'Anarchism and Law: towards a postanarchist ethics of disobedience'

Newman, Saul. 2012. 'Anarchism and Law: towards a postanarchist ethics of disobedience'. Griffith Law Review, 21(2), ISSN 1038-3441 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article uses the political philosophy of anarchism to critically interrogate the limits of legal authority, showing that the lawʼs claim to unconditional obedience ultimately is unjustified. Here I turn to Walter Benjamin to unmask the violent foundations of legal authority, and to explore critical and radical responses to this – through Georges Sorelʼs notion of the ʻgeneral proletarian strikeʼ, and through Benjaminʼs related notion of ʻdivine violenceʼ, both of which I interpret in a distinctly anarchist way. However, I argue that this deconstruction of the ontological foundations of the law can be turned back on anarchism itself. Anarchism bases its critique of political and legal authority on a kind of organic substratum, one that is scientifically verifiable and morally legitimate, providing the immanent ground for communal relations beyond the law. As an alternative to this foundationalist approach, I propose what might be called an ontological anarchism, which unsettles all established orders. I develop from this an anarchist or, more precisely, post-anarchist, political and ethical project involving an ongoing contestation of legal authority and the coercive practices of state power.

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Date Deposited:

11 Aug 2015 13:35

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2017 12:21

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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