Urban Political Revolt, Michel Foucault and the Problem of Sustaining Political Action

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A vast literature has emerged around the question of how to sustain vibrant urban social and political movements. Occupy, Nuit Debout, Indignados!, Taksim and Tahrir Squares have all highlighted the new vitality of urban revolt. At the same time they have posed the problem of how to push such actions from the margins of political action toward new modes of lasting political practice which prolong their effects and transform a movement into long-term democratic gains and social change. This panel asks to what extent the work of Michel Foucault might provide resources for thinking through this problem. He has generally been perceived as a theorist who pushed 'beyond the state' toward new categories such as governmentality and biopolitics, and as one who became sceptical about the idea of revolution. Nonetheless, we may ask if his work provides resources for thinking about the possibility of sustained engagement in new transformative directions, whether on the basis of popular movements or parliamentary politics. For instance, one can ask whether Foucault's own controversial appraisals of the Iranian revolution provide resources for re-conceptualising revolution today, or one can use his concepts to track and analyse historical transformations in the very semantics of ‘revolution’, and the configuration of concepts to which it has given rise whether event, organization or praxis.