Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Theory and Criticism

Supervisor(s)

Mark Franke

Abstract

Beginning with a critical inquiry into the reasons why the field of the political is traditionally elaborated in the archic nexus between government and state sovereignty, this study examines the possibilities of elaborating an alternative theory of the political in the intersections between Michel Foucault’s theory of resistance and anarchist political theory. Taking Foucault’s fifth thesis on power from The History of Sexuality as an alternative paradigm from which to reread the history of the political, the aim of this study is to demonstrate that the hallmark of Foucault’s work emerges in the ways in which his analytic of power strategically shifts the site of politics away from its traditional locus in the exercise of government to the question of resistance. Under what I will elaborate in terms of the primacy of resistance, I argue that Foucault’s studies of power and governmentality reveal an anarchist hypothesis of the political in the critical caesura between the political as archē and the political as agōn. Affirming a mutual alliance between anarchist theory and Foucault against the orthodox foundations of political philosophy not only exposes the conceptual principles that continue to sustain Western political practices, but also opens up the space to pursue the implications of a form of politics inseparable from the elaboration of permanent ethics of revolt, a distinct way of being in the world through resistance—that is, a specific art of not being governed. When the concepts of power and government are understood to emerge on condition of resistance, the political conceived as archē reveals its own contingency, and the question of politics is redirected from a constituent theory of an oikonomia to a destituent theory of resistance, a critical ethos of becoming ungovernable, not as a revolutionary overthrow of power, but as an art of not being governed. Rather than reducing Foucault to anarchism, however, it is my contention that the intersection between them emerges in the critical attempts to locate a form of politics which, in refusing to reconstitute itself as power, could never assume the form of an archē.


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