“The large ideas that influence intellectual and aesthetic movements are...first introduced into the community of writers and artists through philosophy. Philosophical texts codify the definitions and the boundaries for the concepts that have influenced Western thought, art, science, and politics since the days of Plato and Aristotle…” -Art Berman, Preface to Modernism.
John Merriman’s Dynamite Club succeeds in a portrayal of the decadence and injustice of a fin-de-siècle Parisian society of bourgeois capitalists, which fueled the expansion of anarchist ideology and even dyed its destructive creed with tints of virtue and righteousness. However, an apparent infatuation with vindication of the brilliant Émile Henry and the terrorists of the so-called ‘Dynamite Club’ –which he intelligently achieves through overemphasis on the grueling socioeconomic conditions that staged the advent of this terrorism– leads him to disregard an account of the philosophical framework that grounded this specific form of anarchism at this specific time in history. As such, a variety of questions remain fundamentally unanswered. From where –other than purely irrational vengeance– did the anarchist morality ‘of the deed’, which legitimized the killing of innocents, acquire intellectual authority and appeal? Why did anarchism preach the absolute destruction of the capitalist state instead of merely its restructuration? How did the obsession on a post-state utopia acquire relevance amongst an intellectual class?
The following paper attempts a solution, in echo of Art Berman’s introductory words, what can be called a ‘genealogy of the anarchy of the Dynamite Club of fin de siècle France,’ through an exploration of the intellectual sources for their moral...
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...p.: n.p., 1846. N. pag. Print.
• Berman, Art. Preface to Modernism. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1994. Print.
• Călinescu, Matei. Five Faces of Modernity: Modernism, Avant-garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism. Durham: Duke UP, 1987. Print.
• Grier, Michelle. "Kant's Critique of Metaphysics." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University, 29 Feb. 2004. Web. 02 Apr. 2014.
• Klein, Richard J. Literature and Revolution. Vol. No. 39. N.p.: Yale French Studies, 1967. Print.
• Leighten, Patricia. "The World Turned Upside Down: Modernism and Anarchist Strategies of Inversion in L'Assiete Au Beuvre." The Journal of Modern Periodical Studies. 2nd ed. Vol. 4. N.p.: Penn State UP, 2014. N. pag. Print.
• Merriman, John M. The Dynamite Club: How a Bombing in Fin-de-siècle Paris Ignited the Age of Modern Terror. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. Print.
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