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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-structuralists such as Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Lacan; postmodern feminists such as Judith Butler; and post-Marxists such as Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, Jacques Rancière; with those of the classical anarchists, with particular concentration on Emma Goldman, Max Stirner, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Thus, the terminology can vary widely in both approach and outcome.


The prefix post- is not used to denote a philosophy "after anarchism", but instead refers to the challenging and disruption of typically accepted assumptions within frameworks that emerged during the Enlightenment era. This means a basic rejection of the epistemological foundations of classical anarchist theories, due to their tendency towards essentialist or reductionist notions—[citation needed]although post-anarchists are generally quick to point out the many outstanding exceptions, such as those noted above. This approach is considered to be important insofar as it widens the conception of what it means to have or to be produced, rather than only repressed, by power, thus encouraging those who act against power in the form of domination to become aware of how their resistance often becomes overdetermined by power-effects as well. It argues against earlier approaches that capitalism and the state are not the only sources of domination in the moment in which we live, and that new approaches need to be developed to combat the network-centric structures of domination that characterize late modernity. Although thinkers such as Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida, Butler, Lacan, and Lyotard are not explicitly self-described anarchists, their ideas nevertheless serve of great importance, given the anti-authoritarian nature of their thought. Some of them also showed interest, to varying degrees, in the events of May 1968 in France[citation needed].

Common concepts within post-anarchism include:


The term "post-anarchism" was coined by philosopher of post-left anarchy Hakim Bey in his 1987 essay "Post-Anarchism Anarchy".[2][3] Bey argued that anarchism had become insular and sectarian, confusing the various anarchist schools of thought for the real experience of lived anarchy.[3] In 1994, academic philosopher Todd May initiated what he called "poststructuralist anarchism",[4] 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 Michael 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.[5]

Recently the French hedonist philosopher Michel Onfray has embraced the term post-anarchism to describe his approach to politics and ethics.[6] He advocates for an anarchism in line with such intellectuals as "Orwell, la philosophe Simone Weil, Jean Grenier, la French Theory avec Foucault, Deleuze, Bourdieu, Guattari, Lyotard, le Derrida de Politiques de l'amitié et du Droit à la philosophie, mais aussi Mai 68" which for him was "a Nietzschean revolt in order to put an end to the 'One' truth, revealed, and to put in evidence the diversity of truths, in order to make disappear ascetic Christian ideas and to help arise new possibilities of existence." [7]

Another anarchist and French intellectual with a dedication to post-structuralism is Daniel Colson[citation needed] who published Petit lexique philosophique de l'anarchisme de Proudhon à Deleuze in 2001.

Post-anarchism and space

Postanarchist theory has many implications for social and political space and, seeing as space is always political, seriously considers the question of space for radical politics and movements today. Much postanarchist theory is centered around an extensive critique of hegemony and the neoliberal societies of control. The logic of hegemony contains all conceptions of freedom and justice narrowly within the confines of the state, creating a “political climate in which radical notions of justice are seen as a threat to the very existence of” society, perpetuating the liberal ideological myth that “unity requires homogeneity”.[8] Postanarchism “conceives of a political space which is indeterminate, contingent and heterogeneous – a space whose lines and contours are undecidable and therefore contestable”.[9] Saul Newman defines this postanarchist conception of political space as “a space of becoming”.[9] If we see current conceptions and arrangements of space as frameworks for “dominant political and economic interests,” postanarchist theory explores the “ways in which this hegemonic space is challenged, contested and reconfigured, as well as the fantasies and desires invested in political spaces [9] and looks to the occupation of space as a means to “prefigure and create autonomous alternatives”.[10]

Newman sees postanarchist political space as “based around the project of autonomy”.[9] In keeping with a postanarchist affinity with contingency, Newman theorizes autonomy as “an ongoing project of political spatialization, rather than a fully achieved form of social organization”.[9] These autonomous political spaces can be considered insurrectional as they “defy the idea of a plan imposed upon society by institutions”,[9] engendering forms of organization that emerge “spontaneously, and which people determine freely for themselves”.[9] These insurrectional spaces work to foster alternative ways of being while continually undermining the logic of hegemony as they work non- rather than counter-hegemonically, exposing the cracks within the “dominant social, political, and economic order”.[9] A distinctly postanarchist conception of politics can be “understood in terms of an ongoing project of autonomy and a pluralization of insurrectional spaces and desires”,[9] exemplifying “prefigurative practices, which seek to realize alternatives to capitalism and statism within the current order”.[9] Newman sees this “re-situation of the political dimension away from the hegemony of the state [...] as central to postanarchism”.[9]

In his book,Gramsci is Dead, Richard Day examines many such insurrectional spaces and non-hegemonic movements and practices. The TAZ concept is one such example and the utilization of such a tactic is seen regularly throughout contemporary society. Critical of the fleeting and potentially over-individualistic nature of the TAZ, Day posits the Semi-Permanent Autonomous Zone, the SPAZ, as a potential mode of organization that is “neither utterly fleeting nor totally enslaving”,[10] “breaking out of the temporary/permanent dichotomy”.[10] Day theorizes the SPAZ as “a form that allows the construction of non-hegemonic alternatives to the neoliberal order here and now, with an eye to surviving the dangers of capture, exploitation and division inevitably arising from within and being imposed from without”.[10] The SPAZ embraces a postanarchist spirit of contingency and indeterminancy, fostering relationships and links of solidarity based on voluntary association without falling into the trap of hegemony by refusing the aspiration of total permanence.

Gustav Landauer’s concept of Structural Renewal features prominently in much postanarchist theory and practice, influencing concepts such as Day’s idea of the SPAZ, as well as the deeply ethical aspects of postanarchist theory and practice. Structural Renewal advocates for the creation of new institutions “alongside, rather than inside, existing modes of social organization,” involving “a complementary pairing of disengagement and reconstruction”.[10] Structural Renewal aims to reduce the efficacy and reach of hegemonic institutions “by withdrawing energy from them and rendering them redundant,” appearing “simultaneously as a negative force working against the colonization of everyday life by the state and corporations, and as a positive force acting to reverse this process via mutual aid”.[10]

Most important for contemporary postanarchism is Landauer’s analysis of the state as a “certain relation between people: a mode of behaviour and interaction”.[11] Following this logic, the state can be “transcended only through a certain spiritual transformation of relationships,” without such a transformation “the state will be simply reinvented in a different form during the revolution”.[11] Postanarchism consistently takes up this notion, seeing the political as intimately tied up with the social and guided by a deeply ethical framework geared towards transforming social space. According to Landauer’s analysis, although it is possible to “rid ourselves of particular states, we can never rid ourselves of the state form [as] it is always already with us, and so must be consistently and carefully warded off”.[10] Postanarchism recognizes that “states require subjects who desire not only to repress others, but also desire their own repression,” and that, consequently, “warding off the state [...] means primarily enabling and empowering individuals and communities”.[10] Postanarchism takes up the problem of voluntary servitude in order to figure out “how to get more people in more places to overcome not only their desire to dominate others, but their own desire to be dominated as well”.[10] This involves an “unbinding of the self from his or her own attachment to power”[9] and the creation of spaces and subjectivities “which rely upon an amoral, postmodern ethics of shared commitments based on affinities rather than duties based on hegemonic imperatives”.[10]

Day identifies the “interlocking ethico-political commitments of groundless solidarity and infinite responsibility” as central to postanarchist ethics. He defines groundless solidarity as “seeing one’s own privilege and oppression in the context of other privileges and oppressions, as so interlinked that no particular form of inequality [...] can be postulated as the central axis of struggle,” while infinite responsibility “means always being open to the challenge of another Other, always being ready to hear a voice that points out how one is not adequately in solidarity, despite one’s best efforts”.[10] He identifies these commitments as central in guiding affinity-based relationships, rejecting a hegemonic conception of community in order to embrace “the coming communities, in the plural”.[10] Postanarchism conceives of ethics as “open to a certain spontaneous and free self-determination by individuals, rather than imposed upon them from above through abstract moral codes and strictures”,[11] conceiving of freedom as an “ongoing ethical practice, in which one’s relationship with oneself and others is subject to a continual ethical interrogation”.[11] The intensely ethical dimension of postanarchism allows for the conception of a “system of networks and popular bases, organized along rhizomatic lines [...] and populated by subjects who neither ask for gifts from the state [...] nor seek state power for themselves,” conceiving of movements that “take up ethico-political positions while refusing to try to coercively generalize these positions by making foundational claims”,[10] empowering subjects that are capable of thriving outside of existing paradigms and contributing to real and lasting social and political change.

Postanarchism is intensely critical of current forms of representative democracy, “favouring people’s self-organization”[11] and seeking to “open the political space to alternative and more democratic modes of democracy”,[11] understanding democracy not “primarily as a mechanism for expressing a unified popular will, but rather as a way of pluralizing this will – opening up within it different and even dissenting spaces and perspectives”.[11] This notion of democracy beyond the state is in keeping with postanarchist ethics and commitments, “imposing a certain ethical responsibility upon people themselves to resolve, through ongoing practices of negotiation, tensions that may arise”.[11] Saul Newman emphasizes democracy’s own “perfectibility,” the fact that democracy “always points to a horizon beyond, to the future,” that it is “always ‘to come’”.[11] He states that, “we should never be satisfied with existing forms taken by democracy and should always be working towards a greater democratization in the here and now; towards an ongoing articulation of democracy’s im/possible promise of perfect liberty with perfect equality".[11] This is a “politics of anti-politics [...] outside, and ultimately transcendent of, the state and all hierarchical structures of power and authority,” requiring the continual “development of alternative libertarian and egalitarian structures and practices, coupled with a constant awareness of the authoritarian potential that lies in any structure".[11]

After post-anarchism

Duane Rousselle has claimed post-anarchism is beginning to move away from the epistemological characterization and toward an ontological characterization.[12] He has written numerous articles and books on the topic.[13]

His book After Post-Anarchism is described by Repartee Press as follows:

Post-anarchists have hitherto relied on post-structuralist critiques of ontological essentialism in order to situate their discourse in relation to the traditional anarchist discourse. Post-anarchism requires the elaboration of another important line of critique against epistemological foundationalism – to accomplish this task, this book takes post-anarchism to its limit through a reading of the philosophy of Georges Bataille. Georges Bataille’s philosophy allows for new ways of conceiving anarchist ethics that are not predicated upon essentialist categories, foundationalist truth-claims, or the agency of the subject in the political context. After Post-Anarchism, we challenge the hegemony that epistemology has enjoyed for several centuries of political and philosophical thought.[14]

In "What Comes After Post-Anarchism," an article for Continent Journal, Rousselle has claimed that:

By dismissing all ontologies as suspiciously representative and as incessantly harbouring a dangerous form of essentialism, post-anarchists have overlooked the privilege that they have placed on the human subject, language, and discourse, at the expense of the democracy that the human subject shares with other animals, objects, and beings in the world. This epistemological characterization of post-anarchism has held sway for far too long. It is not by chance that post-anarchism, as a concept, was first formulated by Hakim Bey as an “ontological anarchism,” and subsequently repressed by the canon of post-anarchist authors. ... I want to challenge this reluctance and revive the roots of post-anarchism.

See also


  1. see generally Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Routledge 1990.
  2. Bey, Hakim (March 1987). "Post-Anarchism Anarchy". Retrieved December 30, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Adams, Jason. "Postanarchism in a Bombshell". Aporia (3).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  5. Martin, Edward J. (June 2003). "Call, Lewis Postmodern Anarchism". Perspectives on Political Science.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Michel Onfray: le post anarchisme expliqué à ma grand-mère
  7. "qu'il considère comme une révolte nietzschéenne pour avoir mis fin à la Vérité "Une", révélée, en mettant en évidence la diversité de vérités, pour avoir fait disparaître les idéaux ascétiques chrétiens et fait surgir de nouvelles possibilités d'existence."Michel Onfray: le post anarchisme expliqué à ma grand-mère
  8. [Alfred, Taiaiake. Wasase: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005. p. 112]
  9. 9.00 9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04 9.05 9.06 9.07 9.08 9.09 9.10 9.11 [Newman, Saul. “Postanarchism and Space: Revolutionary fantasies and autonomous zones.” Planning Theory 10 (2011): 344-365]
  10. 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 10.11 10.12 [Day, Richard. Gramsci is Dead: Anarchistic Currents in the Newest Social Movements. New York: Pluto Press, 2005. p. 42, 123-129, 140-141, 163-177, 203]
  11. 11.00 11.01 11.02 11.03 11.04 11.05 11.06 11.07 11.08 11.09 11.10 [Newman, Saul. The Politics of Postanarchism. Edinburgh University Press, 2010. p.139-180]
  12. Rousselle, Duane (November 2012). "Max Stirner's Post-Post-Anarchism". Journal for the Study of Radicalism. Retrieved November 14, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Rousselle, Duane. "Duane Rousselle's Academia Page". Retrieved November 14, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Rousselle, Duane (November 2012). "After Post-Anarchism". Repartee Books. Retrieved November 14, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

External links