The spirited defense of autonomous art by Theo van Doesburg, Hans Arp, and Kurt Schwitters and their denunciation of “proletarian” as a symptom of everything wrong with politically engaged art attest to the deep divides that haunted the culture and society of the Weimar Republic. Their manifesto presented formal innovation as the conduit to aesthetic autonomy and celebrated modern art as liberation from social determinations, national differences, and historical influences.
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. 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.” 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.” 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).