It has been our great pleasure to renew and recreate Backwoods as a new editorial team, after unexpected life circumstances unrelated to the project caused two among the first group of editors to leave the journal one at a time after the first two issues. The new group has made a joint decision to release larger (150 - 250-page) volumes on an irregular schedule, whenever we have a suite of content with which we are happy.
First, what is Backwoods? - a journal which aims to bring together the unfortunately often distinct tendencies of anarchism and permaculture. We see permaculture as offering a manner of meeting one's own needs – a form of direct action which allows for the autonomy fundamental to anarchism. We need a way forward that involves ecological harmony, decentralization, hyperlocalism, and a cultivation of relationships with plants and wider ecologies that are enlivening rather than dissociative - and permaculture offers a path towards these ends. At the same time, if permaculture is to manifest as something other than a means to reform the monstrous industrial agriculture system or a marketing term for boutique consumers, it must wed itself to the ethics and vision of anarchism. By creating this new platform for discourse, critique, exchange and honing of ideas, and the upwelling of new questions, we hope to bring forth new ideas, techniques of self-reliance, and a melding of critique with practice that inspires action through discovering new ways to be free even within the clutches of Leviathan, our world-eating, authoritarian, industrial society.
We have decided, going forward, to make issues themed, though with multidimensional topics that can be interpreted or engaged with in a variety of ways. For this volume, we are exploring 'New Discourses on Voluntary Servitude.' Any serious political radical must consider, and revisit, the question of how and why the many are so consistently, and sometimes seemingly irrevocably, dominated by the few. Most people, in small and large ways, act against their own interests in order to benefit their ruling power elite who tend to treat them with disinterest at best, and often with open contempt or even predation. While every state in history has relied on the use and threat of force, including truly horrific forms of force, the fact remains that every state ultimately depends on a high level of compliance - be it enthusiastic, reluctant but resigned, or bamboozled - from its host population. At the same time, every ruling elite wishing to stay in power must neutralize and recuperate rebellious elements by misdirecting them or appealing to their dominating instincts to make them share in, rather than abolish, the dominator hierarchies.
One of the earliest modern treatments of this problem was Étienne la Boétie, who wrote Discourse on Voluntary Servitude in the mid-16th century to explore his frustration with what he saw as widespread passive resignation to parasitic domination. His provocative essay has inspired a number of responses and engagements over the years from other radical thinkers, and we at Backwoods are interested in revisiting the question of whether, to what extent, how, and why ‘the Everyperson’ (however construed) puts up with, fails to resist, or even welcomes their diverse subjections. Why are radicals a perennial minority? Can this situation be changed? What are the implications, as radicals, of our answers to these questions? How has the state-building project cut away at bonds with ecology and place that have fostered autonomy? How can reclaiming self-reliance provide answers to these questions, or is self-reliance not enough?
We welcome your thoughts on these questions, which might be essays, speculative questioning, stories of servitude or its unraveling, practical lines of flight and routes to liberation, and so on. Some topics already slated to be covered are:
- A surrealist account of servitude as the domination of the imaginary
- Voluntary servitude as a default source of meaning in the face of spiritual alienation
- Recuperation of anarchist resistance
- A blueprint for a practical, homestead-scale, self-sufficient forest garden diet as possible escape from servitude
= An examination of Ernst Jünger's ambiguous figure of the "anarch," the protagonist of his post-apocalyptic novel Eumeswil
Essays and articles unrelated to the theme of the puzzle of voluntary servitude will still be considered for publication, but will be weighted relatively lower. Letters to the editor, reviews, and review essays may be of any topic within the Backwoods purview without weighting.
You may reach us at backwoodsjournal at protonmail dot com.
We look forward to hearing from you,
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