The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism

The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism

The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism

The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism

Synopsis

The political writings of the French poststructuralists have eluded articulation in the broader framework of general political philosophy primarily because of the pervasive tendency to define politics along a single parameter: the balance between state power and individual rights in liberalism and the focus on economic justice as a goal in Marxism. What poststructuralists like Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Jean-François Lyotard offer instead is a political philosophy that can be called tactical: it emphasizes that power emerges from many different sources and operates along many different registers. This approach has roots in traditional anarchist thought, which sees the social and political field as a network of intertwined practices with overlapping political effects. The poststructuralist approach, however, eschews two questionable assumptions of anarchism, that human beings have an (essentially benign) essence and that power is always repressive, never productive.

After positioning poststructuralist political thought against the background of Marxism and the traditional anarchism of Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Proudhon, Todd May shows what a tactical political philosophy like anarchism looks like shorn of its humanist commitments—namely, a poststructuralist anarchism. The book concludes with a defense, contra Habermas and Critical Theory, of poststructuralist political thought as having a metaethical structure allowing for positive ethical commitments.

Excerpt

This book began as a conversation on a train headed from Pittsburgh to Washington to attend the Eastern Division meetings of the American Philosophical Association. I was trying to explain to a friend, Mark Lance, what the political theory of poststructuralism was all about. He listened more patiently than he should have and then said, "It sounds like anarchism to me." That comment was the seed of an article, Is Post-Structuralist Political Theory Anarchist?--which appeared in Philosophy and Social Criticism in 1989--and eventually of the present work.

I believe that people familiar with feminist theory will discover that much of the perspective developed here has resonances with feminism, and some may wonder why I have not discussed those resonances in the text. the explanation is simple, having to do with the limitations of my own expertise. It would take a grasp broader than my own to do justice to both feminism and poststructuralism at the same time. I must, therefore, leave that task to someone else.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.