The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism

December 7, 2020
The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism

The political writings of the French poststructuralists haveeluded articulation in the broader framework of general politicalphilosophy primarily because of the pervasive tendency to definepolitics along a single parameter: the balance between state powerand individual rights in liberalism and the focus on economicjustice as a goal in Marxism. What poststructuralists like MichelFoucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Jean-François Lyotard offer insteadis a political philosophy that can be called tactical: itemphasizes that power emerges from many different sources andoperates along many different registers. This approach has roots intraditional anarchist thought, which sees the social and politicalfield as a network of intertwined practices with overlappingpolitical effects. The poststructuralist approach, however, eschewstwo questionable assumptions of anarchism, that human beings havean (essentially benign) essence and that power is alwaysrepressive, never productive.After positioning poststructuralist political thought againstthe background of Marxism and the traditional anarchism of Bakunin,Kropotkin, and Proudhon, Todd May shows what a tactical politicalphilosophy like anarchism looks like shorn of its humanistcommitments—namely, a poststructuralist anarchism. The bookconcludes with a defense, contra Habermas and Critical Theory, ofpoststructuralist political thought as having a metaethicalstructure allowing for positive ethical commitments.