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Knabb was born in Louisiana in 1945 and raised in Missouri. He attended Shimer College (Illinois) 1961-1965, then moved to Berkeley, California, where he took part in the countercultural and radical adventures of the sixties. In 1969, having become disillusioned with the increasingly authoritarian tendencies in the New Left movement, he became an anarchist. Later that same year he discovered some pamphlets by the Situationist International and was so struck by them that he began experimenting with his own situationist-style critiques and interventions. Over the next few years he taught himself French in order to read the original situationist writings (most of which were then unavailable in English) and made several extended visits to France to meet various situationist groups and individuals, as well as shorter trips to meet contacts in other European countries and in Japan and Hong Kong.
In 1981 Knabb published the Situationist International Anthology, a large collection of articles drawn mostly from the French journal Internationale Situationniste. His other translations include Guy Debord's film scripts (Complete Cinematic Works) and Debord's The Society of the Spectacle. Knabb's own writings include leaflets, comics, pamphlets and articles on Wilhelm Reich, Georges Brassens, Gary Snyder, the 1960s hip counterculture, the 1979 Iranian revolution, the 1991 Gulf war, and the 2006 anti-CPE revolt in France. Longer works include The Relevance of Rexroth (a study of the anarchist poet and essayist Kenneth Rexroth), Gateway to the Vast Realms (a reader's guide to 500 recommended books), and The Joy of Revolution (an examination of the pros and cons of diverse radical tactics followed by some speculations on how a nonstate and noncapitalist postrevolutionary society might function).
Although Knabb has remained in substantial agreement with most of the situationist perspectives, some of his writings can be seen as attempts to meld, or at least to juxtapose, those perspectives with the rather different tone and scope of Kenneth Rexroth and with the experiential insights of Zen Buddhism (he is a long-time Zen practitioner). In a 1977 pamphlet, for example, he critiqued what he saw as the situationists' blindspot regarding religion. Conversely, he has also criticized the political naivet of "socially engaged" Buddhists. Another of his recurring themes is the importance of paying attention to the psychological or "subjective" aspect of radical activities.
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