Survey courses are peculiar things, particularly when they address subjects of more than just passing interest. The construction of a survey always seems to involve at least some claim regarding the exemplary nature of the materials chosen. And if we were more certain about the character and extent of the anarchist tradition, we would expect a historical survey to take us, rather neatly, from milepost to milepost along the path of growing ideological clarity. But it’s hard to spend any time discussing history and theory with other anarchists—and I spend hours nearly every day—without recognizing that anarchy, anarchism and the anarchist tradition are all things that we struggle with, constantly, without necessarily making much headway in the process.
It is likely that anarchism—as a general, shareable project, not built from the elevation of certain consistently anarchistic concerns above others—still eludes all of us, to one extent or another. It is even possible that it always will, that anarchy is, as William Batchelder Greene put it, a blazing star that constantly retreats as we pursue it. In “The Anarchist Tension,” Alfred Bonanno argued something similar about “being an anarchist:”