Anarchism and the Politics of Ressentiment

Newman, Saul. 2000. Anarchism and the Politics of Ressentiment. Theory and Event, 4(3), [Article]

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Of all the nineteenth century political movements that Nietzsche decries -- from socialism to liberalism -- he reserves his most venomous words for the anarchists. He calls them the "anarchist dogs" that are roaming the streets of European culture, the epitome of the "herd-animal morality" that characterizes modern democratic politics.[2] Nietzsche sees anarchism as poisoned at the root by the pestiferous weed of ressentiment -- the spiteful politics of the weak and pitiful, the morality of the slave. Is Nietzsche here merely venting his conservative wrath against radical politics, or is he diagnosing a real sickness that has infected our radical political imaginary? Despite the Nietzsche's obvious prejudice towards radical politics, this paper will take seriously his charge against anarchism. It will explore this cunning logic of ressentiment in relation to radical politics, particularly anarchism. It will attempt to unmask the hidden strains of ressentiment in the Manichean political thinking of classical anarchists like Bakunin, Kropotkin and Proudhon. This is not with the intention of dismissing anarchism as a political theory. On the contrary I argue that anarchism could become more relevant to contemporary political struggles, if it were made aware of the ressentiment logic of its own discourse, particularly in the essentialist identities and structures that inhabit it.

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Date Deposited:

12 Aug 2015 09:00

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2017 12:21

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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