Why I’m Returning my Copy of The Anarchist Turn

In 2011, Simon Critchley, Chiara Bottici, and Jacob Blumenfeld organized a conference entitled “The Anarchist Turn” at the New School for Social Research. Naturally, the conference was exciting news for anarchist scholars. I was originally attracted to the conference because it seemed to toy with post-anarchist ideas in a way that had mass appeal. In other words, it seemed to grant further legitimacy to the specific forms of inquiry that have been generating incredible innovations in anarchist thinking over the last two decades. It was all the more exciting because the conference seemed to attract highly respected public intellectuals such as Judith Butler, Alberto Toscano, Todd May, Miguel Abensour, among others. It seemed to me that these highly respected scholars had themselves made a turn toward thinking through and renewing the anarchist tradition; I call this a “turn” because they had not previously made sustained and lasting contributions in the field of anarchist studies.

Their contributions reflected the stated objective of the journal that I edit, namely Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies. In fact, Sureyyya Evren and I, in collaboration with our advisory board, inaugurated the journal precisely as a journal of post-anarchist scholarship. We knew that the name would probably be short lived, but it was the spirit of post-anarchism that we wanted to capture. It was a spirit of exploration, an intellectual derive, a fascination with making radical breaks with tradition while forging new connections with other traditions. Even so, post-anarchism seemed to want to build a new tradition, to read the classical tradition in different ways by adding and removing this or that iconic thinker or by focusing on marginal comments within Kropotkin or Bakunin rather than the oft-citing contributions. To demonstrate this scope, check out some of the things written about our journal from Lewis Call, printed in the editorial of our first issue:

The existence of this journal, Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies, has convinced me that the time to hesitate is through. A decade into the third millennium, post-anarchism has become a self-realizing desire, a kind of Deleuzian desiring machine. […] This journal contains thoughtful, passionate defences of post-anarchism, and equally insightful, equally passionate critiques of it. Some of the essays in this volume are not particularly post-anarchist in their outlook or method, yet even these share certain concerns with post-anarchism: concerns, for example, about architecture, territories, the organization of space. These essays follow lines of flight which sometimes intersect with post-anarchism, and these points of intersection are rich with potential.

All of this is to merely state the case that Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies has been one of many projects that I have been involved in that have attempted to renew and rethink the anarchist tradition. Moreover, this broader project has always had as its explicit goal an attempt to rethink the tradition but always in fidelity to the tradition itself (rather than from outside of the tradition). Our point of departure, therefore, has always been to find a way not just to make an anarchist turn but also to make an anarchist re-turn. This means that anarchism comes first. There is a certain spirit to the anarchist milieu that ceaselessly seems to erupt from within the anarchist tradition in order overcome the tradition itself. My concern, and in many ways it has been the concern of my co-editor Sureyyya Evren, has been that some post-anarchist scholarship really does move against the grain of anarchist thinking in a way that is unproductive for the anarchist milieu.

Anarchists have always been suspicious of non-anarchists who seem to take us from behind and force us to give birth to another Marxist offspring, or another post-structuralist discourse, etc. The spirit of anarchism seems lost upon certain forms of academic investigation. I will be entirely forthright: when I first heard about The Anarchist Turn conference I was immediately concerned that any radical potential that the conference might have had would immediately devolve into a banal academic form. It would flicker like a flash of lightning and then return itself to the dark skies of scholarly exchange. But I wanted to harness this potential and ensure that the anarchist milieu would profit from it more than the academic community would profit from it.

I wanted to help disseminate the lectures beyond the walls of the New School for Social Research. Admittedly, I had a few tools in my tool-belt for doing so. First, as I stated earlier, I helped to found one of the most exciting and well received anarchist studies journals in the world. One of the reasons it has been exciting is because it has disrupted the scholarly modes of inquiry that have seemed to gently sing anarchism back to sleep in its traditional forms. It offered all of its scholarly material online for free and it explored alternative mediums such as video, mp3, graphics, etc. At one point we even thought about allowing a video game to be published within an issue. In any case, our journal was inaugurated precisely to address the sort of anarchist modes of investigation that were being employed at the conference but to extend them further and to keep that flame ignited.

I decided that it would be interesting to record video and audio from the conference and post these materials online for free for anybody to view. I wrote to Simon Critchley, who I had been in contact with prior to the conference, and asked for permission to do this under the name of Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies. He approved. Next, I asked some of my colleagues who had demonstrated skill in video editing if they would hit the conference and record it for me. Several of these options fell through – in the end, I had heard that a dear friend and much admired professor named Michael Truscello (who directed the film “Capitalism is the Crisis”, and edited a fantastic special issue on 9/11 for us) had planned to do precisely this. I asked him if he would be so kind as to provide his video materials of the conference to our journal for dissemination, and he happily approved. It turned out that the videos were even better than I had expected. They were extremely high quality and expertly shot. I had to do some minor editing on my own, which involved adding some branding (the ADCS logo) and linking together the shots. I quickly learned how to use the video editing software. I posted it on the website of a project that I believe in, namely, blip.tv, had “ic mihrak” draft up a cover for the special web issue, and embedded the entire conference as a “Special Virtual Issue” (ADCS 2011.0).

We received incredible feedback. The video had successfully seduced many scholars into noticing that anarchist scholarship can occur within the academy. I had been under the impression that many anarchists believed that it was impossible to do anarchist research within the academy and so they succumbed to their supervisors flights of fancy. We helped to provide more legitimacy for an emergent form of scholarship, thus inviting new and younger scholars to take up the torch and be assured that there really is a place to have their research published. We received numerous visitors to our journal. Verso Books, the European Graduate School, and many others, advertised our journal. The conference helped to demonstrate that anarchist scholarship not only has a future but can in fact take many forms. It doesn’t only happen in the dry, dull, academic style that they might have witnessed at the conference. It can also happen through poetry, art, architecture, painting, music production, editing and writing, etc. In many ways, we used anarchist academics to advance anarchist forms of scholarship.

The second tool in my tool-belt involved my skills as an editor as well as my contacts within the world of publishing. I had heard it through the grapevine that the conference organizers were interested in turning the conference papers into some sort of publication. However, I also heard, from some of my contacts, that their proposals were being rejected across the board (Verso, for example, rejected their book proposal, among others). I knew what it took to make this a successful publication but I wanted to help make it successful in such a way as to bring that success back into the anarchist studies milieu. I approached Simon Critchley with a number of ideas. I informed Critchley that I would publish the conference papers in one of two ways: (1) through Pluto Press as an edited volume, with my name on the cover for all of my assistance, and with the Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies logo somewhere within the publication. In this case, I told him that we would publish the book as a “special issue” of ADCS but with a secondary press (rather than with our traditional press which could not distribute as widely as we wanted). I knew that other high profile academic journals have used this strategy for publishing special conference papers in the past and that it worked for them. I also informed him that I would like to write the preface with Sureyyya Evren, my co-editor and long time colleague, so that we could state the relevance of the conference for the anarchist studies milieu. Of course, it was obvious that the writing of the preface was an exercise in framing. The second option was: (2) I would publish the entire issue online on the ADCS website and the issue would be printed with our local press but it would have much less distribution. In the latter case, the publication would be open access.

Critchley wanted to go with the first option. He agreed to the stipulations in full and then asked that I continue from that point on to discuss the matter with his colleague and co-conference organizer Chiara Bottici. I spent several weeks working on the proposal for Pluto Press. I knew what Pluto looked for in a contract because I had already published a book with them called Post-Anarchism: A Reader. I have always found Pluto fantastic to work with. Still, to this day, I maintain that Pluto Press is a fine publishing company and I encourage future radical authors to pitch their projects to them. David Castle, in particular, is a shining star in the dark sky of scholarly publishing. Chiara was also incredible to work with – we went through the finer points that Critchley and I discussed and she worked with me to re-brand the project and create a new chapter outline, among other things. In other words, she allowed me to adapt the book as it needed to be adapted for it to be approved for publication.

I kept updating and working through the proposal with Chiara and Simon backed off from communicating with me. I had approached numerous professors and asked them if they would agree to use the book in their courses and had them write this formally so that I could place it into the document with the selected course modules. I did extensive editing of the chapters for the proposal and then spent several weeks in negotiations with the publisher. After handling the peer-reviewers for an additional month, I landed a really sweet contract with Pluto and they mailed it to me immediately. I still remember the many hours spent in the sun room of my apartment, working diligently even while working through the notes for my upcoming PhD comprehensive examination, and feeling like it was too much work and that I should maybe just give up on it. Of course, I worked through the stress and after many months of preparation I secured a contract from Pluto Press for the book. The contract, of course, included all of the stipulations I have listed above (journal special issue affilitation, my name as editor, etc). I also sent a digital version of the contract to Chiara who thought that it was all rather swell.

The hard-copy of the contract, which had listed all of the original stipulations, was mailed to Chiara Bottici at the New School. Before the contract was drawn up Pluto Press was pressuring for only Simon Critchley’s name to appear as an editor on the cover. This was obvious, it was for marketing reasons. Chiara absolutely rejected this possibility, as did I. On this point we stood firm and inevitably Pluto caved. One of the other amendments from Pluto Press involved the placement of Critchley’s name on the cover. For Pluto, Critchley’s name was to appear at the beginning of the list of names. To Critchley’s credit, he insisted that the names be listed in alphabetical order. On this point Pluto caved. Finally, Pluto did not want so many names listed on the cover. Chiara and I disagreed, we thought that everybody should get credit for their work. Pluto inevitably caved to allow all of our names to be on the cover. The original contract, one copy of which is still in my possession, of course reflects all of this. Pluto and the conference organizers were all quite happy with everything and agreed to all of the terms.While all of this was ongoing, Chiara sent me all of the chapters for me to edit into volume styling, to proof, organize, and so on. As any editor knows, this was intense work and it took me no less than a half a year to finalize.

It was a few weeks after the contract was mailed from Pluto’s UK office to my office at Trent University – where, upon receiving I signed my name and sent the contract off to the New School in New York – that Chiara wrote to me to let me know that Critchley now wanted to change the deal. He knew that Pluto was serious and that the deal had been made but he wanted to (1) change the title of the book and (2) remove my name as an editor. The original title of the book paid more debt to the anarchist tradition. It highlighted that anarchism was always a serious line of thinking. The new title, which merely reflects the conference name, assumes that anarchism was now legitimate simply because Judith Butler and Simon Critchley now called themselves anarchists. Interestingly, their anarchism seemed absolutely detached from the anarchist milieu and from the anarchist tradition.

It seemed to me that Critchley’s thinking was that editing involves merely soliciting the pieces from authors. In this case, of course, Critchley ought not be listed either since, I have been told, the majority of the heavy lifting was done by Chiara Bottici and Critchley’s graduate student Jacob Blumenfeld. None of my efforts in producing a revised manuscript, table of contents, title for the book, proofing, editing, etc., was anymore considered a form of “editing”. After some debates between Pluto, Chiara, and myself, all of which lasted at least a few days, I gave in and said that it is okay for my name to be removed so long as the rest of the stipulations remained. A new contract was going to be drawn up without my name on it and sent directly to Chiara in New York.

It was at this time that I was removed from all future correspondence.  Several months later, David Castle at Pluto Press wrote to me to let me know that the book was going to continue to press without me. He also informed me that Simon had informed him to drop all of the agreed upon stipulations with Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies.

I wrote to Simon about this and let him know how much work I put into securing the contract for him. The next day I received a single sentence email from him stating the following: either you accept the new amendments or else I take everything and leave. I wrote back and asked him if he understood how many months of intense work I put into the project and he responded by letting me know that he would, of course, detail my work in the acknowledgements section. While I was still a little bitter, I nonetheless thought that this was better than nothing. At least I would receive a little bit of credit for my work.

I received a copy of the book today and my name is nowhere to be found.

All of this is to say that my creative labor was exploited to help Simon Critchley and his colleagues get a book deal that they couldn’t otherwise get. They cared very little about the voluntary contract that they signed with me in the beginning and they entirely disregarded all of my efforts that in point of fact gave them the book deal in the first place. My work was not acknowledged in any way. I did not even receive a free copy or a thank you by email, and that is what really makes me angry.

Update: I found one of the later versions of the contract. I took a few photos and uploaded it here. I’ve received many emails about this, I wrote this note for these people. Finally, I remember one more thing. I offered a compromise at one point with Critchley and Chiara. I said that we could drop my name from the list of editors and simply put “with Duane Rousselle.” I cited a few recent publications that did precisely this. This is why, on my academia.edu page I have listed “with Duane Rousselle” for the book.


51 thoughts on “Why I’m Returning my Copy of The Anarchist Turn

  1. Pingback: Anarchists Ignite a Warm Flame | dingpolitik

  2. I am sure you could say all this much more succinctly. Having waded through it, I have to say it comes across as rather like bourgeois whining. I also suspect we’d get a rather different version of events from Mr Critchley. I’d be curious to read his response; please point us towards any such reply.

    • I’ve written to Simon yesterday to let him know that I was going to write a blog about it. I want you to keep that in mind Zelig. This was meant as a blog, not necessarily as a report for the university. So, yes, I could have written it more succinctly. But the point is that I didn’t want to write it more succinctly. Simon may have a response – since you are suspicious of mine for some reason – and as soon as he makes one I’ll link to it here. But, if he denies the claims, I will also provide clear proof that whatever he writes is patently false.

      • Thanks for the quick reply. Look forward to hearing his version if one is forthcoming!



    • To suggest that complaining of being taken advantage of, i.e. of being exploited, in this way is hardly “bourgeois whining.” Exploiting someone else’s work is exactly what the bourgeois do, and they don’t whine about it. They celebrate it.

  3. Pingback: Wait, Simon Critchley Is A Kind of A Dick? Can’t Be. | Perverse Egalitarianism

  4. But… You’re an anarchist. You dont believe in contracts. Simon is turning anarchist, cause he’s not believing in corntacts either. I don’t see a problem here. Stop calling yourself an anarchist and crying for Order at the same time. Shame on you!

    • Hey!! No need to insult me!! It’s just my anarchic oponion. It’s not like i’m an OOO follower, Mikhail, for you to be rude at me.

      I just think all this is a funny paradox. That’s all.

      (And please read some Rothbard before dickheading people)

      • Firstly, I don’t discriminate in my insults, so you don’t need to be anyone special for me to call you mean names.

        Secondly, it’s only a paradox because you have an erroneous idea of what anarchism actually is. In your small uneducated brain anarchism means anarchy and disorder so any calls for order or basic decency are “funny paradoxes” and you think that your pointing it out is hilarious – see why you deserve to be called a “dickhead”?

        I stand by my original proposal that you perhaps read a book and so on…

    • Come on, Mikhail. Don’t be so solemn. I know you read a lot of books and all that. My point is that it’s entertaining to see an anarcho-socialist make demands about intellectual property. That’s all.

  5. To Zelig and Anarcho-Capitalist (ha, like that’s an actual thing – read a book), acknowledging work and not being shitty to one another is probably the most central feature of any critique of, or derivation from, the Arche. I cannot begin to describe how much respect I’ve lost for Simon Critchley for having simply gone along with and been indifferent to the systematic exclusion of someone who’d done the groundwork for such an interesting project (one that it sounds like Critchley ostensibly rode the coat-tails of to bolster his own professional reputation – looks like that one backfired!). This blogpost is important to the extent that grad-students and phds on the lower end of the totem-pole are used for their labor and seldom rewarded, and if there is one area where that shouldn’t be the case its in Anarchist studies. I’m sorry this turned out so awful, Duane, nobody should be subject to this kind of cold professional indifference, let alone given the subject matter.

    • Open your eyes, Dock. People are not like the fictions you read in your egalitarian books. This is just another example for the list.

      Losing respect is a good way to be enlighten. Go on that way!

    • I’m just an interested anonymous observer and I only know the details as they’ve been reported here, but Dock’s comment is exactly what makes this story attractive to a larger audience. Academia sometimes falls into a politics of recognition much closer to lunch-table politics than recognition for intellectual, organizational, and yes logistical labor. I make no claim as to what someone may “deserve” in this case, but it’s absurd that you received no recognition or renumeration whatsoever for your labor. Such an edition and affiliation obviously would help you procure a position later, so the omission is much larger than an oversight. But in my opinion this experience is unfortunately (merely) indicative of how larger lunch-table politics of affiliation has emerged in continental philosophy than any kind of deliberate personal exploitation.

    • I’m just an interested anonymous observer and I only know the details as they’ve been reported here, but Dock’s comment is exactly what makes this story attractive to a larger audience. Academia sometimes falls into a politics of recognition much closer to lunch-table politics than delegation for what is deserved for intellectual and (yes) logistical labor. I make no claim as to what someone may “deserve” in this case, but it’s absurd that you received no renumeration whatsoever for your labor. Such an edition would help you procure a position later, so this omission is much more significant than an oversight. But in my opinion this experience is unfortunately (merely) indicative of how larger politics of affiliation has overtaken continental philosophy than any kind of deliberate personal exploitation.

    • I am not being as precise as I should be. He did not sign the actual contract in the first place. He made us draft up three or four more. I can’t quite remember. Maybe it was more than four contracts.

      • This was all clear enough from the post, but I also don’t understand why you don’t just sue him based on whatever email (i.e., written) correspondence you have. It seems to me that you could at least bill him for your work at whatever hourly rate an editor would usually receive, and then sue him if he doesn’t cough up the cash. You never agreed to do the work without any compensation, and he chose not to compensate you as you’d previously agreed.

  6. Pingback: The Second or Third version of the Contract | dingpolitik

  7. This sounds unfair and unfortunate. Far from seeing this as “bourgoise whining”, I think there is a legitimate case that people should be acknowledged and/or compensated for their labour (capital), upon which the fundamentals of Anarchist politics are, after all, based.

    Academia is often exploitative, from it’s
    Subjects to the use of PHD students as free labour for university research departments, alongside the continued competition of Egos. I find it troubling to believe you would make such specific claims without proof and from the manner of Critchley’s response, it seems that such politics of ego are at play here.

    Perhaps to assuage the dissenters here you could publish semi-redacted (to protect individual privacy) documents in your possession?

    Either way, cognitive labour is no different to other forms. As someone engaged in this field, apparently like you – not for the money (what money?!) – I consider it a basic principle of respect for other people to acknowledge their efforts in projects.

    • Thank you. I’ve already posted some photos of letters where I am acknowledged as an editor or part of “author” (where author means any number of things in the contract). I also have photographed a note from Will at Pluto press, alongside another note from a different date. This shows that the contract went through some revisions. One has to ask oneself why I would receive copies of the contract to send along to Critchley et al., if I wasn’t involved at all? I have more evidence but I’m slowly releasing it because I’m very busy these days. Thanks for the comment benseaside.

  8. Is it really unfair to point out that one thing that might have stopped him doing that was the threat of being sued for breach of contract…something he knew a good anarchist would not do and an anarchist state could not.

    Isn’t it the perfect example of why a disinterested arbiter with a monopoly on legitimate force is a pretty neat idea?

    • I think you drain the word “wow” of any meaning by using it there. Or you’re frankly too easily wowed. Asshole? Maybe. I mean I did complain that this post was badly written and likely rather partial. What an asshole I am, dude! I But wonderfully succinct, dearest Pliggett.

  9. Pingback: Damage Control | dingpolitik

  10. Duane Rousselle’s Academia.edu Profile lists The Anarchist Turn as one of his projects:
    The Anarchist Turn
    by Duane Rousselle

    More Info: “Edited by Jacob Blumenfeld, Chiara Bottici, Simon Critchley with Duane Rousselle Pluto Press, 2013 (special book issue of Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies)”

    • Why shouldn’t it? At one point, instead of being listed as an editor, Chiara and Pluto agreed to have “with Duane Rousselle” rather than having my name grouped with the others. I did not mention this in the blog. In fact, there is a lot that I still have not mentioned. It will come out as things develop.

      Exile – may I please ask you, as well as Jacob, to not spam the comments sections of all of my blog posts with the same comment. One version of this comment suffices.

    • Exile – may I ask you and the others posting from New School IP addresses to stop spamming my blogs with the exact same comment. For example, you just reposted the letter from Jacob Blumenfeld. I have already posted that. There is no need to post it over and over again on every blog.

  11. Pingback: A Thinly Veiled Threat | dingpolitik

  12. David Castle writes:

    Hi Duane,

    I don’t know whether you have been in touch with the book’s editors, but it turns out that they didn’t think it was appropriate to profile Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies in the book,

    All the best,
    David Castle
    Senior Commissioning editor
    Pluto Press

    Clearly, Duane was angling for a “profile” of his project ADCS, thereby equaling him to the glow of luminaries.

    Honestly, this just seems like stalking.

    By Duane’s own admission, he never even *met* with Critchley. It seems presumptious to assume that a contractual obligation had ever been maintained.

    Duane did a lot of labor, but it was “volunteered”, it was a “gift”; it was not a contract between him and any other party.

    This is like the boy whose email you responded to then emails you and calls you obsessively, send you candies and chocolates and flowers, then accuses you of being a whore because you don’t want to fuck him.

    Cut the crap.


  13. Pingback: Hysteria, Not Just For Ya Momma [Sic] | dingpolitik

  14. I find it all quite believable, I am sorry you put work in for nothing, that is terrible. But on the other hand I don’t really know why anarchism needs Critchley, or Bottici or Blumenfeld … the ‘luminaries’ that Exile speaks of. What an elitist line that was – and bound up with the assumption that your main motivations in this project were for kudos whereas the above were self-sacrificing egoless icons of the struggle (ironic really – although I put it too strongly).

    You have been exploited, and exploited by ‘Left luminaries’, you are probably not the first and unfortunately probably not the last. This is what careerist academics working in the contemporary neo-liberalized universities do (when they are not serving as quislings to management), they exploit students and indeed any peer that they have an opportunity to exploit. I really think that many of these ‘luminaries’ just offer very little that is helpful to our struggles both here and abroad. You know, its a lot of verbiage and high-theory concealing one or two ideas.

    Let people like Exile say whatever they want to say, its obvious where that person is coming from. The most important point in your favour is that this is so believable, so unsurprising.

  15. Solidarity Duane, SC should be ashamed of himself. To use your own words the book is an “outstanding publication”, and obviously couldn’t have been made a reality without your months of labour.

  16. Gosh. The New School? Hardly anarchic; is that a word? Like going to MOMA looking for something unsanitized. Intellectual experts: simply the status quo. Bite the hand? Or is that too much of a risk?

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