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Radical Politics and Internalized Repression

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1/11/2014 11:21:27 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Saul Newman is a philosopher who's work mainly deals with anarchism and poststructuralism (postanarchism) i.e., the relationship between the work of the classical anarchist thinkers (Kropotkin, Bakunin, etc.) and the poststructuralist ideas emerging mainly out of the 1960's (with the exception of Stirner). Here's an article he wrote on the relationship between sovereign power and voluntary self-domination in its relation to the possibility of a radical politics. Etienne De La Bo"tie's work on voluntary servitude is used as a starting point.


In this paper I investigate the problem of voluntary servitude " first elaborated by Etienne de la Bo"tie " and explore its implications for radical political theory today. The desire for one"s own domination has proved a major hindrance to projects of human liberation such as revolutionary Marxism and anarchism, necessitating new understandings of subjectivity and revolutionary desire. Central here, as I show, are micro-political and ethical projects of interrogating one"s own subjective attachment to power and authority " projects elaborated, in different ways, by thinkers as diverse as Max Stirner, Gustav Landauer and Michel Foucault. I argue that the question of voluntary servitude must be taken more seriously by political theory, and that an engagement with this problem brings to the surface a counter-sovereign tradition in politics in which the central concern is not the legitimacy of political power, but rather the possibilities for new practices of freedom.


In this paper I will explore the genealogy of a certain counter-sovereign political discourse, one that starts with the question "why do we obey?" This question, initially posed by the philosopher Etienne de la Bo"tie in his investigations on tyranny and our voluntary servitude to it, starts from the opposite position to the problematic of sovereignty staked out by Bodin and Hobbes. Moreover, it remains a central and unresolved problem in radical political thought which works necessarily within the ethical horizon of emancipation from political power. I suggest that encountering the problem of voluntary servitude necessitates an exploration of new forms of subjectivity, ethics and political practices through which our subjective bonds to power are interrogated; and I explore these possibilities through the revolutionary tradition of anarchism, as well as through an engagement with psychoanalytic theory. My contention here is that we cannot counter the problem of voluntary servitude without a critique of idealization and identification, and here I turn to thinkers like Max Stirner, Gustav Landauer and Michel Foucault, all of whom, in different ways, develop a micropolitics and ethics of freedom which aims at undoing the bonds between the subject and power."

Thoughts on the triple question of subjectivity, repression, and liberatory radical politics?
: At 5/13/2014 7:05:20 PM, Crescendo wrote:
: The difference is that the gay movement is currently pushing their will on Churches, as shown in the link to gay marriage in Denmark. Meanwhile, the Inquisition ended several centuries ago.
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1/12/2014 5:54:32 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Thank you for sharing.

If I've understood it correctly, then I certainly agree that voluntary servitude is one of the greatest obstacles to a free society. While I think the ongoing destruction of family and religious values in modern society is good, the mechanism by which the state will persuade its citizens into voluntary servitude will increasingly become that of 'modern comfort'. In this sense I think those in power have actually listened to the message of 'Brave New World'... Our lives will become 'safer', more 'comfortable', the media focused on increasingly meaningless and narrow issues. The injustice done to the population will become increasingly hard to understand, but it will of course be that the freedom to pursue their happiness in a more individualistic way, they will have to suffer 'work', and they will be denied the real fruit of their labour.

Out of interest, are there any specific facets of live in which 'refusal' or 'disengagement' would be particularly effective?