From Bakunin to Lacan: Anti-Authoritarianism and the Dislocation of Power

From Bakunin to Lacan: Anti-Authoritarianism and the Dislocation of Power

Saul Newman

Language: English

Pages: 208


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In its comparison of anarchist and poststructuralist thought, From Bakunin to Lacan contends that the most pressing political problem we face today is the proliferation and intensification of power. Saul Newman targets the tendency of radical political theories and movements to reaffirm power and authority, in different guises, in their very attempt to overcome it. In his examination of thinkers such as Bakunin, Lacan, Stirner, and Foucault Newman explores important epistemological, ontological, and political questions: Is the essential human subject the point of departure from which power and authority can be opposed? Or, is the humanist subject itself a site of domination that must be unmasked? As it deftly charts this debate's paths of emergence in political thought, the book illustrates how the question of essential identities defines and re-defines the limits and possibilities of radical politics today.

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are essential: does it not close off identity to flux and becoming? There have been numerous cases, for instance, where transgender women have been excluded from various feminist and lesbian groups because they were somehow not “women” enough, because they were still seen as men and, therefore, could not have any idea of what it feels like to be a “real” woman, suffering “real” oppression. It is this sort of authoritarian essentialism which completely discredits oppositional political thinking.

represented by a table: The Marxist model 1(a) Autonomous state----------> 2(a) Determined state-----------> 1(b) State as tool of revolution 2(b) State to be destroyed in revolution Now it is this dichotomy of state theories and their concomitant revolutionary strategies that could be questioned. It may be argued that it is precisely the second position (1b)—the view of the state as an instrument of class—that entails the first revolutionary strategy (2a) which allows the state to be used as

feature of it.35 This would apparently question determinist interpretations of the state in Marxist theory. Ralph Miliband, on the other hand, argues that the state for Marx and Engels was still very much the instrument of class domination.36 So what are we to make of this disparity in the interpretations of Marx’s theory of the state? Marx himself never developed a theory of the state as such, or at least not a consistent theory. There are times when he appears to have a very deterministic and

open to the individual to define. Freedom is not a fixed, transcendental concept: it is part of a struggle between the individual and authority, and it is constantly redefined within this struggle. Foucault will employ a similar notion of freedom in the next chapter. Freedom, then, cannot be separated from antagonism and power: ownness is the realization and, indeed, the affirmation, of this. Society without Essence The idea of antagonism is prevalent in Stirner’s work: he perpetuates the war

which make up the prison, but also the morality which justifies and rationalizes these practices. 261 Therefore the main focus of Foucault’s attack on the prison is not necessarily on the domination within, but on the fact that this domination is justified on moral grounds. Foucault wants to disrupt the “serene domination of Good over Evil.”262 Stirner’s critique of morality also applies here. He argues, as we have seen, that morality is merely a new form of Christianity now in humanist garb.

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