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Krisis: Journal of Contemporary Philosophy

**Call for Papers: Extended Deadline**

Krisis presents a special issue in December 2014 on Pirates and Privateers. Contributions may be up to 7000 words (including references). If you would like to contribute, please send us a proposal of about 500 words. Abstracts are due 29 June 2014, and will be send to We will notify you before 1 July about acceptance of your proposal. The deadline for final contributions is 15 September.


Pirates & Privateers

When the King asked him what he meant by infesting the sea, the pirate defiantly replied: ‘The same as you do when you infest the whole world; but because I do it with a little ship I am called a robber, and because you do it with a great fleet, you are an emperor’ (St. Augustine)

We see these government agencies as among the most skilled players in this game (Eric Grosse, Google VP of security engineering)

The idea that in an ever globalising world the sovereignty and centrality of the nation state is declining is so well established that it has become a truism. Yet state agencies such as the NSA are in the process of reestablishing their grip on today’s network societies. So perhaps the proclaiming of the end of the state (not in terms of its national scope but as to the essence of its function) was premature. This raises the following questions: What is or will be the role of the state-function (national or international) in this globalised social-economic landscape? Will it be able to secure its de jure and de facto sovereignty by enforcing the distinction between pirates and privateers through law, i.e. by authorising neoliberal but restricting alternative appropriations of the commons? And is this state power a necessary condition for, or instead a limit to, the implementation of neoliberal principles? These questions are important because the distinction between pirate and privateer has substantial practical consequences in terms of the distribution of power.

Neoliberal privatisation – e.g. the exodus of financial capital from the welfare state system – is sanctioned by state. It is in the process of realising its particular solutions to the crises of the nation state, creating the conditions of its own legitimacy, in the form of gated communities, tax havens and special economic zones protected by private security firms. Seemingly bypassing state sovereignty, whilst simultaneously sanctioned by it, they are contemporary privateers.

Is this type of privatisation the destiny of this historical junction or are there alternatives? The institutionalised left does not seem to think so as it continues to defend the welfare system as a place of last resort against the powers of neoliberal globalisation. However, in the margins of the neoliberal project various different solutions are being experimented with. Insofar as these are not sanctioned by state, these are today’s pirates. Think of: torrent sites (The Pirate Bay comes to mind), hacker communities tied to international criminal syndicates, new local and digital currencies (Bristol Pound, Bitcoin, Litecoin), new forms of digital activism (Anonymous), counter-banking (OccupyBank, Timebank), anonymising networks (TOR’s Hidden Wiki and Silk Road), freestates and micronations (Principality of Sealand), eco-communities or hacker colonies ( and alternative internets (GNUnet).

How can or should we think about and critically evaluate the distinction between privateers and pirates in political-philosophical terms? What is the utility, in this particular context, of the conceptual and normative schemas still operative in political philosophy today? If not a return to a Hobbesian state of nature, yet also short of being a Commonwealth; if not the emergence of a post-state, anarchist or libertarian utopia, nor a technologically updated 1984 in which the state function has become absolute; how to understand and conceptualise the ambiguous in-between?

Krisis welcomes interdisciplinary answers to such questions, and encourages approaches that engage political-philosophical reflections on issues of state sovereignty, law and justice, to the above mentioned case-studies (or others). We also invite speculative approaches to future scenarios: will the conflict between neoliberal and ‘alternative’ solutions take place in ever more deterritorialised, technocratic networks beyond state control? Will we witness the proliferation of large self-regulative parallel systems, of password-protected enclaves, local communication ecologies and gated communities? Will the state be reduced to ‘one of the players in this game’, or will strategic shifts in its constitution as an apparatus in conjunction with neoliberalism secure its function as a sovereign mediator?


The first issue of Krisis in 2014 is online, and we start off with a wide variety of articles, essays, letters and reviews. What does it mean that gender and race are socially constructed? And how are we to understand the reality of the social relations of oppression with which sexism and racism go hand in hand? In a dossier on Sally Haslanger’s important book Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique (2012) these and other related questions are discussed in the form of three critical commentaries by Titus Stahl, Arianna Betti and Mari Mikkola and an extensive reply by Haslanger herself.

In addition, this issue contains articles on the relation between science, politics and society by Huub Dijstelbloem, and on the possibilities and meanings of emancipation in Jacques Rancière’s political thought by Ruth Sonderegger. An essay by Daniël de Zeeuw looks back at the political theory and strategy of Occupy, and Jan-Willem Duyvendak and Merijn Oudenampsen enter into a discussion about the sociological significance of recent political and cultural changes in the Netherlands.

Last but not least, the book reviews of this issue cover recent publications on climate skepticism (in the review essay by Chunglin Kwa), migration (Rogier van Reekum discusses Mezzadra & Neilson’s Border as Method, 2013) Rancière’s aesthetics (Aukje van Rooden reviews his latest publication Aisthesis. Scenes from the aesthetic regime of art, 2013), and the practical role of standards (a review of Laurence Bush’ Standards. Recipes for reality, 2011, by Koen Beumer).

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By Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker



By Marcus Rediker

Published: January 2013



Long before the American Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man, a motley crew of sailors, slaves, pirates, laborers, market women, and indentured servants had ideas about freedom and equality that would for ever change history.

Distinguished historians Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker reveal the lost stories of the dispossessed and their role in shaping the modern world. From a history littered with Kings, Queens and conquest, the authors offer an account from the bottom up, asking, as Brecht had in his poem A WORKER READS HISTORY – “by whose hands and misery were empires built?”

Linebaugh and Rediker navigate the dreams of the downtrodden, whose rebellions across Europe, the Caribbean, Africa and North America are described in rich detail from initial spark to brutal repression. They look to a time that proposed a radical alternative to the development of globalized capitalism.



“A landmark in the development of an Atlantic perspective on early American history. Ranging from Europe to Africa to the Caribbean and North America, it makes us think in new ways about the role of working people in the making of the modern world.” – Eric Foner

“This is a marvelous book. Linebaugh and Rediker have done an extraordinary job of research into buried episodes and forgotten writings to recapture, with eloquence and literary flair, the lost history of resistance to capitalist conquest on both sides of the Atlantic.” – Howard Zinn

“More than just a vivid illustration of the gains involved in thinking beyond the boundaries between nation-states. Here, in incendiary form, are essential elements for a people’s history of our dynamic, transcultural present.” – Paul Gilroy, author of THE BLACK ATLANTIC

“THE MANY-HEADED HYDRA is a wonderful book. Its passion and commitment encourages its readers to think associatively, to make progressive connections” – Sukhdev Sandhu, GUARDIAN



Pirates have long been stock figures in popular culture, from Treasure Island to the more recent antics of Jack Sparrow. VILLAINS OF ALL NATIONS unearths the thrilling historical truth behind such fictional characters and rediscovers their radical democratic challenge to the established powers of the day.

Concentrating on the years 1716-26, Rediker paints, in bold colors, a picture of a loose-knit band of rebels united under the dreaded Jolly Roger against oppressive treatment at the hands of naval and merchant captains alike. The black flag symbolized an anti-nation, a brutal but egalitarian society where decisions were taken democratically, booty shared and outcasts of all races and both sexes were treated equally – provided of course they could stand the tough and often very short life of a sea dog.



“Rediker’s brilliant study illuminates every aspect of life on the high seas.”– NEW STATESMAN

“Marcus Rediker’s social and cultural history of the “golden age” of Atlantic piracy in the early 18th century dispels some of the romanticised myths and makes claims for a proto-democratic, egalitarian and multi-ethnic society.” – FINANCIAL TIMES

“Rediker’s work on piracy … has revolutionised not only the way we see pirates, but also the way we understand the history of political institutions in the West. This is his fullest account to date of the democratic, egalitarian, multi-racial and utterly ruthless pirate communities of the early 18th century.”– LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS


Peter Linebaugh is Professor of History at the University of Toledo. He writes extensively on British history, Irish history, labor history and the history of the colonial Atlantic. His books include THE MAGNA CARTA MANIFESTO, THE MANY-HEADED HYDRA and THE LONDON HANGED, and he contributes frequently to COUNTERPUNCH.

Marcus Rediker is Distinguished Professor of Atlantic History at the University of Pittsburgh and author of THE SLAVE SHIP: A HUMAN HISTORY and VILLAINS OF ALL NATIONS: ATLANTIC PIRATES IN THE GOLDEN AGE.



ISBN: 9781844678652 / £14.99 / PAPERBACK / 448 pages

For more information about THE MANY HEADED HYDRA or to buy the book visit:



ISBN: 9781844672813 / £12.99 / PAPERBACK / 240 pages

For more information about VILLAINS OF ALL NATIONS or to buy the book visit:


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10am-7pm Queen Mary, University Of London, Mile End Road, Mile End tube

Paul Mason, Hillel Ticktin and Endnotes debate:

‘Will Cameron’s Cuts lead to working-class defeat or to a new anti-capitalist movement?’

(Paul Mason’s writings can be found at his blog at and Ticktin and Endnotes articles are at

Chris Knight and Milan Rai debate Noam Chomsky’s science and politics

Plus talks with John Pilger and Michael Albert

Also meetings on: India, Croatia, feminism, Palestine, Zapatistas, Gandhi, Proudhon, pirates, co-ops, prisons, EDL, education, healthworkers, shop stewards and more.

For more details and for information about the: ‘Housing Ourselves’ conference – Sunday 24 October. See

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Socialism and Hope



March-April 2010

Pirates of the Caribbean: How the U.S. is exploiting Haiti’s Tragedy


Letter from the editors


Antonis Davanellos: European capitalism’s weakest link

PLUS: Michael Ratner on From Hebron to Yad Vashem, and Alan Bean on The persecution of Curtis Flowers


Phil Gasper • Critical Thinking 
Can we still stop environmental disaster?


Ashley Smith 
Haiti after the quake: Imperialism with a human face

Shaun Joseph 
Under the Eagle: U.S. imperialism in the Caribbean

Eric Ruder 
Egypt, Israel, and the U.S.: From Nasserism to collaboration

Heather Rogers 
The greening of capitalism

Amy Muldoon 
Animal, vegetable, movement? The politics of food

Anthony Arnove, David Zirin, and Howard Zinn 
Remembering Howard Zinn, 1922-2010 
Two tributes, plus Zinn on Eugene Debs and the idea of socialism


Annie Zirin 
FDR’s New Deal and the fight for jobs 

Review of Nancy Rose: Put to Work: The WPA and Public Employment in the Great Depression …plus Chuck Stemke on the religious right; Lance Newman on The Ecological Revolution; Andy Coates on world health vs. the profit system; Alexander Billet on a new book a bout Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears; Michael Steven Smith on The Assassination of Fred Hampton; Jessica Hansen-Weaver on class violence in the U.S.; Michele Bollinger on twenty-five lies about Native Americans; Helen Scott on imperialism and literature; William Keach on science in the era of the romantic poets; Shaun Joseph on Slavoj Zizek

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Pirates Only


Editorial Notes: Pirates and Piracy – Material Realities and Cultural Myths

By Andrew Opitz

This special issue of darkmatter sets out to examine the complicated and often incongruous cultural meanings assigned to pirates and piracy in the twenty-first century. Debates about piracy have long featured certain telling contradictions. At different times, pirates have been seen as both violent monsters and colorful folk heroes. They have been cast by historians and cultural critics as both capitalist marauders and militant workers fighting for a restoration of the commons. How can we account for these seemingly incompatible visions? Of course, it is important to observe that pirates were hardly uniform in their social and political orientations. Some were greedy opportunists. Some were desperate sailors and slaves driven to mutiny. Others were somewhere in-between. We should also recognize that our understanding of piracy is powerfully shaped by our economic interests and our relationship with the law. The propertied targets of piratical theft are quick to view pirates as criminal actors outside the bounds of civilized behaviour, but the dispossessed are inclined to take a more nuanced approach that admires the defiance of the pirates at the same time as it fears their violence.

It is also important to note that pirates now have a symbolic importance that transcends the basic material conditions behind their banditry. Our enduring cultural fascination with pirates is tied to their status as celebrated figures of rebellion and nonconformity in popular novels and films. Although the actual history of maritime robbery is sordid and contradictory, the pirate has become a compelling symbol of freedom: freedom from oppressive work routines; freedom from polite behaviour; freedom from institutional controls; freedom from restrictive property laws; freedom from unjust social conventions surrounding race and gender roles. We now apply the pirate label to an assortment of activities – from the formation of transgressive sexual identities to the technology-assisted defiance of copyright law – that have little or nothing to do with the sea or those who “go down to it in ships.” The articles assembled in this special issue take a broad approach to the study of pirates and piracy, examining diverse subjects ranging from the working-class politics of transatlantic piracy in the eighteenth century to the actions of Nigerian media pirates in the twenty-first century and recent debates about Somali pirates within East African immigrant communities in North America.

The authors who contributed to this special issue of darkmatter have approached the cultural politics of pirates and piracy from different angles. They are historians, literary critics, legal scholars and media/cultural theorists. However, their scholarship is linked by the shared understanding that modern piracy, like the modern world itself, is inextricably bound to the history of colonial and neo-colonial relations of production and the legacy of racial and class conflict that they produced – a history that forged the global capitalist order that continues to shape our everyday relationships with other people. 

Pirates are often dismissed in the media as exotic anachronisms – colorful characters out of step with present realities. But the forces that produced, and continue to produce pirates – global shipping, the extraction of resources from colonial and neocolonial holdings, the mobilization and control of labor in the service of investment capital – still drive our world today. Studying pirates and their ongoing cultural resonance is hardly a frivolous activity. It is necessary for a true understanding of the socially uneven, violent and unstable world in which we live – a world that is still very much at sea.

Andrew Opitz
Guest Editor

Editorial Notes: Pirates and Piracy – Material Realities and Cultural Myths by Andrew Opitz • 20 Dec 09

Revolution Bootlegged: Pirate Resistance in Nigeria’s Broken Infrastructure by Jason Crawford • 20 Dec 09

Digital Pirates and the Enclosure of the Intellect by Irmak Ertuna • 20 Dec 09

Where’s the Booty?: The Stakes of Textual and Economic Piracy as Seen Through the Work of Kathy Acker by Paige Sweet • 20 Dec 09

Life Under the Jolly Roger: Reflections on Golden Age Piracy – Interview with Gabriel Kuhn by Nora Räthzel • 20 Dec 09

Hostis humani generis. History of a multi-faceted word by Salvatore Poier • 20 Dec 09

Atlantic Orientalism: How Language in Jefferson’s America Defeated the Barbary Pirates by Angela Sutton • 20 Dec 09

Voyage of the Black Joke: Piracy and Gallows Humor in an Era of Primitive Accumulation by Andrew Opitz • 20 Dec 09

The Pirate and the Colonial Project: Kanhoji Angria by Derek L. Elliott • 20 Dec 09

Unravelling Narratives of Piracy: Discourses of Somali Pirates by Muna Ali and Zahra Murad • 20 Dec 09

‘Liberty or Life!’: The Convict Pirates of the Wellington by Erin Ihde • 20 Dec 09


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