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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 Five: The Teaching(s) of Neo-Zapatismo: Counter-power(s), Resistance(s), Autonomy(s)

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We think the problem of power should be reassessed… We believe that if we reconsidered the premises of how we see power, the problem of power, stating that we didn’t want to ‘seize’ it, this would lead to another way of doing politics…

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, “Participation in Panel I of the First Intercontinental Congress for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism,” July 30, 1996

After all the arguments developed thus far, it is now time to ask: How is the complex problem of power presented and resolved within the neo-Zapatista worldview? What is the specific theory of power put forth by Mexican neo-Zapatismo? What does it contribute, in theoretical and analytical terms, to the reflections developed by Karl Marx and Michel Foucault?←95 | 96→

Before we can answer these important questions, we must first clarify three issues for propaedeutic purposes. First, we must define the essential nature of neo-Zapatismo, especially with respect to the major historical precedents that gave way, through complex synthesis, to this exceptional contemporary anti-systemic movement. Second, we must clarify how neo-Zapatismo defines “theory”—and the relationship between theory and practice, popular knowledge, and the currently dominant hierarchy of knowledge. Finally, we must determine the real ways in which power and powers existed prior to 1994, and how they exist now, both within neo-Zapatista communities and beyond them. The ways, in short, that shape and singularize the neo-Zapatista theory of power.

When we discuss what neo-Zapatismo is as an anti-systemic...

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