June 2022: A short critical obituary of Peter Lamborn Wilson, aka Hakim Bey.
The anarchist author of “Temporary Autonomous Zone” and many other books died of a heart attack on May 22 in his house in NY state. An influential figure on the free party networks, more as a creator of buzzwords than as a theoretician. We zoom back to the shortcomings of his concepts.
Christoph Fringeli: Welcome to episode 6 of the Molehill Report. In this episode we have a short critical obituary of Peter Lamborn Wilson also known as Hakim Bey who died last month, author of the influential Temporary Autonomous Zone.
It’s boiling hot in Berlin um so I don’t know, trying to focus my my ideas a bit…
Music: Christoph Fringeli & the Invisible SP: Pirate Utopia (from Slaughter Politics, Praxis 21, 1999)
CF: On May 22nd the author Peter Lamborn Wilson also known as Hakim Bey died. Born in 1945 he was something of a mystical hippie Anarchist with many books to his two names. He’s best known as the author of the text the Temporary Autonomous Zone or TAZ first published in 1991, a book with a considerable influence on the underground festival and party scenes.
I first came across Lamborn Wilson as an editor at Semiotext(e), then read the TAZ, then Pirate Utopias, a book about utopian pirate communities in the Caribbean from the 16th to the 19th century which he wrote with his real name, and which struck me more as a work of fiction than history writing but it had some inspiring moments in there.
The following book written and published again under the pen name Hakim Bay, Millennium from 1996, was just plain bad and politically unacceptable and I lost interest in the author. In the meantime however the influence of the TAZ concept seemed to grow.
The irony that it was so well received in circles connected with electronic music was not lost on the author himself, since he was quite anti-technological in his outlooks.
Quoting Hakim Bey: ‘The ravers were amongst my biggest readers, I wish they would rethink all that techno stuff, they didn’t get that part of my writing.’
In Datacide 10 from 2008 I wrote in my article Radical Intersections which deals with the overlaps of radical politics and festival and Teknival culture, electronic music, underground countercultures: ‘the TAZ became a much used slogan for mobilization and provided a theoretical framework for some in the free party scene. Apparently no one noticed what the hodgepodge book was, deriving ideas from Anarchism, Neoprimitivism, Post-structuralism, 17th century pirates, dropouts of the American West, Gabriele d’Annunzio and the first Munich council republic to arrive in the present with cyberpunk and the first manifestations of the internet.
The basic idea is not unappealing quote from the book: ‘The TAZ is like an uprising which does not engage directly with the state, a guerrilla operation which liberates an area of land, of time, of imagination and then dissolves itself to reform elsewhere else when before the state can crush it.
However the historical examples used in the book often don’t withstand closer scrutiny. Little reliable information is available about pirate settlements and newly formed nomadic tribes of escaped slaves, deserters, outlaws and Indians in the North America of the 18th century. As such they can serve as a projection screen for some of the sound system crews seeing themselves as tribes. But where there is enough information Bey’s descriptions often turn out to be totally falsified.
For example he describes the takeover of the city of Fiume by pre-fascist forces under the leadership of the writer Gabriele d’Annunzio as a kind of permanent party, a rather dubious claim to put it nicely. The notoriously unreliable confused research made Lamborn Wilson/Hakim Bey a guru of lifestyle libertarianism. At best, his texts have a dreamy utopian quality about them, at worst they descended into apologism of pedophilia which took the form of poetry and articles for the newsletter of the renowned pedophilia advocacy organization NAMBLA, the North American Man Boy Love Association.
But also in other texts such as what he called um Essays in Islamic Heresy, dealing with a supposed sacred pederasty in Persian Sufism. Interesting is that these connections are not disputed but still Lamborn Wilson’s apologism if not promotion of pedophilia is brushed under the carpet, sometimes under the pretext of keeping the man and his work apart which doesn’t make any sense in this case.
In his text Amour Fou – something he nicked from Breton – and also collected in the in the TAZ pocketbook he drops a series of hints that were all too easily overlooked at the time. For example promoting the refusal to work for a living is pretty easy if, like Wilson, you had a trust fund to keep the money coming in. And fantasizing about getting ‘molested by children’ seems pretty much a pedophile fantasy reversing the roles in abusive relations.
Another note right between the two could be and has been interpreted as opposing abortion. Hakim Bey represents the most flawed forms of individualistic anarchism or libertarianism, and it is not surprising that he quotes Nietzsche on the last page of TAZ. Bey: ‘Liberation is realized in struggle, this is the essence of Nietzsche’s self-overcoming’, something that is far removed from the project of proletarian self-emancipation.
Music: Pirate Utopia resumed.
Christoph Fringeli: Radical Intersections
Alexis Wolton: Tortugan Towerblocks
An expose of Wilson/Bey on libcom by Robert P. Helms
Praxis web site:
Praxis Bandcamp (digital sales):
The Molehill Report # 6 was produced at Psychic Defence Studios in June 2022 in Berlin by CF and Lynxy.