Individuality as Ideology and the Possibilities of Resistance

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Virginia Tech Publishing

This paper tracks the pervasive appeal to individuality as a basis for blame ascription and moral responsibility. It is argued that the reification of individual responsibility has politically pernicious effects. In particular, atomization of the individual undermines possibilities of collective resistance. Indeed, the atomized postulate of critical thought serves to reinforce dominant ideology regarding blame, responsibility, and individual efficacy. By reviewing the work of William Connolly and Frantz Fanon, it is argued that ascriptions of individual blame function as colonial control mechanisms that isolate and decontextualize the occurrence of violence. While this first set of insights is not entirely novel, I argue that appeal to the isolated individual is not restricted to early modern or colonial thought. Rather, recent critical thinkers such as Louis Althusser and Michel De Certeau continue to appeal to the atomized individual as a basis for resistance. I criticize these authors for the contention that resistance can spontaneously emerge ex nihilo. In particular, given Althusser's commitment to ideological state apparatuses (ISAs), the atomized individual is inconsistent with his postulation of individual 'heroes' and as all individuals operate within prevailing ISAs. By appealing to what Fanon calls the lumpenproletariat, I recommend a historicized and properly contextualized conception of resistance that can explain the possibility of genuine resistance.

Bernal, A., 2015. Individuality as Ideology and the Possibilities of Resistance. Spectra, 4(2). DOI: