Defective Institutions overturns the basis of institutionalism. Faith in classic institutions—exposed as clamorously inadequate by the failure of governance under neoliberalism--does not result in greater democracy, greater horizontality, or more equitable living. Nor does trust in the standing of decisions, in the authority of antecedent cases, in the coherence, strength, continuity, or solidity of the institutions that frame and render legitimate these decisions and the rules they buttress. To the contrary: the classically-imagined institution and our faith in it lie at the heart of neoliberal unfreedom and racialized violence.
Working at the point of contact and conflict between socialist and anarcho-philosophical traditions, Defective Institutions offers an alternative, which is also an alternative to the figures of governance associated with the liberal conception of the state: an aberrant republicanism comprised of defective institutions, run through with the necessity of their abolition. Lezra’s book moves from the primitive scenes of Western political institution—the city; the family; the university; the first person; “race”—through recent work in the philosophy of translation, decolonial studies, abolitionism, Afropessimism and its critiques, psvchoanalysis, and musicology.
To offer an original wedding of abolition and institution, Lezra brings together genealogies of contemporary institutionalism (from Durkheim and Hauriou to Searle); post-Marxist accounts of the state (Balibar, Abensour); philosophical and anthropological anarchism (Wolff, Malabou, Graeber, Scott); critical legal theory (analyses of Marbury v. Madison as well as Dobbs v. Jackson); continental and analytic versions and critiques of foundationalism (Heidegger, Lyotard and Butler; Quine, Searle and Fine); and political and sociological abolitionism (Lewis, O’Brien).
At a time when some call for strengthening institutions and for defending liberties ostensibly protected by such institutions, and others long for the destruction of institutions that have long been oppressive, Lezra’s book offers today’s Left a new framework for confronting institutions’ necessity and their necessary abolition.