are to be explored and understood (“the first imprint of this faith in a revelation through the word is to be seen in the care or concern for the object”) (28). Hence his description of the hermeneutics of faith as “a second naïveté” (28). In the case of suspicion, objects are to be torn apart or opened up so as to ensure that they do not deceive us.

Indeed, what drew Ricoeur to Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud was precisely the recognition that their method repudiated the core of his endeavor. For Ricoeur, the hermeneutics of suspicion “begins by doubting whether there is such an object and whether this object could be the place of the transformation of intentionality into kerygma, manifestation, proclamation. This hermeneutics is not an explication of the object, but a tearing off of masks, an interpretation that reduces disguises” (30). In sum, where suspicion is structured by the logic of the mask (that which hides the real), faith is structured by the logic of the frame (that which excludes alternatives). Suspicion responds to the problem of false consciousness, faith to the problem of limited imagination.

Here we arrive at the fundamental distinction between the hermeneutic of Marxism and that of anarchism. Founded on faith rather than suspicion, anarchism holds that a better world is already in existence (though on the margins). What is required of the revolutionary is not the ruthless criticism of dominant forces, but rather the careful cultivation of alternative systems. Returning again to Ward’s opening declaration:

How would you feel if you discovered that the society in which you would really like to live was already here, apart from a few little, local difficulties like exploitation, war, dictatorship and starvation? . . . [A]n anarchist society, a society which organises 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. (Anarchy in Action, 18)[29]

Shaped by the logic of the frame (the snow that covers the seed), Ward’s conception of social change was therefore at odds with acts of destruction that in other contexts (insurrectionary, revolutionary) were manifest in anarchist practice. In this, Ward is drawing Landauer’s principle that the state is not a thing but a set of relations, and therefore its destruction proceeds only by the construction of a different set of relations (Landauer, “Weak Statesmen, Weaker People!,” 214). That such a position is founded not on suspicion but faith is echoed in Graeber’s assertion that “to commit oneself to such a principle [that ‘another world is possible’] is almost an act of faith, since how can one have certain knowledge of such matters? It might possibly turn out that such a world is not possible” (Anarchist Anthropology, 10).

The element of chance implied in Graeber’s acknowledgment that things might turn out badly is but one sign that the hermeneutics of faith is not a simple restoration of meaning.[30] It is also a sign of the hermeneutics of faith that runs through the work of John Cage. Before turning to Cage, however, I would like to consider the articles in this special issue to identify the ways in which they can be understood to reflect on anarchism’s hermeneutic of faith. James Mark Shields’s article on the Japanese avant-garde of the nineteen teens and twenties unravels the complex engagement with anarchism (particularly that of Max Stirner) as it emerged in the wake of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05 and within the long tradition of Buddhist thought. Shields argues that one of the distinctive features of radical politics in Japan was the absence of rigid lines demarcating Marxists from anarchists (though, as he points out, these lines would harden by the mid-twenties). As a result, hermeneutic distinctions of the sort I am pursuing here are more difficult to draw. Nevertheless, one can discern a hermeneutic of faith in the particularities of Stirner’s reception by the Mavo artists and poets, a reception that, as Shields notes, “led them to a political vision that emphasized a transformation of (lived) consciousness—or habitus—one that was shorn of the ‘individualism’ (kojinshugi) of bourgeois capitalism, as well as, we must assume given the context, the self-sacrificial ‘non-I’ of imperial kokutai (lit. national body) ideology.” Oriented toward a refashioning of self that takes place prior to (or alongside) the refashioning of the world, anarchist discourse within the Japanese avant-garde was shaped less by suspicion than faith (perhaps this contributes to the relative absence of tension between the political and the spiritual that Shields discerns among the poets and artists of the period).

The anarchist focus on refashioning the self before/alongside that of the world is likewise present in Kimberly Croswell’s examination of Ananda Coomaraswamy’s anarchist anti-colonialism. Coomaraswamy’s guiding hermeneutic principles are evident in what he called the “re-education of the sense-sensitiveness” of modern subjects. As Croswell makes clear, Coomaraswamy was particularly interested in the experience—for Western listeners—of attuning oneself to the microtonal inflections common in Indian music. Such an experience offers nothing to critique; instead it trains the listener to become more at ease with the work of shifting one’s frame of reference. For Coomaraswamy, as for many anarchists, the problem of false consciousness is less salient than the problem of limited imagination. Allan Antliff addresses a related phenomenon in his account of Clyfford Still’s engagement with anarchism. In his discussion of Still’s various correspondences with anarchist artists and activists, Antliff draws attention to Michael McClure’s Peyote Poem. Written under the influence of peyote that his friend Wallace Berman had left for him, McClure describes an “inner calm” born of the sensation of “spirit and flesh” united. As was the case with Coomaraswamy’s educative endeavor, McClure’s pursuit was not the development of a critical cognition of reality, but a reordering of sensory experience. Likewise at odds with the hermeneutics of suspicion was Still’s anarchist understanding of his art in terms of subjective emulation, rather than objective representation. Antliff’s description of Still’s self-understanding as one whose artistic practice would serve as “an experience of self-liberation others might emulate” recalls Shields’s discussion of “the ‘radiation theory’ of political change that runs deep within the Chinese and broader East Asian (and to some extent, Indian) thought traditions—according to which ‘sages’ manifest their transformed consciousness outwards, thereby transforming society.” In both instances, negation and opposition are displaced by affiliations and their expansive emulation.

A similar version of what Shields calls the “radiation theory” of political change is evident in Alex Comfort’s notion of “Romantic Realism.” As Mark Antliff details, Comfort’s fusion of anarchist politics and aesthetics is founded on the “moral duty to substitute something healthier.” The gradual expansion of such substitutions are understood, in the manner of Landauer, as leading, eventually, to the total displacement of the unhealthy. In this way, anarchist transformation proceeds dilationally, not dialectically. Antliff draws particular attention to Comfort’s simultaneous rejection of both surrealism and abstraction (the former as masochistic, the latter as escapist). Against both, Comfort proposed the romantic realism of Cecil Collins and his figure of the fool. For Comfort, Collins’ fool was a symbol of “personal liberation” for those “whose sense of responsibility is intact.” In identifying the fool as the one who manages to retain a modicum of integrity in an environment turned upside down by war, we can identify another aspect of the hermeneutics of faith: its affirmation comes at the expense of a recognition of its inescapable frailty, and with it, of the ever-present possibility of failure.

Collins’ fantastic paintings of fools and angels have long been considered marginal to the history of mid-century modernism. Similarly marginalized (and perhaps for the same reasons) are the fantasy writers James Gifford refers to under the term “goblin modernism”—writers such as E. R. Eddison, Lord Dunsany, Robert Howard, John Cowper Powys, Hope Mirrlees, Henry Treece, T. H. White, and Mervyn Peake. Gifford proposes that the hegemony of Marxist analysis has made it all but impossible to recognize the political implications of their work. Unlike science fiction, which, by virtue of its attention to technology, invites a materialist reading, the genre of fantasy provokes “a radicalization of the inward turn in late modernism, redirecting its narcissistic sophistry in stream of consciousness away from bourgeois individualism . . . and toward a transformation of the world as an expression of an anarchist ethos.” Similarly attuned to practices dismissed by Marxist materialism, Kristoffer Noheden asks us to take seriously Surrealism’s postwar embrace of the occult as an instance of what he calls “an anarchist vernacular modernism.” Focusing on “receptivity” rather than critique, Noheden argues that André Breton’s film theory posits “a breakdown of the ordered self and an attendant receptivity to a new ethics arising from the reconstitution of the filmed world through montage and editing, understood as a means of revealing a world structured by occult correspondences.” Noheden’s essay offers some of the most detailed elaborations of the distinction between Marxist and anarchist hermeneutics, as in his account of the difference between Adorno’s denunciation of film’s deadening standardization on the one hand and Breton’s celebration of “film’s transformative capacities.” Where Adorno advocates suspicion, Breton practices faith.

The issue closes with Robin Blyn’s reading of Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 as a narrative especially relevant to contemporary anarchism. Blyn draws on Manuel Castells and David Harvey’s work on the network structure of post-Reagan neoliberalism, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s theory of Empire and Eugene Thacker, and Alexander Galloway’s network analysis. From this foundation, Blyn argues that anarchism must be rethought in the age of network power, when state power no longer relies on hierarchical structures of domination and instead begins to draw upon the same horizontally distributed networks claimed by anarchists. What happens, asks Blyn, when state power becomes a distributed network of its own? “Because there is nowhere outside of the networks of neoliberal capital, there can be no such thing as an alternative or counter-network, just as there is no ‘other world’ to collide fortuitously with our own.” Like Shields, Blyn attends to the concern that anarchism, in its effort to construct an alternative world within the present—without first undermining the forces that maintain the present hegemony—threatens to devolve into what Bookchin derided as mere “lifestyle anarchism.” In this regard, Blyn’s article is a kind of second-order hermeneutic analysis, in that it applies the Marxist hermeneutics of suspicion not to capitalism, but rather to the hermeneutics of faith on which anarchism bases its own response to capitalism. As such, it is a crucial reminder that no hermeneutic practice can guarantee success. Where the hermeneutics of suspicion always threatens to fall into the trap of incorporation, the hermeneutics of faith always threatens to fall into the trap of insufficiency; the former risks having its power turned against itself while the latter risks witnessing its power stunted before it manages to take effect.

What Music Ought to Do

By way of conclusion, I turn briefly to the work of John Cage and propose it as a model of anarchist hermeneutics of the sort that can stand alongside the Marxist hermeneutics of Brecht, Haacke, and Warhol.[31] Roughly contemporaneous with the works identified by Buchloh and Foster as models of the hermeneutics of suspicion, Cage’s practice seeks not to unmask but to reframe. Among the first to draw attention to this aspect of Cage’s work was Henry Flynt, a composer loosely affiliated with the Fluxus arts who themselves identified Cage’s work as the most radical extension of the historical avant-garde.[32]

The key figure in the threatened dissolution of art was Cage. Everybody knew the “precedent” of Dada, of course. Motherwell’s book appeared in 1951; and Sidney Janis exhibited “Dada: 1916–1923” in 1953, for example. But Dada’s transgressive gestures were intended as savage satires. One can read all of Dada, in fact, as a protest against World War I. (A protest whose inconsequentiality showed that parody and mobilization are art’s least worthy, least credible functions.) Cage’s “absurdist” works, on the other hand, meant to promulgate a new sensibility, a sensibility of accident, of vanishings, of nothing. Resentment was not a consideration.[33]

Discernable in Flynt’s description of dada as “savage satires” is the work of suspicion (satire unmasks truths that only the suspicious can identify). That Flynt was himself critical of such gestures (“art’s least worth, least credible functions”) is underscored by the significance he placed on Cage’s “new sensibility” in which resentment (critique’s affective dimension) plays no role. We can contrast Flynt’s perspective with that of dancer Yvonne Rainer. Like Flynt, Rainer was profoundly influenced by Cage’s work and writing, but unlike Flynt, she insisted that Cage’s project must first be refashioned as critique. For Rainer, Cage’s “methods of nonhierarchical, indeterminate organization” should not be used to “awaken to this excellent life,” but rather, “[to] awaken to the ways in which we have been led to believe that this life is so excellent, just, and right.”[34] Rainer’s critical project could hardly be more explicit: what disturbed her about Cage’s method was precisely what Flynt admired—its absence of negativity.

We can get a more precise understanding of Cage’s “new sensibility” (as Flynt put it) by turning to the problem of noise, a problem that likewise links Cage to the dadaists before him. In his “First German Dada Manifesto” (delivered in February 1918), Richard Huelsenbeck identified noise as a tool of unmasking. Rather than hide the screeches and squeals of modern life, dadaist poetry highlights them: “[W]ith Dadaism a new reality comes into its own. Life appears as a simultaneous muddle of noises, colors and spiritual rhythms, which is taken unmodified into Dadaist art, with all the sensational screams and fevers of its reckless everyday psyche and with all its brutal reality.”[35] Noise, in this instance, functions constatively (in J. L. Austin’s terminology). Modern life is loud, dissonant, and jarring, and dada must represent it as such: “The Bruitist poem represents a streetcar as it is, the essence of the streetcar with the yawning of Schulze the coupon clipper and the screeching of the brakes” (Huelsenbeck, “First German Dada Manifesto,” 258). For Cage, however, noise was not grasped as a constative, but as a performative. Noise mattered not for what it represented (in the world), but what it produced (in the listener): “Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. The sound of a truck at fifty miles per hour. Static between the stations. Rain. We want to capture and control these sounds, to use them not as sound effects but as musical instruments.”[36] The goal, for Cage, is not to unmask, as it is for both Huelsenbeck and Rainer, but to reframe. In other words, the purpose of music is not to provide a truthful experience of the world, but to provide a provocative one.[37] Noise’s salience lies in its potential to provoke change in the listener. For example, in response to the criticism of his music as too long, Cage retorted: “Well, they’re thinking of art as entertainment, and that isn’t what art is about. I would say, to put it as simply as I can, that art changes our minds. After all, boredom is not perpetrated upon you; it’s you who create the boredom.”[38] Similarly, when asked about certain music that troubled him, he replied: “the use of music . . . which bows to the audience, and does so confessedly, I think is the opposite of what seems to me to be a true revolutionary attitude, because it takes the status quo and comforts it. It doesn’t do what I’ve said music ought to do: to make people stronger, and to change them” (Kostelanetz, Conversing with Cage, 249).

Cage’s belief that there exists two types of music—music which bows to people and music which changes them—recalls Foster’s distinction between art which celebrates spectacle and art which unmasks it. If, for Foster and others, the first step in avoiding the former is to approach the world from a position of suspicion, the first step for Cage and others (perhaps Flynt) is to approach the world from a position of faith (hence Cage’s radical proposition—denounced by Rainer—that his music should be experienced as an “affirmation of life, not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements on creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we’re living which is so excellent once one gets one’s mind and one’s desires out of its way and lets it act of its own accord”).[39] This, for Cage, is what it means to listen:

Formerly, whenever anyone said the music I presented was experimental, I objected. . . . I no longer object to the word “experimental.” I use it in fact to describe all the music that especially interests me and to which I am devoted, whether someone else wrote it or I myself did. What has happened is that I have become a listener and the music has become something to hear.[40]

Where these ears are in connection with a mind that has nothing to do, that mind is free to enter into the act of listening, hearing each sound just as it is, not as a phenomenon more or less approximating a preconception.[41]

What Cage is calling for is an orientation toward sound that presupposes its (eventual) meaningfulness, an instance of what Ricoeur called a “second naïveté.” Regarding its political implications, we would do well to understand it in relation to Jacques Rancière’s related presupposition of equality: “Equality is not a goal that governments and societies could succeed in reaching. To pose equality as a goal is to hand it over to the pedagogues of progress, who widen endlessly the distance they promise that they will abolish. Equality is a presupposition, an initial axiom—or it is nothing.”[42] In The Ignorant Schoolmaster, Rancière tells the story of Joseph Jacotot, an eighteenth century educator who begins with the premise that “all men [are] . . . capable of understanding what others have done and understood.”[43] Like the presupposition of equality, the presupposition of equal intelligence is distinct from a claim to be proved or a goal to be reached: “[O]ur problem isn’t proving that all intelligence is equal. It’s seeing what can be done under that supposition. And for this, it’s enough for us that the opinion be possible—that is, that no opposing truth be proved” (The Ignorant Schoolmaster, 46). Kristin Ross, who translated The Ignorant Schoolmaster, understandably described Jacotot’s premise (and thus, by extension, Rancière’s) as “startling (or naïve?).”[44] That Ross wedged “naïve” between parentheses, then appended a question mark is a likely sign that in this instance (as in so many others) naïveté is to be understood as an epithet, the label for a condition to be avoided at all costs. It is also a clue to the axiom at the core of the critical enterprise itself, the axiom that insists we always and only begin from a position of suspicion. For Jacotot, Rancière, and Cage, however, the more productive gambit is the one that begins from the position of naïveté, not in order to prove anything, but to “[see] what can be done under that supposition.”

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the hermeneutics of faith is the requirement that one place oneself in a position of ignorance. Against Bürger’s “critical cognition of reality,” practitioners of faith are compelled to forego understanding. This is what binds Jacotot, the ignorant schoolmaster, to Cage, the ignorant composer: “New music: new listening. Not an attempt to understand something that is being said . . . . Just an attention to the activity of sounds” (Cage, “Experimental Music,” 10).[45] Hence the axiom: “Listening as ignorance” (Cage, “45’ for a Speaker,” 147). In this regard, Cage’s conclusion parallels Bürger’s insistence that “an art no longer distinct from the praxis of life but wholly absorbed in it will lose the capacity to criticize it, along with its distance.” The difference here is that where Bürger held that art is only of value when it maintains its capacity to criticize the world, Cage was of the belief that that art is only of value when it changes the person who lives in it. This distinction applies as well to Marxism and anarchism: where the former begins with suspicion toward the world, anarchism begins with faith toward those who live in it—not in order to prove that this faith is justified, but rather to see what is enabled when we suppose it.


[1] Jesse S. Cohn, Anarchism and the Crisis of Representation: Hermeneutics, Aesthetics, Politics (Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press, 2006), 14.

[2] David Graeber, “The New Anarchists,” New Left Review 12 (2002): 61–73, 61–62.

[3] Todd May, introduction to New Perspectives on Anarchism, ed. Nathan J. Jun and Shane Wahl (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010), 1–6, 1.

[4] In the introduction to The Anarchist Turn, Simon Critchley gamely asserts that “in the last decade, maybe longer, this caricature of anarchy and anarchism has begun to crack” (The Anarchist Turn, ed. Jacob Blumenfeld, Chiara Bottici, and Simon Critchley [London: Pluto Press, 2013], 1–6, 2).

[5] David Graeber, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (Chicago, IL: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2004), 2.

[6] Graeber identifies three common misconceptions about anarchism: “our supposed opposition to something called ‘globalization,’ our supposed ‘violence,’ and our supposed lack of a coherent ideology” (“The New Anarchists,” 62).

[7] Jesse Cohn, “What is Anarchist Literary Theory?,” Anarchist Studies 15, no. 2 (2007): 115–31, 115.

[8] Allan Antliff, “Anarchism and Art History: Methodologies of Insurrection,” in The Bloomsbury Companion to Anarchism, ed. Ruth Kinna (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014), 72–85, 73.

[9] Simon Springer, “Why a Radical Geography Must Be Anarchist,” Dialogues in Human Geography 4, no. 3 (2014): 249–70, 249. Springer continues: “When anarchism is considered, it is misused as a synonym for violence or derided as a utopian project. Yet it is incorrect to assume anarchism as a project, which instead reflects Marxian thought. Anarchism is more appropriately considered a protean process that perpetually unfolds through the insurrectionary geographies of the everyday and the prefigurative politics of direct action, mutual aid, and voluntary association. . . . Radical geographers would do well to reengage anarchism as there is a vitality to this philosophy that is missing from Marxian analyses that continue to rehash ideas—such as vanguardism and a proletarian dictatorship—that are long past their expiration date” (249).

[10] David Harvey, “Listen, Anarchist! A Personal Reply to Simon Springer’s ‘Why a radical geography must be anarchist,’” June 10, 2015,

[11] For instance, regarding Marxism, Harvey writes: “There is a big distinction in Marx’s theory between how, when and where value is produced and how, when and where it is realized.” Regarding anarchism: “Through the work of Patrick Geddes, Lewis Mumford and later on Murray Bookchin, anarchist sentiments have also been influential in urban planning”; “Élisée Reclus was one of the most prolific anarchist geographers of the nineteenth century. Looking at his nineteen volume Geographie Universelle, there is little trace of anarchist sentiments (any more than there were in Kropotkin’s studies of the physical geography of central Asia)”; “When, however, Reclus wrote L’Homme et la Terre (1982) towards the end of his life, in which he freely allowed anarchist sentiments to flow into his geographical work, he could not find a publisher.” In addition to Marxist theory, Harvey writes of “postcolonial theory,” “queer theory,” “liberal theory,” but only of “anarchist sentiments,” “anarchist tactics,” “anarchist sympathies,” “anarchist leanings,” “anarchist position[s],” “anarchist approach[es],” “anarchist currents,” and “anarchist concerns.” The phrase “anarchist principles” does appear once, however—in a quotation from Springer (Harvey, “Listen, Anarchist!”).

[12] Likewise Cohn: “A distinctive feature of anarchism, as a political movement, is that it roots itself not in a fixed epistemological schema, e.g., a set of propositions about the true structure of history, capital, patriarchy, etc., but in an ethical stance, the positive side of which consists in a fundamental affirmation of freedom, equality, and the coexistence of the different not only as ends but as means, the negative side of which consists in a fundamental refusal of domination and hierarchy per se, not only as instanced in relations of class or gender or race, etc., but in any and all relationship” (“What is Anarchist Literary Theory?,” 116).

[13] For example: The Turn to Ethics, ed. Marjorie Garber, Beatrice Hanssen, and Rebecca L. Walkowitz (New York: Routledge, 2000); Mapping the Ethical Turn: A Reader in Ethics, Culture, and Literary Theory, ed. Todd F. Davis and Kenneth Womack (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2001); The Ethical Turn: Otherness and Subjectivity in Contemporary Psychoanalysis, ed. David M. Goodman and Eric R. Severson (London: Routledge, 2016). See also Jacques Rancière, “The Ethical Turn of Aesthetics and Politics,” Critical Horizons 7, no. 1 (2006): 1–20; and Robert Doran, The Ethics of Theory: Philosophy, History, Literature (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017).

[14] Todd May, The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994); Saul Newman, From Bakunin to Lacan: Anti-Authoritarianism and the Dislocation of Power (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2001); Lewis Call, Postmodern Anarchism (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2003); Post-Anarchism: A Reader, ed. Duane Rousselle and Süreyyya Evren (New York: Pluto Press, 2011); The Anarchist Turn, ed. Jacob Blumenfeld, Chiara Bottici, and Simon Critchley (London: Pluto Press, 2013); Contemporary Anarchist Studies, ed. Randall Amster, Abraham DeLeon, Luis A. Fernandez, Anthony J. Nocella II, and Deric Shannon (New York: Routledge, 2009); The Bloomsbury Companion to Anarchism, ed. Ruth Kinna (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014).

[15] Ruth Kinna, introduction to The Bloomsbury Companion to Anarchism, 3–38, 3.

[16] Antliff concludes: “An anarchist art history will intensify this process towards insurrectionary ends, ends that disrupt art history’s domestication within the cultural production of knowledge amenable to the social and institutional hierarchies that grease global capitalism. This entails a refusal of closure, methodological or otherwise, and a dedication to opening the history of art up to activism and dissent, skepticism and critique, prefiguration and creative rupture, all the ways in which social freedom manifests itself in the process of becoming anarchist” (“Anarchism and Art History,” 79).

[17] Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1970), 34.

[18] Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977),

[19] Colin Ward, Anarchy in Action (1973; rpt., London: Freedom Press, 1996), 18.

[20] Todd May, “Anarchism from Foucault to Rancière,” in Contemporary Anarchist Studies, 11–17, 12. “If domination is elastic, then its different appearances are irreducible to a specific form of domination. For instance, gender domination may be related to exploitation, but it is not reducible to exploitation. They may well intersect, and probably do. But each has its own character that requires its own analysis and intervention. Local and intersecting analyses of social and political phenomena replace a single, overarching analysis that encompasses all social space” (“Anarchism from Foucault to Rancière,” 12).

[21] Here is the key passage from Landauer from which Ward derives his dilational theory of social change: “A table can be overturned and a window can be smashed. However, those who believe that the state is also a thing or a fetish that can be overturned or smashed are sophists and believers in the Word. The state is a social relationship; a certain way of people relating to one another. It can be destroyed by creating new social relationships; i.e., by people relating to one another differently. The absolute monarch said: I am the state. We, who we have imprisoned ourselves in the absolute state, must realize the truth: we are the state! And we will be the state as long as we are nothing different; as long as we have not yet created the institutions necessary for a true community and a true society of human beings” (Gustav Landauer, “Weak Statesmen, Weaker People!,” in Revolution and Other Writings: A Political Reader, ed. and trans. Gabriel Kuhn [Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2010], 213–14, 214). Landauer has emerged recently as one of the most crucial theorists of anarchism’s “first wave.” His writing is central, for example, to Richard Day’s notion of affinity-based practices: “From the refusal of work to the construction of concrete alternatives to the existing order, these dispersed and constantly morphing tactics nonetheless share some common characteristics. They are not oriented to allowing a particular group or movement to remake a nation-state or a world on its own image, and are therefore of little use to those who seek power over others, or those who would ask others for gifts, thereby enslaving themselves. Rather, they are appropriate to those who are striving to recover, establish or enhance their ability to determine the conditions of their own existence, while allowing and encouraging others to do the same” (Richard Day, Gramsci is Dead: Anarchist Currents in the Newest Social Movements [London: Pluto Press, 2005], 13).

[22] Marx continues by situating the “ruthless criticism of all that exists” in the service of true self-understanding: “The reform of consciousness consists only in making the world aware of its own consciousness, in awakening it out of its dream about itself, in explaining to it the meaning of its own actions. Our whole object can only be—as is also the case in Feuerbach’s criticism of religion—to give religious and philosophical questions the form corresponding to man who has become conscious of himself” (Karl Marx, “Letter to Ruge, September 1843,” in Letters from the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, Hence Ricoeur’s description of Marx, like Freud and Nietzsche, as committed to “the general hypothesis concerning both the process of false consciousness and the method of deciphering. . . . since the man of suspicion carries out in reverse the work of falsification of the man of guile” (Freud and Philosophy, 34).

[23] Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You’re so Paranoid, you Probably Think This Essay Is About You,” in Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003),123–51; Bruno Latour, “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern,” Critical Inquiry 30, no. 2 (2004): 225–48; Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2015).

[24] Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991), x; Terry Eagleton, Marxism and Literary Criticism (London: Methuen, 1976), 33–34. Eagleton continues: “Such writing need not necessarily involve verisimilitude, in the narrow sense of recreating the textures and appearances of things; it is quite compatible with the widest uses of fantasy and invention. Not every work which gives us the ‘real’ feel of the world is in Brecht’s sense realist” (Marxism and Literary Criticism, 34).

[25] Peter Bürger, Theory of the Avant-Garde, trans. Michael Shaw (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), 50.

[26] Benjamin Buchloh, “Conceptual Art 1962–1969: From the Aesthetic of Administration to the Critique of Institutions,” October 55 (1990): 105–43, 143. For Buchloh, their work involves “a recognition that materials and procedures, surfaces and textures, locations and placement are not only sculptural or painterly matter to be dealt with in terms of a phenomenology of visual and cognitive experience or in terms of a structural analysis of the sign (as most of the Minimalist and post-Minimalist artists had still believed), but that they are always already inscribed within the conventions of language and thereby within institutional power and ideological and economic investment” (“Conceptual Art 1962–1969,” 136).

[27] Hal Foster, The First Pop Age: Painting and Subjectivity in the Art of Hamilton, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Richter, and Ruscha (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011), 250. Foster argues that Pop art’s delight in popular culture, “is only intermittent, and though it has a politics of its own, it is a lite politics, one that, in the long aftermath of Pop, now seems played out (especially in the work of such Warholian avatars as Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, and Takashi Murakami)” (The First Pop Age, 250).

[28] In “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading,” Sedgwick makes one mention of Ricoeur’s notion of “the hermeneutic of recovery” (“Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading,” 125). In The Limits of Critique, Felski offers a handful of passing references to what she calls the hermeneutics of “restoration” (32).

[29] Ward’s position recalls that of Kropotkin, for whom mutual aid was a fact of nature, as fundamental to the evolution of species as Darwinian competition. “There is, at the same time, as much, or perhaps even more, of mutual support, mutual aid, and mutual defence amidst animals belonging to the same species or, at least, to the same society. Sociability is as much a law of nature as mutual struggle” (Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid, A Factor of Evolution [New York: McClure Phillips, 1902], 5).

[30] Ricoeur: “According to the one pole, hermeneutics is understood as the manifestation and restoration of a meaning addressed to me in the manner of a message, a proclamation, or as is sometimes said, a kerygma; according to the other pole, it is understood as a demystification, as a reduction of illusion” (Freud and Philosophy, 27). Alternatively, Ricoeur distinguishes between the act of critiquing and the act of listening: “Hermeneutics seems to me to be animated by this double motivation: willingness to suspect, willingness to listen” (Freud and Philosophy, 27). At times, Ricoeur associates the hermeneutics of faith with the “restoration of meaning,” but there is no reason to insist that all acts of faith are restorative. Indeed, this may well be the dividing line between a religious hermeneutics of faith and a secular hermeneutics of faith. With the latter, there is no guarantee of success, no prior wholeness toward which to return. Here it is worth noting that both Sedgwick and Felski avoid the term “faith” in favor of “recovery” and “restoration.” To my mind, these terms suffer from the implication that the searched-for meaning is to be located in some superior past, and that the job of hermeneusis is to reclaim a fullness that once existed but is no more. “Faith” however strikes me as more in keeping with the fundamental challenge posed by Ricoeur’s notion of a hermeneutics beyond critique precisely because the term “faith,” unlike “recovery” and “restoration,” refuses to suppose a prelapsarian wholeness as the wellspring of meaning. Faith makes no claim to historical priority and thereby situates the interpreter more precariously in the present. For an account of precarity beyond critique, see Roger Rothman, “Fluxus and the Art of Affirmation,” in Beyond Critique: Contemporary Art in Theory, Practice, and Instruction, ed. Pamela Fraser and Roger Rothman (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing 2017), 25–33.

[31] For an account of Cage’s engagement with anarchism, see Allan Antliff, “Situating Freedom: Jackson Mac Low, John Cage, and Donald Judd,” Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies 2 (2011): 39–57.

[32] Henry Flynt is perhaps most well known as the author of the first theorization of conceptual art. See Flynt, “Concept Art,” in An Anthology of Chance Operations, ed. La Monte Young and Jackson Mac Low (Bronx, NY: La Monte Young and Jackson Mac Low, 1963).

[33] Henry Flynt, Against “Participation”: A Total Critique of Culture, 1993,

[34] Yvonne Rainer, “Looking Myself in the Mouth,” in John Cage (October Files), ed. Julia Robinson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), 35–48, 38, emphasis added. For a reading of Cage as a model of critical suspicion, see Branden W. Joseph, “John Cage and the Architecture of Silence,” October 81 (1997): 80–104; and Branden W. Joseph, Beyond the Dream Syndicate: Tony Conrad and the Arts After Cage (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008).

[35] Richard Huelsenbeck, “First German Dada Manifesto,” in Art in Theory 1900–2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, ed. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (London: Blackwell, 2003), 257–59, 258. Futurist F. T. Marinetti proposed much the same: “We will sing of . . . propellers [that] chatter in the wind like banners and seem to cheer like an enthusiastic crowd” (Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, “The Foundation and Manifesto of Futurism,” in Art in Theory 1900–2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, 146–49, 148).

[36] John Cage, “The Future of Music: Credo,” in Silence (50th Anniversary Edition) (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2011), 3–6, 3. “The Future of Music: Credo” was delivered 1937, but published 1958.

[37] Adorno’s conception of “serious music” offers a related conception of the truth-value of music. If, for Huelsenbeck, the Bruitist poem offers a positive truth of the noise of the world, serious music offers a negative truth, an expression of harmony and totality absent in the world. See Theodor Adorno, “On Popular Music,” Studies in Philosophy and Social Sciences 9, no. 1 (1941): 17–48.

[38] John Cage quoted in Richard Kostelanetz, Conversing with Cage, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2003), 252.

[39] John Cage quoted in Richard Kostelanetz, John Cage (New York: Praeger, 1970): 51.

[40] John Cage, “Experimental Music,” in Silence (50th Anniversary Edition), 7–12, 7.

[41] John Cage, “Composition as Process,” in Silence (50th Anniversary Edition), 18–56, 23.

[42] Jacques Rancière, The Philosopher and His Poor (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), 223. Rancière’s work has played an important role for a number of contemporary theorists of anarchism. See, for example, Todd May, The Political Thought of Jacques Rancière: Creating Equality (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008); Saul Newman, “Post-Anarchism and Radical Politics Today,” in Post-Anarchism: A Reader, 46–68.

[43] Jacques Rancière, The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation, trans. Kristin Ross (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991), 2.

[44] Kristin Ross, introduction to The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation, trans. Kristin Ross (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991), vii–xxiii, xix.

[45] Similarly: “No one can have an idea once he starts really listening” (John Cage, “45’ for a Speaker,” in Silence (50th Anniversary Edition), 146–93, 191).