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

ISBN: B009GIPOYO

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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desire—rather it channels it to itself: “The State exerts itself to tame the desirous man; in other words, it seeks to direct his desire to it alone, and to content that desire with what it offers.” 203 It is this desire for authority, this love for the state, which perpetuates its power. People are dominated, Stirner suggests, because they desire it. Deleuze and Guattari are interested in the same phenomenon. Self-subjection and its relation to desire is a problem that Marx as well as the

and the Genealogy of Power 77 power. For anarchists, the place of power was the state: any revolution that did not involve the immediate dismantling of state power would ultimately perpetuate this power—it would get caught within the logic of place. Foucault, while his conception of state power differs from that of the anarchists, nevertheless acknowledges the dangers of a revolution that leaves the place of power—embodied by the state—intact.229 A Marxist revolutionary politics that neglects

as 84 Chapter Four long as the prisoner believes there is someone watching him. 267 This, it could be argued, is truly power without essence, without place. Power itself may be an empty place, like the empty watchtower, and it may function without agents. All it needs are subjects who participate in their own domination by believing they are repressed. Power may operate from below, not from above.268 It may be interesting here to compare Kropotkin’s discussion of the prison and criminology

constitutes power’s identity as “power” and it cannot function without it. It differentiates power from other signifiers. Yet, paradoxically, this lack makes resistance to power possible. Like Derrida’s notion of the supplement, the lack is both necessary for the constitution of identity of power, while at the same time it destabilizes and allows it to be resisted. In other words, the lack is the limit of power: it is the limit that both defines it and threatens it. Perhaps this notion of a

and understanding, is quite close to anarchism: it is perhaps the last bastion of the privileged subject of Enlightenment-humanist rationality, the logic which informs anarchism. It is also relevant to the question of resistance against domination, because Habermasians argue that without any notion of shared 150 Chapter Seven rational norms—which this Lacanian analysis would question—there can be no possibility of any coherent political or ethical action.447 Habermas tries to describe the

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