Academic journal article New Formations

Notes towards an Analytics of Resistance

Academic journal article New Formations

Notes towards an Analytics of Resistance

Article excerpt

On 17 June 2011 I was invited to address a thematic assembly on direct democracy at the Syntagma square occupation by the aganaktismenoi (indignados) in central Athens. After the talks and following usual procedure, members of the occupation who had had their number drawn came to the front to speak to the 10,000 crowd. One man in the queue was shaking and trembling with evident symptoms of stage fright before his address. He then proceeded to give an elegant talk in perfectly formed sentences and paragraphs, presenting a complete and persuasive plan for the future of the movement. 'How did you do it?' I asked him later. 'I thought you were going to collapse.' 'This is what I feared too', he replied nonchalantly. 'When I started speaking I was mouthing the words but someone else was speaking. A stranger inside me was dictating what to say.' Many participants in the recent protests and uprisings make similar statements. Sarah, an Egyptian, tells her mother after spending time in Tahrir Square: ? am not myself. I am somebody new that was born today'.1 A youth in the Athens December 2008 insurrection adds: 'I had been in demos before but never participated in a riot. It was something like an initiation for me and I have to admit I felt liberated. It made me feel like a regained control of myself'.2 This essay is a commentary on this 'stranger in me' (a usual description of the unconscious), a miraculous transubstantiation shared by people in different parts of the world, which has changed them from obedient subjects of law to resisting subjectivities.

The essay forms part of a wider project which, starting from recent events, attempts to develop a radical politics for the age of resistance.3 The first part discusses Alain Badiou's reaction as a typical case of radical pessimism. The second examines briefly some of the common characteristics of globalised neoliberal capitalism. This rather sketchy account helps situate the final part, ON LEFT MELANCHOLY

The 'new world order' announced in 1989 was the shortest in history, coming to an abrupt end in 2011. Protests, riots and uprisings have erupted all over the world. Neither the mainstream nor the radicals had predicted the wave, and this led to a search for historical precedents. A former director of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service thought that 'it's a revolutionary wave, like 1848'. The commentator Paul Mason agrees: 'There are strong parallels above all with 1848, and with the wave of discontent that preceded 1914' (p 14). On the left, the philosopher Alain Badiou suspects a possible 'rebirth of history' in a new age of 'riots and uprisings' that brings to an end a long interval after the last revolutionary upheaval. But the optimistic opening soon comes to an end.4 Against substantial evidence of a worldwide wave of uprisings, not unlike Badiou's favourite instances of 1848 and 1968, the philosopher adopts the most pessimistic reading of Foucault's theory claiming that resistance is generated and used by power. He dismisses social movements, anti-globalisation campaigns and radical parties, lamenting the 'impotence' of the left. History's rebirth ends up a stillbirth.

Many radical philosophers share Badiou's pessimism. There is general agreement that recent events brought to a temporary end a long period of defeat and retreat of the left. This welcome development is accompanied however by a sense of embarrassment and disbelief in the emancipatory potential of resistance. It is as if the lull that followed the emptying of the squares came as a relief, allowing the theorists to return to well-known reservations about the crowd or the left more generally. Slavoj Zizek wrote in 2012 that 2011 was 'the year of dreaming dangerously'. 'Now, a year later', he adds, 'every day brings new evidence of how fragile and inconsistent that awakening [of radical emancipatory politics all around the world] was...'5 Jacques Rancière's theory, according to which politics is the emergence of the excluded part, the part that has 'no part', is perhaps closest to recent resistances. …

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.