Radical Democracy: Between Post-Marxism and Postanarchism. Reflections on Hegemony and Radical Politics

By Caciuleanu Mihai-Calin

Radical democracy defines a perspective of democracy that seeks to maximize the political space, and the rights of antagonized groups, through a continuous hegemonic struggle. In Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe argue that this project is one that captures the unrest of the New Social Movements by hegemonic discourses that do not prioritize a priori a specific agent, as it was the case of the working class in classical Marxism. To do this, they argue for populist parties that could establish counter-hegemony. In this thesis, I will criticize their approach towards the role of horizontal movements, using the post-anarchist perspective of Saul Newman.

First of all, I survey the main currents of ‘classical’ anarchism highlighting their main theoretical principles, in order to see the point of departure for their vision of equal liberty for social actors. Second of all, I present the post-anarchist critique to the more or less hidden essentialism found in ‘classical’ anarchism, and review the main arguments for why this characteristic hinders the fight for true equal liberty by allowing the Revolution and the destruction of the state to hide differents strands of power that pose problems for the the praxis of the movement and for the hypothetical post-revolutionary society. Third of all, I introduce the post-anarchist perspective on the organization and purpose of the anarchist movements in late stage capitalism.

Newman argues that movements should become free from identity and concentrate on fighting specific situations of oppression, as a ‘nomadic group’. Fourth of all, while this may seem unrelated to the praxis of ‘classical’ anarchism, by using the Discourse Theory developed by the Essex School, I study three cases in the history of anarchist movements – The Haymarket Affair in Chicago during the 1880s, Anarchist Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War, and the ‘Occupy’ Movement after the 2000s. This goes to show that the ‘Revolution’ stems further and further from the idea of overthrowing the state, while the ‘anarchist’, as a revolutionary identity, comes to include more and more social identities, concentrating on the fight for political rights. Fifth of all, after this analysis, I draw three main conclusions: a) after presenting the main criticism levelled against Newman’s politics, I argue that it is not only a viable vision of a movement, but that some NSMs are approaching his vision; b) I argue that this perspective on horizontal movements is necessary for the future of radical democracy, irrespective of other…


Leave a Reply