The Politics of Postanarchism

By Franks, Benjamin | Anarchist Studies, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Politics of Postanarchism


Franks, Benjamin, Anarchist Studies


Saul Newman, The Politics of Postanarchism Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010; 200pp, £65 ISBN: 978-0748634958

Lewis Call notes, in the pages of this journal (Anarchist Studies Vol.17, No.l, pp.122-3), that Saul Newman is amongst the main theorists of postanarchism, alongside Todd May and Call himself. The Politics of Postanarchism, like Newman's earlier books, focuses on the intersection between anarchism and poststructuralist theory, and interrogates what Newman considers are the faulty Enlightenment presuppositions within anarchism. This is a task which he undertakes in order to renew this radical tradition. Readers of Newman's earlier works will be familiar with many of the key themes and arguments in The Politics of Postanarchism. It is a useful addition to the literature on four main grounds.

First, it is a clear re-statement of Newman's version of postanarchism (with occasional reference to other formulations). Second, it applies postanarchism to contemporary events, such as the banking crisis (p.28, p. 80), the surveillance state wrought by The War On Terror (pp.29-30; p.75), and the struggles around immigrant rights (p.l 15, pp. 172-3). Third, it situates postanarchism amongst recent theoretical developments, such as Badiou's critique of the natural social principle against the artificial political principle (pp.1 10-1 1) or Michael Hardt and Toni Negri's autonomist account of the 'multitude' (pp.I2I-3). Finally, in keeping with Newman's goals, the book provokes the reader to assess the limits of anarchism (p.5), by searching for and highlighting aporia (inconsistencies and contradictions) that are core to anarchism. In doing so, it handily also raises questions about Newman's own postanarchist presuppositions.

Newman's central contention is that anarchism is wedded to an enlightenment rationalist - and indeed positivist - account of knowledge, and to a fixed, essentialist account of the subject, in which, Newman claims, anarchists produce a Manichean split between, on the one side, the benign natural law or social principle (a form of anti-politics) and on the other the malign political principle, an unnatural order of power. The latter is associated with the state (p.4). These classical anarchist assumptions are not only philosophically unsustainable (pp.58-59), but also produce hierarchical political practice. In seeking out the authoritarian moments in anarchism, Newman seeks to make an anarchist critique of anarchism (p.51).

Thus, the first conflict Newman identifies in anarchism is that between its commitment to freedom versus the fixed, essential self. If humans are essentially good, or prone or determined to a particular type of benevolent social relationship, this severely restricts human freedom to produce its own destiny. Newman has made similar criticisms of classical anarchism's essentialism, and this has led to objections to this characterisation. Notable opposition to Newman's account of classical anarchism has come from a variety of sources: Sasha Villon; Jesse Cohn and Shawn Wilbur; author(s) from South Africa's Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation; Alan Antliff; and Nathan Jun. A dominant theme amongst many of these criticisms is that Newman (and other similar postanarchists) has misrepresented classical anarchists, as they were not united by an essen tialist view of the human subject. Significant classical anarchists such as Errico Malatesta Life and Ideas, p.73) viewed the concept of 'natural harmony' as 'the invention of human laziness'. In addition, Peter Kropotkin - who Newman specifically cites as an essentialist (p.36 and p.38) - was clear that humans have anti-social instincts as much as social ones, and whilst Newman acknowledges this (p.39) - perhaps in part in unacknowledged reply to earlier critics - he nonetheless asserts a social essentialism on classical anarchism.

The apparent contradiction in anti-politics identified by Newman is similarly resolvable within the anarchist canon.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Politics of Postanarchism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.