Post-Marxism to post-anarchism

Bates, D. (2016) Post-Marxism to post-anarchism. In: Political Studies Association Annual Conference, 21st-23rd March, 2016, Brighton. (Unpublished)

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The term post-Marxism is most usually associated with the work of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. The publication of Hegemony and Socialist Strategy in 1985 marked the birth of ‘post-Marxism’ as a counter-hegemonic philosophical movement. This movement considered ‘the critique of essentialism… as the sine qua non of a new vision for the Left conceived in terms of a radical plural democracy’. (See Mouffe, 1993: frontis.) The Marxist categories of class, economy and dialectic come to be deconstructed, and replaced with a post-structuralism in which all identities and categories are regarded as purely contingent; post-Marxism to many was regarded as a rejection of the Marxist project.

If post-Marxism was born in the final days of the project of actually existing socialism – a time marked by the apparent victory of the neo-liberal project, post-anarchism as a philosophy was developed a decade later. Central here are two thinkers – Todd May (1993) and Saul Newman (2003). Newman’s work in particular provided a critical application of Laclau and Mouffe’s work to the ‘essentialism’ of classical anarchism.

The central claims of this paper will be as follows: First, the reductionist reading of the Marxist tradition provided by Laclau and Mouffe comes to be repeated in the post-Anarchists reading of the anarchist tradition. This is a travesty which fails to acknowledge the complexities and sophistication of ‘classical anarchism’. Second, and more problematic, post-anarchism represents a very particular form of intellectual retreat, separating the anarchist tradition from those historical social movements which had done so much to sustain it. Third, the caricature of classical anarchism and classical Marxism which the post-anarchists provide acts as yet another obstacle to a meaningful and progressive conversation between the Marxist and anarchist traditions. As the capitalist project reasserts itself, the radical left must push aside such obstacles.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Divisions: Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Dr David Bates
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2016 10:48
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2016 10:50

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00