Post structuralist anarchism

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lem
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Jan 14 2006 16:31
Post structuralist anarchism

I'm reading Todd May at the moment. I'm finding it quite difficult. I did wonder though what it menat to the concept of class struggle and solidarity, which I thought anarchism kind of based itself around, if power is organized in interconnected but not subordiante nodes with none fully determining the next with everything not connected to everything else by a single substance. Also, if power is also creative, then why should we challenge it - would there still be relations of power in a poststructuralist anarchist society. Any other thoughts on post structuralist stuff.

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Lazy Riser
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Jan 14 2006 16:47

Hi

I have no idea what Post Structuralist Anarchism is. What's in it for me?

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LR

lem
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Jan 14 2006 17:08

If you mean I should challenge power becasue there is something in it for me, then yeah sure, though power is creative for the individual subjected to it. But why should a philosopher like Foucalt care about it if I'm just going to create another power structure, as I would do because it is beneficial.

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Lazy Riser
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Jan 14 2006 17:27

Hi

No. I mean what's to be gained by considering Post Structuralist Anarchism? Is it for the working class or against it? (In the common sense meaning of the phase, all you transcendental pedants).

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LR

lem
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Jan 14 2006 17:30

I don't know, I haven't finished the book, and have no critical faculties . cry

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Lazy Riser
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Jan 14 2006 17:35

Hi

So it doesn't start out by explaining what's in it for you?

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LR

lem
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Jan 14 2006 17:48

They're a bit anti-bolshevik, anti-capitalist, but quite different from normal anarchism.

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Lazy Riser
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Jan 14 2006 17:50

Hi

Give me a link to an example of "normal" anarchism.

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lem
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Jan 14 2006 17:54

Guerin.

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Lazy Riser
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Jan 14 2006 18:08

Hi

Guerin promises Anarchy will make me richer, does May?

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lem
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Jan 14 2006 18:38

He hasn't mentioned it. Though I wouold imagine he would.

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Lazy Riser
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Jan 15 2006 01:22

Hi

Quote:
He hasn't mentioned it. Though I wouold imagine he would.

So is that post-structuralism then? The fact that whether or not it’s useful is left to the imagination? Very post-modern I must say. Sounds like Todd should try working for a living for a few years, might provide him with enough incentive to come up with something that addresses the concerns and desires of the great mass of normal working class people.

Please read this excellent post by Nick Durie…

http://www.libcom.org/forums/viewtopic.php?p=53448#53448

Nick, did you know I was a fan?

Love

LR

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Steven.
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Jan 15 2006 02:42

Long discussion on this same topic here:

http://libcom.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=6068

nosos
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Jan 15 2006 17:39

When I've read round the subject it always strikes me that a lot of what they say makes an awful lot of sense. It's just that they write it in pointlessly overly-articulated language when the actual ideas are just common-sense when applied to political activity/thought unless you're a bit of a knob.

Nick Durie
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Jan 15 2006 17:55
Quote:
Nick, did you know I was a fan?

Love

LR

Of course I did - we have spoken about my special anarcho-insurrectionist pyschic powers before haven't we? black bloc red n black star black bloc

lem
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Jan 15 2006 21:42
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Also, if power is also creative, then why should we challenge it

May does raise problems with why we should challenge power if poststructuralism is correct, though they are more based around the ubiquity of power (that ethical statements and comments on society are products of power relations, and that resistance is another power relation - so ammounts to just a redistribution of power) rather than it being sometimes positive (I would imagine that a more nuanced view of differentitiating between life affrming and bad practices would deal with the problem I raised). The two principles it raises that we ought to challenge oppression are: 1. Representing others should be avoided. 2. Alternative practices all things being equal should be allowed to flourish.

lem wrote:
I did wonder though what it menat to the concept of class struggle and solidarity

The book I read did not make it clear what to make of working for unity and class struggle (considering the network of power relations and necesity of tactical processes) which from reading around this site sets alot of other practices as subordinate to itself.

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Lazy Riser
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Jan 15 2006 22:52

Hi

Quote:
The book I read did not make it clear

Lem, I hate to have to tell you this, but the book is bullshit. It’s unclear because it’s unclear. If the author doesn’t make it clear, find one that does. You’re never going know what May really meant unless you ask him yourself, and I doubt he’ll give you a straight answer.

Love

LR

ftony
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Jan 16 2006 10:39

i've not read much (well, er, any) poststructuralist anarchism but have read loads and loads of poststructuralist geography, and i think it's pretty cool.

because anarchism is lagging behind other stuff i wouldn't write it off because it'll just take time for the subject to be mucked around with, until there's a sufficient body of knowledge and conceptual ideas for the thing to seem anything but very messy.

The main thing i'd say we can get from poststructuralism is that absolute timeless truth doesn't exist. We can't know anything unless that knowledge is 'situated'. I think that's a huge argument in favour of local/syndical organising. decentralisation of knowledge means a decentralisation of power, thus allowing some sort of liberatory potential at least.

The problem with traditional anarchism in academia is that modernism in academia has been pretty much blown out of the water- it's like cutting the grass with a scythe.

But i do get the impression that with a poststructuralist understanding of class the idea of class struggle would be tricky: if knowledge (and therefore identity) is situated, class identities are also situated, and thus feed off each other. thus the working class assertion of their class identity via struggle might just strengthen the identity base of the bourgeoisie, as it feeds off that of the proles.

still, if poststructuralism does anything like what it has done for feminism, then it's a damn good thing indeed.

A good book to read is Dom Mitchell's 'Cultural Geographies: a Critical Introduction' it's geography, and he's a post-marxist, but it gives a flavour for the potential of all this stuff. also anything by Ed Soja is good too: he's a 'radical cultural geographer', not really defining himself much, but is poststructuralist and very interesting (although a bit airy-fairy sometimes)

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Jan 16 2006 11:11

Hi

Indeed. The best thing about post structuralism is that the button does not think Foucault sucks. As long as it entertains the most philosophically cerebral comrades, I’m not inclined to be too harsh.

Love

LR

dara
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Jan 16 2006 15:24

i think that class identity is necessarily situated since it intersects with lots of other stuff like ethnicity, gender, sexuality and obviously the particulars of working life. I don't think that means that class struggle goes out the window though, it just can't be simplified to some sort of proletarian essence. and, to be honest, i don't think many people really do this, its fairly clear that the struggle of auto-workers in Italy will be different to that of the unemployed in Iraq or that workers will have to deal with racial divisions in Tennessee differently to Cork.

I would have assumed that all people use the word 'class' with an understanding that its a shorthand and changes with context. roll eyes

but this is all obvious stuff, i don't think we needed derrida to tell us. i do like some post structuralist writers though.

i just read judith butler's gender trouble and found it really good, she argues that struggle arises from the contradictions that power creates for itself, so i'd reckon that a lot of poststructuralist thought won't come as any big surprise for anarchists & lib commies. perhaps its just useful in that it applies critiques of power relations in new and interesting ways.

lem
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Jan 16 2006 20:53
dara wrote:
class struggle can't be simplified to some sort of proletarian essence... 'class' (is a) shorthand and changes with context

Then what is it that unites the workers?

dara wrote:
i think that class identity is necessarily situated

Like I said I found the book quite difficult, it is the first post-structuralist text I have read- what do you mean by situated?

dara
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Jan 16 2006 22:11
Quote:
dara wrote:

class struggle can't be simplified to some sort of proletarian essence... 'class' (is a) shorthand and changes with context

Then what is it that unites the workers?

what he said.

by situated i just mean that there is no universal class identity, what it means to be working class changes with the context. like revol said, the working class is created as an entity through capitalist (ie. objectified) relations. These relations are not universal but belong to specific times and places.

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jef costello
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Jan 17 2006 00:09

Working class unity only works as a reinforcement of bourgeoisie identity if the working class identity used is the one that is constituted in relation to the bourgeoisise.

By rejecting both the idea of the working class spread by the middle class and rejecting the middle class' ideas of itself you are committing a revolutionary act. Refusing to accept that the power relations within history are basically arbitrary and the attendant benefits/deprivations are effectively undrmine the entire middle class identity which is based around an idea of superiority, be it cultural, racial, intellectual or meritocratic.

lem
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Jan 17 2006 01:01
dara wrote:
there is no universal class identity... the working class is created as an entity through capitalist (ie. objectified) relations. These relations are not universal but belong to specific times and places.

So class does not exist on a macro level, or it does but it is not a homogenous concept? Either at the local or macro level, is historical consciousness not a attribute that the proletariat shares?

ticking_fool
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Jan 17 2006 09:59
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still, if poststructuralism does anything like what it has done for feminism, then it's a damn good thing indeed.

Post-structuralism fucked feminism good and proper. It's how we ended up with identity politics and scathes of feminists obsessed with language and discourse instead of actually fucking dealing with the bastards in power.

Post-structuralism is pure fucking poison - it's the ideology of defeat and it is no coincidence that it's main proponants are all people who watched the 68 uprising fall apart. Post-structuralism takes you straight to Baudrillard and the 'celebration' of the carnival of capitalism and the tyranny of images. It is reactionary as fuck because it denies solidarity any basis or reality, it denies agency to people and grants it to the discourses that, supposedly, create us.

It is pure bollocks.

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Jan 17 2006 11:03
revol68 wrote:
I find the attempts at post structuralist anarchism to be contrived wank by second, nay third rate academics.

Exactly. Which is why I've been keeping off this thread.

Who's interested in Professor Fucking No-one's reading of Butler's reading of Derrida's reading of Heidegger's reading of Nietszche? Not me.

By all means allow poststructuralist thought (& like revol says, there's really no such thing -- not in a monolithic sense, anyway) to question or inflect your politics. However, that's very different to inventing something called "poststructuralist anarchism."

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the button
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Jan 17 2006 11:41

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the button
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Jan 17 2006 11:53

Exploring the leaky body, eh? wink

lem
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Jan 17 2006 14:57
the button wrote:
Who's interested in Professor Fucking No-one's reading of Butler's reading of Derrida's reading of Heidegger's reading of Nietszche? Not me.

What does it mean to say that the workers are united.

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the button
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Jan 17 2006 15:12
lem wrote:
What does it mean to say that the workers are united.

It can mean a lot of things. If it means, "the workers are united in that they all want the same thing, " that would be false. If it means, "the workers are united in that they have certain interests in common, " it would be true.

ftony
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Jan 17 2006 16:26
Quote:
Post-structuralism is pure fucking poison - it's the ideology of defeat and it is no coincidence that it's main proponants are all people who watched the 68 uprising fall apart. Post-structuralism takes you straight to Baudrillard and the 'celebration' of the carnival of capitalism and the tyranny of images. It is reactionary as fuck because it denies solidarity any basis or reality, it denies agency to people and grants it to the discourses that, supposedly, create us.

hmmm, i always thought 68 failed because there was too much factionalism, not enough support from outside and nastiness from the french state and its tentacles. still, whatever you say...

also, you realise that not every poststructuralist agrees with baudrillard...

also poststructuralism prevented feminism and marxism from dying a very nasty and painful death, and both have now advanced way way way beyond anarchist thought...

also it doesn't deny any basis for solidarity, it just reassesses the site of contestation into less one-dimensional terms and says, let's try and deal with the complexity of reality and stop living in the 19th century...

also it says nothing about discourses 'creating us'- it says identity is discursively negotiated (very very different), and anyway, remember that it has disagreements within it like any other school of thought anyway...

also it has brought about new methods of participatory research that has broken ooodles of boundaries, particularly in vastly reducing hierarchy in academia and bringing it more into real life, as well as opening up new avenues where there is struggle and bringing new analyses of that struggle to the fore...

some poison 8)