Anti-capitalism and poststructuralist
Social anarchism has a long reputation as a disparate and incoherent ideology.
Commentators, sympathetic and objective alike, have frequently accused social
anarchism of being too diverse to constitute a singular, recognisable ideology at
all (Chomsky, 1970; Miller, 1984; Ball and Dagger, 1991). To a degree this is true:
social anarchism is a loose and diverse ideology that may be too elusive for some
commentators to categorise neatly and clearly. However, other commentators,
This book attempts to convey the different sociological contexts for how contemporary anarchist theory and practice is to be understood. It concentrates on the issue of broadening the parameters of how anarchist theory and practice is conceptualized. The book compares the major philosophical differences and strategies between the classical period (what Dave Morland calls 'social anarchism') and the contemporary anti-capitalist movements which he regards as being poststructuralist in nature. It also documents the emergence of the now highly influential anti-technological and anti-civilisational strand in anarchist thought. This offers something of a challenge to anarchism as a political philosophy of the Enlightenment, as well as to other contemporary versions of ecological anarchism and, to some extent, anarcho-communism. The book further provides a snapshot of a number of debates and critical positions which inform contemporary anarchist practice. The specific areas covered offer unique perspectives on sexuality, education, addiction and mental health aspects of socialisation and how this can be challenged at a number of different levels. The fact that anarchism has largely premised its critique on a psychological dimension to power relations, not just a material one, has been an advantage in this respect. Ecological anarchism, which has been the driving force behind much contemporary anarchist theory and practice, has been committed to thinking about the relationships between people and 'nature' in new ways.
sociologist trying to understand the
authoritarian and ecologically damaging premises behind sociological theory. He
argues the case for an anarchist sociology which pays much more attention to how
social experience is researched, theorised and represented. Like Morland, he finds
poststructuralist literature a potentially useful tool for understanding power, particularly when theorising contemporary social movements.
The difficulties of doing anarchist theory is not lost on any of these authors,
particularly when their starting points are sometimes challenging. The
this idea, and suggest what ‘reopening’ might imply, I have to say a
bit more about political struggle.
I want to outline a theory of ‘open hegemony’, a notion of political
struggle that derives from liberal, Marxist and post-structuralist perspectives on society, without being reducible to any one of them. The two key
figures in this respect are Karl Popper and Antonio Gramsci.
Popper (1945) argued that only open societies could secure freedom
and peace within the post-war world. For a society to be open, it must
contain institutions and cultures that permit and
through the controversial discourses of postmodernism and
poststructuralism that anarchism has been referenced in the social and philosophical sciences, sometimes as an argument for relativism. However, this has
often taken the form of a commentary on the work of French poststructuralist
philosophers of the 1970s and 1980s rather than an engagement with the anarchist canon itself.
However, some poststructuralist writers are now beginning to explore the
relationship between their own premises and those of anarchism. As is discussed
below in more detail, the work of
University Press, 1988) epitomises
the use of post-structuralist theory deplored by Hoff. For specific medievalists’
approach to the debate racking American scholars see S. Mosher Stuard, ‘The chase
after theory: considering medieval women’, Gender and History, 4 (1992), 135–46,
and also Speculum, 68: 2 (1993), in which all the articles implicitly engage in the
debates over the validity of post-structuralist and post-feminist approaches to the
study of history.
3 C. Walker Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to
Medieval Women (Berkeley CA
the major philosophical differences and strategies between the classical period (what he calls ‘social
anarchism’) and the contemporary anti-capitalist movements which he regards
as being poststructuralist in nature. John Moore (chapter 3) acknowledges these
epistemological differences in his argument that the often-overlooked figure of
Max Stirner can be useful for understanding the impact of power on the formation of the Self, as well as prefiguring poststructuralist and situationist perspectives on revolutionary language. It is through an assessment of Stirner
endorsement of existentialism (see Morland, 1997), her framing of the means
and ends of actions in this way is useful. It is also commensurate with poststructuralist theories of identity, which reject the liberal construction of the autonomous free rational agent as ‘natural’ and look to the social construction of the
subject by society. This critique is also central to Moore’s article on Max Stirner,
which also offers a ‘way out’ of this particular dualism.
As indicated in our introduction, Stirner’s controversial place in intellectual
history has recently
based on the assumption that language constitutes meaning.
The self-understanding of social
constructivists within the academic discipline of international relations is
that it is a position that can clearly be distinguished from discourse
analysis and post-structuralist approaches (see for example Adler 1997b : 320–332; Jeppeson,
Wendt and Katzenstein 1996 :
46). 1 However
’. Whereas the chapters by Joenniemi, Neumann and
Patomäki explore ‘Kosovo’ as a product of the decay of
modern institutions and discourses like sovereignty, statehood, the warring
state or the UN system, the subsequent three contributions explore the
symbolic economy of ‘Kosovo’, treating it as a mere
representation, a sign in the contrived text of ‘Europe’.
Informed by poststructuralist discourses, the contributions by Maja