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Antinomies of Autonomism: On Art, Instrumentality and Radical Struggle

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Abstract:

Autonomist theory is arguably the most prominent orientation in contemporary social movements aiming beyond capitalism. However, certain tendencies within this stream of radical theory suffer from insuperable antinomies, particularly with regard to its operative conceptions of power, the state and anti-capitalist agency. Critical clarity concerning theoretical responses to practical impasses is a precondition for a collective passage beyond globalised class society. Reflection on the possible emancipatory roles of art makes sense only within a global historical analysis. This article traces autonomism from splits within the anti-Stalinist radical left after 1945, in the work of Cornelius Castoriadis and Guy Debord, to one of its most influential versions today, that of John Holloway. Holloway's Zapatista-inspired and Adorno-inflected notion of 'non-instrumental revolution' is analysed and assessed.

Keywords: Adorno; Autonomy; Castoriadis; Debord; Holloway; Marxism; Zapatista; anti-Capitalism; autonomism; revolution

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09528820903184625

Publication date: 2009-09-01

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