AGAINST POWER? DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN ACQUISITIVE RESISTANCE AND SUBVERSION

Joseph Pierce, Olivia R. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Critiques of contemporary political-economic formations, while grounded in an array of theoretical traditions, have often centered on strategies for relocating power (as embodied in accumulated wealth, control of labor and corporate entities, or the state) in institutions that are nominally more egalitarian or democratic. Such alternative institutions are intended to better represent those who have been historically harmed by the use of power. This article argues for an analytical distinction between such strategies of capturing power on behalf of those without it, and strategies for reducing power differentials directly or annihilating the capacity to accumulate power. We adopt the analytical term subversion to describe these latter efforts to reduce the intensity of, and undermine the capacity to reproduce or deepen, power relationships. Rather than focusing on redistribution or inversion of asymmetrical power relations to benefit the disempowered, subversive strategies work toward decreasing the possibility of accumulating power or, in the extreme case, completely evacuating existing unequal power relations. Thinking about political engagement in terms of limiting the possibility of asymmetrical power relationships (regardless of who holds that power) helps to illuminate a distinction between reactive politics against injustice and proactive politics that pursue alternative, increasingly just conceptual norms. We draw on threads in critical, political, and urban geographies to articulate a particularly geographic concept of “fleeing-in-place” as subversive resistance to hegemony, the undermining of the possibility of asymmetrical socio-spatial power relations within existing contemporary political economies. We propose strategies for research that better highlight the differences between resistance and subversion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-188
Number of pages18
JournalGeografiska Annaler, Series B: Human Geography
Volume98
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016

Keywords

  • power
  • resistance
  • revolution
  • rhizome
  • subversion

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