Perspectives on
Anarchist Theory

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Vol. 1 - No. 1
Spring 1997

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Some Comments on the IAS
by Chuck Morse

Welcome to the first issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, the biannual newsletter of the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS).

As a new and unusual organization, the IAS deserves some explanation. I will use this article to outline some of our goals and activities.

The IAS was founded in the spring of 1996 to fight for radical, anti-authoritarian scholarship. We are alarmed by the current scarcity of serious, politically committed scholarship on social contradictions and the possibilities of social transformation. We believe it is necessary and possible to revitalize this type of theoretical work, and that this requires the construction of politically engaged organizations dedicated to this purpose.

Thus the IAS was formed to support critical scholarship on social domination and radical ideals of freedom – the two constitutive concerns of anarchist theory. The IAS supports this work in a variety of ways, although we are focused on providing financial assistance to writers. Our assistance takes the form of grants, and we award an annual total of $6000.

We initiated the IAS grant program to ease the economic burdens imposed upon authors who question social hierarchies. While material rewards are generously allocated to writers who justify social domination or shrink from social contradictions, those who struggle to articulate radical ideals are often forced to abandon or dilute their work in order to survive. This, of course, is neither accidental nor a permanent condition of advanced intellectual work, but one way among others that social criticism is suppressed.

Our grants will challenge this. They will give authors some relief from the brutalities of economic necessity and thus help them write pieces that confront the existing order. IAS grants will enable writers to do things such as take time off of work, hire childcare, or purchase a plane ticket to an archive, thus affording them time and/or research materials that would otherwise be unavailable.

This will help writers produce rigorous works that sustain and deepen radical social criticism. For example, this January the IAS awarded grants to Murray Bookchin and Alan Antliff, whose inquiries into anarchist history will help us hold on to the anarchist tradition and engage it more critically. The IAS also awarded grants to Paul Fleckenstein and Kwaku Kushindana, both of whom will subject contemporary affairs to an anti-authoritarian analysis.

However, IAS sponsored scholarship will do more than transform ideals. It will help us build a movement for a free society by generating critical and utopian insights into the mechanisms of social domination, tactics of resistance, and visions of social freedom. It will help us not only expand our understanding of human potentialities but also sharpen and clarify strategies for the realization of these potentialities.

In the future we hope only to intensify and expand the IAS’s activities. In particular, we hope to offer larger grants and initiate new projects, and we are building an endowment to ensure that this can happen and that the IAS can exist for generations. For the short-term, however, we will add four pages to the next issue of Perspectives, post a web page on the Internet, and we are discussing holding a conference this fall.

The future of the IAS cannot be considered without first recognizing that its existence is the result of a tremendous collective effort made by those who helped build the organization since it was founded last spring. Those who donated to the IAS enabled it not only to give out its first set of grants but also to emerge into a functioning organization. There are many others who may not have contributed financially but generously gave of their time and other resources. Brian Wells Hay deserves special recognition in this regard for helping create the IAS’s elementary legal and tax structure (and for actually comprehending the state’s arcane laws and regulations).

The IAS is only a small part of the movement we must build, but it is an essential part that will help deepen both the critique of the existing order and the vision of a free society. Like all radical projects, its success pivots on one overriding factor: the willingness of large groups of people to fight for radical ideals, radical institutions, and, ultimately, for social freedom.