What is an Insurrection? Destituent Power and Ontological Anarchy in Agamben and Stirner

Newman, Saul. 2017. What is an Insurrection? Destituent Power and Ontological Anarchy in Agamben and Stirner. Political Studies, 65(2), pp. 284-299. ISSN 0032-3217 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The aim of this article is to develop a theoretical understanding of the insurrection as a central concept in radical politics in order to account for contemporary movements and forms of mobilisation that seek to withdraw from governing institutions and affirm autonomous practices and forms of life. I will develop a theory of insurrection by investigating the parallel thinking of Giorgio Agamben and Max Stirner. Starting with Stirner’s central distinction between revolution and insurrection, and linking this with Agamben’s theory of destituent power, I show how both thinkers develop an ontologically anarchic approach to ethics, subjectivity and life that is designed to destitute and profane governing institutions and established categories of politics. However, I will argue that Stirner’s ‘egoistic’ and voluntarist approach to insurrection provides a more tangible and positive way of thinking about political action and agency than Agamben’s at times vague, albeit suggestive, notion of inoperativity.

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Identification Number (DOI):



insurrection, destituent power, Giorgio Agamben, Max Stirner

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Politics > Research Unit in Contemporary Political Theory (RUCPT)


3 May 2016Accepted
9 August 2016Published Online
1 June 2017Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

26 Jul 2016 09:20

Last Modified:

24 Mar 2021 13:51

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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