Ethics and Resistant Subject: Levinas, Foucault, Marx
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The present work essays a conception of human subjectivity capable of effective resistance to totalizing systems. The term “effective” distinguishes the absolute resistance of an ethical-subjectivity from the survival resistance of a for-itself subjectivity. It signifies a resistance that itself is neither rendered a new totality, nor assimilated within the old one. Chapters One through Three draw on Emanuel Levinas’s separation between interiority and exteriority, between the I and the other, and on his conceptualization of subjectivity on the ethical plane as being-for-the-other. Through a material phenomenology of sensory deprivation and solitary confinement the human subject is comprehended as a corporeal-sensible being that is rendered a subject in response to exteriority, response that arises from both its (survival) needs for itself and its (ethical) Desire for the other. The second Section, chapters Four and Five, presents immanent critical analyses of the conceptions of the human subject and resistance in Michel Foucault and Karl Marx respectively. These theorists exemplify opposable approaches to the notion of the human subject and subjectivity–and thus to an ethically-based resistance—which help elucidate the limits of the for-itself approach to theorizing effective resistance. Arguing in the last section, chapter Six, that, though occluded, for-the-other subjectivity and effective resistance are to be found in the actual practices of human struggle. A Levinasian interrogation of resistance under torture and prison confinement presents the case for theorizing the subject as primordially an I-in-tension and for the indispensability of the ethical dimension for an effective resistance against totalizing systems.