PODCAST | Anarchism Today

This is part of the Democracy Futures seminar series, 6 April 2016


Q&A Section

ALEX PRICHARD – Anarchism and non-domination

“Anarchism has enjoyed a renaissance in social and political theory, partly as a result of a new wave of global activism, but also as a consequence of a turn away from statism and the rediscovery of alternative socialisms in the wake of the collapse of the USSR. It has done so alongside the revival of republicanism, which is arguably indebted to the same historical processes. Common to both anarchism and new-republicanism is the attempt to recover a lost vernacular of freedom, which both traditions, historically and today, define in terms of non-domination. In spite of these obvious parallels, the two traditions have yet to be assessed in relation to one another. Our claim is that anarchists have rejected the republican moralisation of freedom as non-domination, and have been the defenders of a pure negative theory of freedom. For anarchists, republican political theory is statist before it is identifiably republican and this undermines the normative force of the theory of freedom as non-domination propounded by Pettit and others. Likewise, republican accounts of the relationship between property and freedom, cast in terms of slave ownership and civic freedom, are central to its history. But it was only in the nineteenth century that anarchists and then Marxists were to pinpoint the egregious domination that attended to industrial capitalism and bourgeois property relations. The failure of contemporary republicans to admit the relations of dominium at the heart of capitalist property relations exposes another concealed caveat in their thinking. Like Pettit, we argue that non-domination provides a language of critique of existing relations of power. But unlike Pettit, we argue that any realistic theory of freedom as non-domination must account for the structural inequalities engendered by both state and capital that render the republican revival little more than a footnote to liberalism.”

SAUL NEWMAN – Ownness created a new freedom: Max Stirner’s alternative concept of liberty

This paper will examine Max Stirner’s notion of ownness as an alternative paradigm of freedom. It will argue that ownness – which implies a radical form of self-ownership or self-mastery – is not reducible to any of the familiar categories of freedom such as negative or positive liberty; nor does it fit in with the republican model of liberty as non-domination. The problem with these understandings is that they make freedom dependent on external conditions – whether it is the actions of others, or the presence laws and institutions, or external rational and moral norms which the individual is expected to conform to. For Stirner, this dependence leaves freedom vulnerable and ultimately empty and meaningless. Rather, as I show, ownness proposes a sort of ontological freedom – a permanent property of the subject which exists regardless of the circumstances one finds oneself in, and which forms the basis for one’s resistance against constraint and domination. Ownness is the freedom that one always already has, rather than an ideal to be attained. The aim of this paper, then, is to show that ownness is a more effective and persuasive answer to the problem of domination, and that it reveals many of the inadequacies particularly of the republican idea of non-domination.

About the speakers

Alex prichard headshotDr Alex Prichard was appointed lecturer in International Relations at the University of Exeter in 2012. In the same year he co-founded and now co-edits the monograph series ‘Contemporary Anarchist Studies’, the only such series dedicated to contemporary writing on anarchist theory and practice. Since January 2016 Dr Prichard has been on study to work with Ruth Kinna (Loughborough) on an 18 month project funded under the ESRC’s ‘Transformative Research’ call. Their empirically informed theoretical project asks how ‘anarchy’ can be a constitutional principle.

saul newman headshotProfessor Saul Newman heads the Department of Politics at Goldsmiths, University of London. He took up “post-anarchism” as a general term for political philosophies filtering 19th century anarchism through a post-structuralist lens, and later popularized it through his 2001 bookFrom Bakunin to Lacan. Thus, he rejects a number of concepts traditionally associated with anarchism, including essentialism, a “positive” human nature, and the concept of revolution.