Kristin Ross’s highly acclaimed work on the thought and culture of the Communard uprising of 1871 resonates with the motivations and actions of contemporary protest, which has found its most powerful expression in the reclamation of public space. Today’s concerns—internationalism, education, the future of labor, the status of art, and ecological theory and practice—frame and inform her carefully researched restaging of the words and actions of individual Communards. This original analysis of an event and its centrifugal effects brings to life the workers in Paris who became revolutionaries, the significance they attributed to their struggle, and the elaboration and continuation of their thought in the encounters that transpired between the insurrection’s survivors and supporters like Marx, Kropotkin, and William Morris.
The Paris Commune was a laboratory of political invention, important simply and above all for, as Marx reminds us, its own “working existence.” Communal Luxury allows readers to revisit the intricate workings of an extraordinary experiment.
“No work specifies more fully Marx’s claim that, the greatest achievement of the Paris Commune was its ‘actual working existence.’”
“In recent years, the Paris Commune has again moved to the center of political thinking. Kristin Ross’s new book now, virtually for the first time, gives us an account of the intellectual antecedents of the Commune as well as its contemporary impact. This is an indispensable text for all current left theory!”
“Although this is a book of ideas, it is neither dry nor overburdened by scholarly references. Ross’s vision of the Commune extends beyond the 72 days, and beyond the space of Paris (and indeed of France), to encompass its echoes throughout the rest of the 19th century … For Ross, the story of the Commune is not a tragedy, because it is not finished.”
“Communal Luxury is a rich and complex book. It is an inspired rereading of the Paris Commune. It is a critique of historical accounts that ignore the ways in which the practices of insurrectionary movements generate their own theory. It is a call to historians to attend to the alternatives offered at decisive moments of political and economic consolidation. It is, as well, Ross’s own manifesto about how we might think our futures differently. This is a history with enormous relevance for our contemporary political moment.”
—Joan W. Scott, Institute For Advanced Study, Princeton
“Ross argues that the spirit of the Commune is alive today among … the Indignados in Spain and inside the Occupy movement [and] discusses the ‘political imaginary’ that fuelled and outlived the Commune.’”
—Philippe Marlière, London Review of Books
“A timely, elegant and rather useful cartography of the Paris Commune … This small book is a sort of parable, about another time and place, but not really about the past as past. It is more about the possibility of other kinds of action in time, as indeed are most parables.”
“Rendered with economy and ease and an engaging array of portraiture that can only be noted here… For all its rich interest and value as a work of historical retrieval and remembrance, Communal Luxury is a book with designs on the future … Ross anholds out the immensely appealing prospect of an integrally green communism in a society freed from capital, state and national passions, a general instance, perhaps, of her preferred intellectual orientation, which she presents as an undoctrinaire exchange between Marxism and anarchism.”
—Francis Mulhern, New Left Review
“One of the most important political books of the year...The ingenuity and collective good sense of the communards will challenge any reader who struggles to reconcile egalitarian politics with concerns over state violence and power.”
“A timely and fecund work that should stimulate anarchist thought and action on the relevance of the Commune to the contemporary politics of occupation, resistance, and prefiguration.”