The Emergence of Social Space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune

A thrilling ride through the literature of Rimbaud in a France in the throes of revolution.

The 1870s in France – Rimbaud’s moment, and the subject of this book – is a decade virtually ignored in most standard histories in France. Yet it was the moment of two significant spatial events: France’s expansion on a global scale, and, in the spring of 1871, the brief existence on the Paris Commune – the construction of the revolutionary urban space. Arguing that space, as a social fact, is always political and strategic, Kristin Ross has written a book that is at once a history and geography of the Commune’s anarchist culture – its political language and social relations, its values, strategies, and stances.

Central to her analysis of the Commune as a social space and oppositional culture is a close textual reading of Arthur Rimabaud’s poetry. His poems – a common thread running through the book – are one set of documents among many in Ross’s recreation of the Communard experience. Rimbaud, Paul Lafargue, and the social geographer Élisée Reclus serve as emblematic figures moving within and on the periphery of the Commune; in their resistance to the logic and economy of the capitalist conception of work, in their challenge to work itself as a term of identity, all three posed a threat to the existing order. Ross looks at these and other emancipatory notions as aspects of Communard life, each with an analogous strategy in Rimbaud’s poetry. Applying contemporary theory, to a wealth of little-known archival material, she has written a fresh, persuasive, and original book.


  • "Everything Belongs to the Future": On the History of the Commune

    On March 18th, 1871, the people of Paris rose up against the repressive Thiers government and defiantly hoisted the red glad from the roof of the Hotel de Ville. The Paris Commune, which lasted for 72 days before its brutal supression, is only the most famous of a long list of communes that have liberated spaces across the globe.

    From its first flourishing in fourteenth century Florence to the thousands of communes springing up across Latin America, the commune has provided a vital spring of liberatory energy. To celebrate the publication of Gavin Bowd's The Last Communard (which is 50% until Tuesday!), which charts the revolutionary upheavals in the century following the Paris Commune through the story of Communard Adrien Lejeune, we bring you a timeline of communes in history taken from ROAR Magazine issue 1. ROAR is available to purchase from here.

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  • Under the Flag of the Universal Republic: Essential Paris Commune Reading List

    The Paris Commune was one of the most momentous and influential moments in the history of the Workers' Movement. Despite lasting just 72 days, those few short months in 1871 were felt across the world. 

    Profoundly internationalist and including in its leadership a number of inspirational female revolutionaries, the Commune opened up new emancipatory and libertarian possibilities and tools that are still being used by thinkers and activists to this day.

    To celebrate the launch of Gavin Bowd's new book The Last Communard: Adrien Lejeune, the Unexpected Life of a Revolutionary, which explores the radical history of the Commune and its aftermath through the extraordinary life of Adrien Lejeune, we bring you our essential Paris Commune reading list.

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  • Survival of the Paris Commune: an interview with Kristin Ross

    The Paris Commune - the great liberation of Paris for 72 days in 1871 - began on this day 145 years ago. But, what can this momentous event teach us politically today?

    To celebrate the history of the Commune and the launch of the brand new ROAR Magazine Issue 1: Revive la Commune, we bring you this interview with Kristin Ross. ROAR issue 1 features essays from George Ciccariello-Maher, Jerome Roos, George Katsiaficas, and more, on the history of the commune from Paris to Gwangju and beyond. 

    To first issue of ROAR is available now, and you have until this Sunday (20th March) to subscribe and be sure of being one of the first to recieve your issue. To subscribe, click here.

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Other books by Kristin Ross Foreword by Terry Eagleton