For Marx, the greatest achievement of the Paris Commune was its "actual working existence", and we should certainly not exclude its geographical organisation and defensive arcitecture from this category. Ahead of Kristin Ross' discussion with Alberto Toscano at Goldsmiths tonight on the political imaginary of the Paris Commune, we share a series of maps created by Leopold Lambert detailing the shifting architecture of the Commune over time. You can download a high-resolution version of the map here.
From Lambert's essay:
History tends to describe the city where events unfold themselves as a mere context, indifferent to the action that it hosts … I wanted to illustrate how the city, through its constructive, destructive and modificative logics plays a biased role in these historical events. As Karl Marx pointed out in The Civil War in France (1871), many things could have given the Commune higher chances to survive (a more organized offensive against Versailles in the beginning of its existence, the use of the Banque de France left untouched, a more comprehensive defensive strategy etc.), but the thing that the Commune has lacked the most is likely to be time itself, in an effort to transform and subvert the capitalist, imperialist and militarized logics that contextualized the urban fabric in which it was attempting to exist.
Interview with Joseph Confavreux for Mediapart on the occasion of the publication of the French translation of Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune
Convinced that “the world of the Communards is closer to us than the world of our parents,” and that “it is actions that produce dreams and not the reverse,” Kristin Ross explores the imaginary and the practices of the Paris Commune, in order to show its political actuality today. At the juncture of a history of ideas, of imaginaries and of facts, Ross, a Professor of Comparative Literature at New York University, explores the Commune and its “afterlives,” in a book that is at once a textual study, an exploration of the thoughts and practices of Communards and their fellow travelers, and a political proposition for the present moment.
The below is an extract from The Beach Beneath the Street: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International by McKenzie Wark - currently 50% off on our website as part of our Political Guide to Walking.
Immanuel ‘the Königsberg clock’ Kant was renowned for his strict (and rather austere) daily routines. Having been born in Königsberg in 1724, he never left the small German city, dying there in 1804 aged 79 never having once gone further than the city’s limits. Yet despite his somewhat limited empirical knowledge of the world, the intellectual founder of the German Enlightenment had a lifelong passion for knowledge of all kinds. He gained much of his insight into the world outside of Königsberg from his walks through the docks where he would discuss philosophy, politics, science and travel with Scottish merchants and tradesmen.
In the second of our extracts from A Philosophy of Walking, (the first one is here) Frederic Gros reflects upon the influence of walking for Kant’s life and thought. Following this, we have a short excerpt from a conversation between the great German playwright Heiner Müller and filmmaker, theorist and writer Alexander Kluge which shows that Kant’s daily life was perhaps a little less puritanical than often assumed, and that his passion for walking allowed him to indulge in more *ahem* exotic pursuits.
I can’t give you an address to reply to this, for I don’t know personally where I may find myself dragged next, or by what routes, on the way to where, or why, or how!
Arthur Rimbaud, Letter from Aden, 5 May 1884
Verlaine called him ‘the man with soles of wind’. The man himself, when still very young, had described himself thus: ‘I’m a pedestrian, nothing more.’ Rimbaud walked throughout his life. Obstinately, with passion. Between the ages of fifteen and seventeen, he walked to reach great cities: the Paris of literary hopes, to become known in Parnassian circles, to meet poets like himself, desperately lonely and longing to be loved (read his poems). To Brussels, to pursue a career in journalism. Between twenty and twenty-four, he several times tried the route to the South, returning home for the winter. Preparation for travel ... There were incessant shuttles between Mediterranean ports (Marseille or Genoa) and Charleville; walking towards the sun. And from the age of twenty-five until his death, desert roads.