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SubStance 35.3 (2006) 153-157

Reviewed by
Brett Parker
University of Calgary
Hoy, David Couzens. Critical Resistance: From Poststructuralism to Post-Critique. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004. Pp. 274.

David Couzens Hoy's Critical Resistance is "a historical and topical guide" to poststructural theories of "emancipatory resistance to domination" (2). Tracing the origins of poststructuralism to a Nietzschean genealogical critique, which begins to be expressed in Gilles Deleuze's Nietzsche and Philosophy (1962), Critical Resistance takes up some of the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, Emmanuel Levinas, Jacques Derrida, Ernesto Laclau, and Slavoj Žižek and emphasizes the important position that concepts of resistance occupy in poststructural thought. Hoy discusses these poststructural thinkers in relation to some of the theories of Sarah Kofman, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Judith Butler, Martin Heidegger, Terry Eagleton and others. Indeed, it is Hoy's ability to contextualize poststructuralism in relation to both contemporary theory and the philosophical tradition that makes Critical Resistance such a strong examination of poststructuralism.

The first chapter focuses on the influence that Nietzsche's genealogical mode of inquiry, which "does not insist on truths that are true forever," has on poststructural theories of critique (22-23). Hoy argues that, for Deleuze, the Nietzschean "affirmation cannot be opposed to negation" but, instead, should be read as a multiplicity of becoming that exists in the play of its difference (25-26). Here, Nietzsche, as the philosopher of multiplicity, influences not only Deleuze, but Derrida and Foucault as well. Yet, along with a philosophy of multiplicity, poststructuralists, as neo-Nietzscheans, "inherit the standard accusations that are leveled against Nietzsche: that they are unable to account for agency, responsibility, rationality, human nature, community, and ethical and political values" (30). In Critical Resistance, these accusations are met head on. For Hoy, not only can poststructuralism account for these notions, but, it can, also redeploy them as a radical means of critical resistance, which, with a Nietzschean edge, is resistance that is self critical—resistance that resists itself.

The next chapter begins with the influence that Nietzsche has on Foucault's own genealogical critique. Hoy focuses upon Foucault's critique of the relationship between institutions, discourse, and self-interpretation to argue that Foucault's genealogical analyses reveal any present self-interpretation to be only one interpretation out of many possible interpretations (72). Hoy writes that just "as Nietzsche thinks of the body not as a single unity but as a plurality of (sometimes [End Page 153] conflicting) drives, Foucault thinks that we are always 'more' than the one, dominant interpretation of ourselves that we tend to take for granted as both universal and natural" (72). Thus, critical resistance derives both agency and force in the realization of the possibility of alternative self-interpretations that can challenge the dominant interpretations, which render the individual an immobilized subject of a given power structure (72). Yet, for Foucault, the possibility of resistance implies that a given power structure is in place and, thus, resistance does not always disrupt or inhibit power but often sustains it (82). What Foucault's genealogies regularly uncover is that subjects do not produce domination but, instead, domination produces its subjects (88). According to Butler's deployment of Foucault, the subject recognizes its constraints as the very borders constitutive of itself and, thus, in resistance, motivated only by a sort of ethic of self-critique, the subject risks deformation of itself, in order to move beyond itself (100).

Like the previous chapter, Chapter 3 takes up notions of subject formation and their role in critical resistance but, here, the focus is upon Bourdieu rather than Foucault. For Hoy, "Foucault and Bourdieu can profitably be put on the same spectrum insofar as Bourdieu can be read as deepening Foucault's account of how subjectivity is constructed through power relations by providing a more detailed sociological theory of this process" (101). He points out that Bourdieu's socioanalysis aims at uncovering and dispelling "the social myths that perpetuate domination" (121). Hoy argues that Bourdieu's "method of reflexive socio-analysis reveals...


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