Edited by Hein-Anton van der Heijden
Chapter 13: Post-structuralism, social movements and citizen politics
There is no independent and self-contained post-structuralist theory of social movements that is comparable, for example, to ‘resource mobilization theory’ (e.g., Oberschall, 1973; Tilly, 1978) or the ‘political process approach’ (e.g., Tarrow, 1978). At best, certain post-structuralist motifs and concepts are reflected in various theoretical frames and perspectives. Such themes include the role of identities, values, and changing subjectivities in the emergence and operation of multiple movements, as well as general theoretical reflections on the character of social structures and their connection to agency, human subjectivity, power and domination. The emancipatory potentials and effects of assemblages of various types are also investigated and evaluated by post-structuralist thinkers, as are their negative and oppressive impacts, though post-structuralists have tended to eschew traditional forms of normative theorizing in favour of genealogical and critical histories of particular struggles and campaigns. Yet these introductory remarks still beg a number of tricky questions about the nature of post-structuralism itself. Can it be viewed as a discrete social and political theory, or is it a broad approach? Does it even exist as a coherent body of theoretical discourse? Who counts as a poststructuralist theorist or researcher? In our view, post-structuralism is best defined and understood as a particular style of theorizing in social and political theory, which is informed by a distinctive ethos, where both the style and the ethos are predicated on a specific set of ontological postulates (e.g., Hacking, 1985; Howarth, 2013).
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