Also Sprach Zapata

Philosophy and resistance

RP 171 () / Article

Each strives by physical force to compel the other to submit to his will: each endeavours to throw hisadversary, and thus render him incapable of further resistance. (Clausewitz, On War, 1832)

Receive our truth in your dancing heart. Zapatalives, also and for always in these lands. (Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee ZNLA, ‘Votan-Zapata or Five Hundred Years of History’, 1994)

2011 may well be remembered as the year of resistance.* The uprisings of the Arab Spring, the movement of indignados in Spain and Mexico, the Aganaktismenoi in Greece and the Occupy actions are all primarily movements of resistance. Even in the UK the term is acquiring political force: at the trade-union protests outside the Conservative Party conference at the beginning of October, Len McCluskey of Unite called for ‘a coalition of resistance, of trade unions, community groups, church organizations, and students and of our senior citizens, an amazing coalition of resistance to engage in every form of resistance, including coordinated industrial action.’ He did not mean every form of resistance, yet his use of the term to align the tactics of general strike and civil disobedience is testimony to its renewed significance. Resistance is on its way to becoming a word of power, emerging alongside the terms ‘revolution’ and ‘reform’ that Hegel saw defining the range of modern politics. Yet, while increasingly familiar, the significance and potential of the term are not fully recognized. This may be due to its equivocal character: resistance is at work in electromagnetism, fluid dynamics, immunology and psychoanalysis, as well as in politics and philosophy. But there is also something more and peculiarly resistant about this concept, if it is a concept.

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* This is the text of an Inaugural Professorial Lecture, in the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP), KingstonUniversity London, delivered on 3 October 2011.

 

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