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Theory of Power

Marx, Foucault, Neo-Zapatismo

Carlos Antonio Aguirre Rojas

The subject of power (singular) and multiple social powers (plural) is unquestionably central to contemporary societies all over the globe. Growing stronger and expanding farther all the time, the world’s anti-systemic movements have been forced to address this issue—the nature of power and powers—as among their most pressing debates. In the process, these movements have also been forced to consider the best possible strategy for confronting them. Should they seize political power, even if they run the risk of simply reproducing it? Should they destroy it altogether? Is it enough to destroy political power while economic, ideological, military, and religious powers remain untouched? And what is the most effective anti-capitalist and anti-systemic way to confront, defeat, and overcome the many different powers found in all present-day societies on Earth? To answer such questions, among others, this book discusses the rich, complex contributions of Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, and neo-Zapatismo to a complicated and essential subject: the theory of power.
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Chapter Two: Marx’s Teaching(s): Social Power(s), Human Power(s)


Social power, which is to say, the force of multiplied production, which arises by dint of cooperation among different individuals through the division of labor, appears to these individuals, whose cooperation is not voluntary but natural, not as an associated power of their own, but as a foreign power, located at their margins; knowing neither where it comes from nor where it is going, they can no longer dominate it. Rather, on the contrary, it progresses through a series of phases and stages of development, particular to and independent of the will and acts of men, and it even directs that will and those acts.

Karl Marx, The German Ideology, 1846

To properly locate the role and magnitude of Marx’s theorization of power in general and political power in particular (the latter known in recent decades as the ←27 | 28→“Marxist theory of politics” or “Marxist political theory”) within the vast corpus of his intellectual legacy, we must remember that his theorization of power and political power is contained within Marx’s own materialist conception of history. It is also contained within his ambitious and unfortunately unfinished global project: not only a “critique of political economics,” but also, and beyond it, a true global critique of capitalist civilization as such.

This double vector explains both the historical density of and the heights attained by his theory in a specific and problematic field: the field of power and political power. Likewise, it explains his incisive contextualization...

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