Trying out a more soulful tone

Folke, however, was writing in the context of a highly politicized Danish student movement and, rightly or wrongly, none of us in the Anglo-Saxon world took that much notice of his essay at the time. So it seems mighty odd that Springer has elected to write a rebuttal to this not very influential piece some forty two years after its publication and without, moreover, paying any mind to its historical and geographical context. We, rightly or wrongly, were too wrapped up in providing the mutual aid (spiced with great parties and fierce arguments) across multiple traditions (including anarchist) that might allow us both to intervene in the trajectory of mainstream geography and to survive within the discipline while producing a more openly political geography.

A photo-biography of the celebrated evangelist

The radicalism that remained in the discipline (after many of my erstwhile colleagues had run for the neoliberal hills or, in the British case, to seek their knighthood) was thereafter dominated by the postmodern turn, Foucault, post- structuralism (Deleuze and Guattari along with Spinoza clearly displacing Marx), postcolonial theory, various shades of environmentalism and sophisticated forms of identity politics around race, gender, sexual orientation, queer theory, to say nothing of theories of non-representation and affect. During the 1990s, before the rise of the alter-globalization movement, there was little interest in Marxian political economy or Marxism more generally within the discipline or without. As always there were some islands of resistance in various departments. With the exception of The Condition of Postmodernity (1989) – which stood out as a pillar of resistance within Marxist thinking to postmodern trends and which elicited fierce criticism from radical, particularly feminist, quarters within and without geography (as at the AAG in 1990) – most of my really “influential writings” have come out over the last ten years. Springer’s bowdlerized history of Marxism in radical geographical thought suggests he is simply concerned to build a fantasy narrative of anarchism in geography as victimized by Marxism to support his central objective, which is to polarize matters at this particular historical moment (for reasons I do not understand). Sadly, this comes not only at a time when the conjuncture is right for a revival of interest in Marxist political economy, but it also coincides with a political moment when others are beginning to explore new ways of doing politics that involve putting the best of different radical and critical traditions (including but not confined to Marxism and anarchism) together in a new configuration for anti- capitalist struggle.


—More than 5,000 stores worldwide

—100 million shoppers per week in the U.S. alone

The “pull” has even lured major multinational manufacturers, such as Hoover, Kodak, Timex and Kraft, to set up offices in Bentonville, near the international headquarters of Wal-Mart. As portrayed on Frontline, Wal-Mart buyers, armed with an overwhelming array of inventory histories and sales tracking data, tell the representatives of these and other corporations how many watches or boxes of macaroni they will buy. The ambassadors from “Vendorville,” as the rows of corporate offices next to Wal-Mart headquarters have come to be known, have little room to negotiate. Because of its inventory system’s unmatched efficiency and accuracy, Wal-Mart knows exactly what to buy and exactly how much to pay for it.


Nozick R (1974) Anarchy, State, and Utopia. New York: Basic Books.

What is really odd is that before the Commune, in the 1860s, Marxists and anarchists were not at logger-heads in the same way as they later became. Reclus and many Proudhonians attended the meetings of the International Working Men’s Association and I recall reading somewhere that Marx asked Reclus if he would be willing to translate Capital from German into French. Reclus did not do so. I do sense, however, that Marx felt that Proudhon was his chief rival for the affections of the French revolutionary working class and in part concentrated his critical fire against him for that reason. But the clash of ideologies within the Paris Commune was between many factions, such as the centralizing and often violent Jacobinism of the Blanquists and variations of the Proudhonian decentralized associationists. The communists, like Varlin, were a minority. The subsequent appropriation of the Commune by Marx, Engels and Lenin as a heroic if fatally flawed uprising on the part of the working classes does not stand up to historical examination any more than does the story that it was the product of a purely urban social movement that had nothing to do with class. I view the Commune as a class event if only because it was a revolt against bourgeois structures of power and domination in both the living spaces as well as in the workplaces of the city (Harvey, 2003). Who “lost” the Commune became, however, a major issue in which the finger-pointing between Marx and Bakunin played a critical role in creating a huge gulf between the anarchist and Marxist traditions (a gulf that Springer seems concerned to deepen if he can).

This film is both a cinematic event and a social event.

While Proudhon undoubtedly had important things to say, there are dangers of viewing him as representative of some perfected social anarchism. He had a weak grasp of political economy, did not support the workers in the revolution of 1848, was against trade unions and strikes and held to a narrow definition of socialism as nothing more than the association of workers mutually supporting each other. He was hostile to women working and his supporters campaigned vigorously in the workers commissions of the 1860s in France to have women banned from employment in the Paris workshops. The main opposition came from the Paris Branch of the International Working Men’s Association led by Eugene Varlin who insisted upon women’s equality and right to work (Harvey, 2003). Proudhon’s book, Pornography: The Situation of Women, is, according to his biographer Edward Hyams, full of “every illiberal, every cruelly reactionary notion ever used against female emancipation by the most extreme anti-feminist” (1979: 274). OK, so Marx was no saint either on such matters. Both anarchism and Marxism have had and continue to have a troubled history on the gender question but on this topic Proudhon is an extreme and ugly outlier.