Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Are Anarchism and Nihilism Still Viable Alternatives?

Bazarov in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons is one of the most famous nihilists in literature and there were of course Sacco and Vanzetti whose anarchistic views literally got them electrocuted. But are anarchism and nihilism still viable positions today? Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, was an anarchist, but he was also a madman. Bazarov may be modeled on characters like Herzen and Bakunin who who would later appear in Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia, with their anarchist and sometimes nihilistic tendencies.  The perpetrators of present day terrorism tend to be more millenarian. They’re after something, if not in this life, then the next. A nihilist is really a seeker after truth. He or she is attempting to rid the world of lies and hypocrisy by cutting a path through the pretension of ideology. Nihilism is a kind of emetic, a cleansing that attempts to eradicate pretension and falsity—particularly with regard to the claims of those who offer false hopes. The idea that power is value free and self-perpetuating might be a part of the profile, if you were to attempt to create a nihilist prototype. Anarchism is, in a sense, more ambitious to the extent that there’s a hope that a new world will arise phoenix-like from the pyre on which all the dead and outmoded ideologies have been burned. While a nihilist is having a philosophical tantrum, an anarchist actually has a plan which is to destroy, through bombing or other means. The nihilist is more passive. He’s an antiquarian presiding over a musty shop of outmoded ideas. He or she’s world weary, but there’s a method to the anarchist’s madness while for his nihilist counterparts, it’s still all a matter of words as it was almost two hundred years ago when such self-annihilating creatures first started to appear in the pages of Russian novels.

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