Bad Anarchism: Aestheticized Mythmaking and the Legacy of Georges Sorel

  • Mark Antliff


This article considers the varied impact of the notion of revolutionary consciousness first developed by the French political theorist Georges Sorel (1847–1922) on proponents of anarchism and Marxism, including Walter Benjamin, Bart de Light, Frantz Fanon, Antonio Gramsci and, most recently, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. I question the strategy amongst these thinkers to draw selectively from Sorel’s writings in an attempt to create a cordon sanitaire around those aspects of his thought that are problematic by virtue of their impact on proto-fascist and fascist ideologues throughout Europe. In addressing this issue I examine how Sorel’s anarchist theory of anti-Statism, constructed around the power of myths, led him to endorse anti-capitalist anti-Semitism as an extension of class struggle; and I critique his Janusfaced concept of aestheticized violence as it relates to his quest for
moral regeneration through revolution.