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Bob Black : biography

January 4, 1951 -

Bob Black (born Robert Charles Black, Jr. on January 4, 1951) is an American anarchist. He is the author of the books The Abolition of Work and Other Essays, Beneath the Underground, Friendly Fire, Anarchy After Leftism, "Defacing the Currency," and numerous political essays.


Some of his work from the early 1980s includes (anthologized in The Abolition of Work and Other Essays) highlights his critiques of the nuclear freeze movement ("Anti-Nuclear Terror"), the editors of Processed World ("Circle A Deceit: A Review of Processed World"), radical feminists ("Feminism as Fascism"), and right wing libertarians ("The Libertarian As Conservative"). Some of these essays previously appeared in "San Francisco's Appeal to Reason" (1981-1984), a leftist and counter-cultural tabloid newspaper for which Black wrote a column.

The Abolition of Work

The Abolition of Work and Other Essays (1986), draws upon some ideas of the Situationist International, the utopian socialists Charles Fourier and William Morris, anarchists such as Paul Goodman, and anthropologists such as Richard Borshay Lee and Marshall Sahlins. Black criticizes work for its compulsion, and, in industrial society, for taking the form of "jobs"—the restriction of the worker to a single limited task, usually one which involves no creativity and often no skill. Black's alternative is the elimination of what William Morris called "useless toil" and the transformation of useful work into "productive play," with opportunities to participate in a variety of useful yet intrinsically enjoyable activities, as proposed by Charles Fourier. "Beneath the Underground" (1992) is a collection of texts relating to what Black calls the "marginals milieu"—the do-it-yourself zine subculture which flourished in the 80s and early 90s. Friendly Fire (1992) is, like Black's first book, an eclectic collection touching on many topics including the Art Strike, Nietzsche, the first Gulf War and the Dial-a-Rumor telephone project he conducted with Zack Replica (1981-1983).

Black's most recent book,Defacing the Currency: Selected Writings, 1992-2012 was published by Little Black Cart Press in 2013. It includes a lengthy (113 pages), previously unpublished critique of Noam Chomsky, "Chomsky on the Nod." Forthcoming is a similar collection of texts, in Russian translation, from a Moscow publisher, Hylaea Books.


Church of the SubGenius controversy

According to two accounts by Black, he received a bomb in the mail at his street address on November 22, 1989.Black, Bob (1989). , 1989 (post-November 22), reprinted at Black claimed it was a member of the Church of the SubGenius, John Hagen-Brenner, who sent him an "improvised explosive device consisting of an audio cassette holder wired with four cadmium-type batteries, four flashbulbs, and five firecrackers", as described in the charging document filed in Federal District Court. According to Black, he thought the package looked suspicious, then on impulse "threw it against the wall. There was a flash (the flashcubes) and a puff of smoke, but the firecrackers did not go off." Black turned the device in to the police. Black believes that the device was sent to him because of criticism he had made of the Church, and he has repeatedly brought up the incident in his writings concerning the Church. Ivan Stang and other members of the Church have denied any involvement in this incident, and no one else was charged. One of Black's texts was reposted and dismissed on the SubGenius mailing-list.Bob Black's 1989 story "Bomb 'Em If They Can't Take a Joke" and in 1990, as archived at

Anarchy After Leftism, and the Bookchin controversy

Beginning in 1997, Black became involved in a debate sparked by the work of anarchist and founder of the Institute for Social Ecology Murray Bookchin, an outspoken critic of the post-left anarchist tendency. Bookchin wrote and published Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm, labeling post-left anarchists and others as "lifestyle anarchists" — thus following up a theme developed in his Philosophy of Social Ecology. Though he does not refer directly to Black's work, Bookchin clearly has Black's rejection of work as an implicit target when he criticizes authors such as John Zerzan and Dave Watson, whom he controversially labels part of the same tendency.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine