An Affirmation That Is Entirely Other

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The aim of this article is to juxtapose the notion of refusal in Maurice Blanchot, Herbert Marcuse, and the Invisible Committee. The article opens by considering Blanchot's 1958 notion of a radical refusal and then turns to Marcuse's idea of a “great refusal” against one‐dimensional society. It then concludes with a consideration of the Invisible Committee's theory of destitution, which aims to rethink revolution in light of an analysis of the contemporary cycle of insurrections. Although Blanchot's and Marcuse's notions of the refusal might appear dated, trapped within the agitated political climate of the 1950s and 1960s, in their time they each signaled a conscious rupture with a certain Marxist‐Leninist theory of revolution that could not imagine the transformation of social relations except through the seizure of state power. For both thinkers, the proto‐revolutionary gesture of refusal sought to respond to a historical conjuncture in which the integration of the working class into the circuitry of capital was a fait accompli. For Blanchot, refusal was a withdrawal from, and abandonment of, politics and representation, whereas for Marcuse it involved a transformation both of one's immediate social relations and of social relations more broadly. It is these aspects of refusal that anticipate and overlap with more recent theories of destituent power emerging from the new cycles of protests. Over the last decade, the notion of destitution has come to prominence as one of the most important reformulations of radical political action. In response to a new insurrectionary wave, characterized by new forms of action, destitution signals an attempt to reimagine the emergence of a new revolutionary force in the wake of the disappearance of Marxist dialectics and the established working‐class movement.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSouth Atlantic Quarterly
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)19-31
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2023

ID: 333174801