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Post-anarchism or postanarchism is an anarchist philosophy that employs post-structuralist and postmodernist approaches (the term post-structuralist anarchism is used as well, so as not to suggest having moved beyond anarchism). Post-anarchism is not a single coherent theory, but rather refers to the combined works of any number of post-modernists and post-structuralists such as Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard; postmodern feminists such as Judith Butler; and alongside those of classical anarchist and libertarian philosophers such as Zhuang Zhou, Emma Goldman, Max Stirner, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Thus, the terminology can vary widely in both approach and outcome.

The various approaches and imprecision of the term illustrate anarchism's own general rejection of dogma and complex history. However, some specifics offered by Saul Newman suggest a growing coherence. In his 2015 book Postanarchism,[1] he defines postanarchism as "an anarchism understood not as [a] certain set of social arrangements, or even as a particular revolutionary project, but rather as a sensibility, a certain ethos or way of living and seeing the world which is impelled by the realization of the freedom that one already has."[2] In this definition, postanarchism draws on the revolutionary elan of anarchism, but operates apart from its focus on the eradication of the state.

Ruth Kinna, in her review of Newman's book, wrote that, "anarchism [has largely been defined] as a program of action, an idea of social revolution and a conception of the stateless society, whereas [Newman's] postanarchism is associated with autonomous modes of thinking and acting – Foucault's 'decisive will to not be governed' – and the renunciation of revolution."[3]

Approaches and etymology[edit]

The term "post-anarchism" was coined by philosopher of post-left anarchy Hakim Bey in his 1987 essay "Post-Anarchism Anarchy." Bey argued that anarchism had become insular and sectarian, confusing the various anarchist schools of thought for the real experience of lived anarchy.[4] In 1994, Todd May initiated what he called "poststructuralist anarchism",[5] arguing for a theory grounded in the post-structuralist understanding of power, particularly through the work of Michel Foucault and Emma Goldman, while taking the anarchist approach to ethics.

The "Lacanian anarchism" proposed by Saul Newman utilizes the works of Jacques Lacan and Max Stirner more prominently. Newman criticizes classical anarchists, such as Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin, for assuming an objective "human nature" and a natural order; he argues that from this approach, humans progress and are well-off by nature, with only the Establishment as a limitation that forces behavior otherwise. For Newman, this is a Manichaen worldview, which depicts the reversal of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan, in which the "good" state is subjugated by the "evil" people.

Lewis Call has attempted to develop post-anarchist theory through the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, rejecting the Cartesian concept of the "subject." From here, a radical form of anarchism is made possible: the anarchism of becoming. This anarchism does not have an eventual goal, nor does it flow into "being"; it is not a final state of development, nor a static form of society, but rather becomes permanent, as a means without end. Italian autonomist Giorgio Agamben has also written about this idea. In this respect it is similar to the "complex systems" view of emerging society known as panarchy. Call critiques liberal notions of language, consciousness, and rationality from an anarchist perspective, arguing that they are inherent in economic and political power within the capitalist state organization.[6]

Duane Rousselle has approached the term from the perspective Lacanian psychoanalysis in After Post-Anarchism and Post-Anarchism: A Reader. The journal Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies has been a key academic journal disseminating post-anarchist theory.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Newman, Saul, 1972- author. (2015-12-02). Postanarchism. ISBN 9780745688732. OCLC 929541259.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Newman, Saul, 1972- author. (2015-12-02). Postanarchism. ISBN 9780745688732. OCLC 929541259.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Kinna, Ruth (2017-05-01). "Postanarchism". Contemporary Political Theory. 16 (2): 278–281. doi:10.1057/cpt.2016.15. ISSN 1476-9336.
  4. ^ "Post-Anarchism Anarchy". The Anarchist Library. Retrieved 2019-11-04.
  5. ^ Antliff, Allan (2007). "Anarchy, Power, and Poststructuralism". SubStance. 36 (2): 56–66. doi:10.1353/sub.2007.0026.
  6. ^ Martin, Edward J. (2003). "Rev. of Postmodern Anarchism by Lewis Call". Perspectives on Political Science. 32 (3): 186. doi:10.1080/10457090309604847. ISSN 1045-7097.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]