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Ernesto Laclau “Bare Life or Social Indeterminacy?”

Laclau, Ernesto 2007. Bare Life or Social Indeterminacy? – Calarco, Matthew; DeCaroli, Steven (eds). Giorgio Agamben: Sovereignty and Life. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 11-22.

This is the perspective from which we want to question Agamben’s theoretical approach: his genealogy is not sensitive enough to structural diversity and, in the end, it risks ending in sheer teleology. (12)

[…] the ban holds together bare life and sover eignty. And it is important for Agamben to point our that the ban is not simply a sanctio n-which as such would still be representable within the order of the city-but that it involves abandonment: the homo sacer and the other figures that Agamben associates w him are simply left outside any communitarian order. That is why he can be killed bm nor sacrificed. In that sense the ban is non-relational: their victims are lef t to their own separatedness. This is for Agamben the originary political relation, linked to sovereignty. It is a more originary extraneousness than that of the foreigner, who still has an assigned place within the legal order. (13)

[…] has not Agamben chosen just one of those possibilities and hypostatized it so rhar it assumes a unique character? (14)

What remains as valid from the notion of ban as defined by Agamben is the idea of an uninscribable exteriority, bur the range of situations to which it applies is much wider than those subsumable under the category of homo sacer. I think that Agamben has not seen the problem of the inscribable/uninscribable, of inside/outside, in its true universality. In actual fact, what the mutual ban between opposed laws describes is the constitutive nature of any radical antagonism – radical in the sense that its two poles cannot be reduced to any super-game which would be recognised by them as an objective meaning to which both would be submitted. (15)

[…] it is enough that we introduce some souplesse within the Hobbesian scheme, that we accept that society is capable of some partial self -reg ulation, to im mediately sec that its demands are going to be more than those deriving from bare lif e, that they are going to have a variety and specificity that no “sovereign” power can simply ignore. When we arrive at that point, however, the notion of “sovereignty” starts shading into that of “hegemo ny.” This means that, in my view, Agamben has clouded the issue, fo r he has presented as a political moment what actually amounts to a radical elimination of the poli tical: a sovereign power which reduces the social bond to bare life. (16)

What is, anyway, wrong in the argument about a rigid opposition between political sovereignty and bare lif e is the assumption that it necessarily involv es an increasing control by an over-powerful state. All that is involved in the notion of a politicization of “natural” lif e is that in creasing areas of social lif e are submitted to processes of human control and regulation, but it is a non sequitur to assume that such a control has to crystallize around a tendentially totalitarian instance. (18)

This teleologism is, as a matter of fact, the symmetrical pendant of the “ethymologism” we have ref erred to at the beginning of this essay. Their combined effect is to divert Agamben’s attention from the really relevant question, which is the system of’ s truc tural possibilities that each new situation opens. The most summary exam ination of that system would have revealed that: (1) the crisis of the “automatic rules fo r the inscription of lif e” has freed many more entities than “bare lif e,” and that the reduction of the latter to the former takes place only in some extreme circumstances that cannot in the least be considered as a hidden pattern of modernity; (2) that the process of social regulation to which the dissolution of the “automatic rules of inscription” opens the way involved a plurality of instances that were far from unified in a single unity called “the State”; (3) that the process of State building in modernity has involved a far more complex dialectic between homogeneity and heterogeneity than the one that Agamben’s “camp-based” paradigm reflects. (21-22)

By unifying the whole process of modern political construction around the extreme and absurd paradigm of the concentration camp, Agamben does more than present a distorted history: he blocks any possible exploration of the emancipatory possibilities opened by our modern heritage. (22)

To be beyond any ban and any sovereignty means, simply, to be beyond politics. The myth of a fu lly reconciled society is what governs the (non-)political discourse of Agamben. And it is also what allows him to dismiss all political options in our societies and to unify them in the concentration camp as their secret destiny . Instead of deconstructing the logic of political institutions, showing areas in which fo rms of struggle and resistance are possible, he closes them beforehand through an essentialist unification. Political nihilism is his ultimate message. (22)

Ernesto Laclau “On Populist Reason”

February 28, 2013 Leave a comment

Laclau, Ernesto 2005. On Populist Reason. London, New York: Verso

Concluding Remarks

Heterogeneity, however, does not mean pure plurality or multiplicity, as the latter is compatible with the full positivity of its aggregated elements. Heterogeneity, in the sense in which I conceive it, has as one of its defining features a dimension of deficient being or failed unicity. If heterogeneity is, on the one hand, ultimately irreducible to a deeper homogeneity, it is, on the other, not simply absent but present as that which is absent. (223)

Pluraalsus ka võimalik täiusena, täieliku korra tingimustes. Heterogeensuses aga alati puuduse dimensioon. Kas pluraalsus kuulub siis põhimõtteliselt homogeensuse juurde kui ühtse printsiibi alusel kirjeldatav paljusus? (Multikulturalism kui pluraalse ühtsuse utoopia).

A first theoretical decision is to conceive of the ’people’ as a political cateogry, not as a datum of the social structure. This designates not a given group, but an act of institution that creates a new agency out of a plurality of heterogeneous elements. (224)

It is in this contamination of the universality of the populus by the partiality of the plebs that the peculiarity of the ’people’ as a historical actor lies. (224)

A popular demand is one that embodies the absent fullness of the community through a potentially endless chain of equivalences. That is why populist reason – which amounts, as we have seen, to political reason tout court – breaks with two forms of rationality which herald the end of politics: a total revolutionary event that, bringing about the full reconciliation of society with itself, would make the political moment superfluous, or a mere gradualist practice that reduces politics to administration. (225)

Rahvas kui puuduva täiuse kehastaja. Partikulaarsus, mis hõivab universaalse tähistatava koha. Rahvas kui Ühiskond. Siin peaks aga oluline olema ka rahva kui universaalse tähistaja seisukohalt täiuse puudumise tunnistamine, vastasel juhul muutuks rahva huvi just revolutsiooniliseks sündmuseks, mis kustutab poliitilise momendi.

Since society as fullness has no proper meaning beyond the ontic contents that embody it, those contents are, for the subjects attached to them, all there is. They are thus not an empirically achievable second best vis-à-vis an unattainable ultimate fullness for which we wait in vain. This, as we have seen, is the logic of hegemony. (226)

Puudub ligipääs ontoloogiale, olemisele kui sellisele. Samamoodi nagu Agambeni puhul puudub ligipääs paljale elule kui sellisele. Ühiskondlikud olemisviisid ja suhted (ontilisus) on ainus, millele ligipääs. Heidegger: olemise kohta ei suuda me midagi öelda, ainult spetsiifiliste olemiste kohta.

If, however, the unity of the social agent is the result of a plurality of social demands coming together through equivalential (metonymic) relations of contiguity, the contingent moment of naming has an absolutely central and constitutive role. The psychoanalytic category of overdetermination points in the same direction. In this respect, naming is the key moment in the constitution of a ’people’, whose boundaries and equivalential components permanently fluctuate. (227)

Vrd Badiou nimetamine, mis kehtestab geneerilise hulga kui eksisteeriva, kuid ei erista selle hulga elemente. Hulk on nimetatud, kuid täpse kirjelduseta – see võimaldab elementide lisamist, hulga protsessuaalset edasiarendust Nimega seostamise, mitte omaduste loendamise kaudu. Tähtis ka “pidev fluktuatsioon”, mis takistab lõplikku sulgemist (sulgemine on reetmine).

[…] what is crucial for the emergence of the ’people’ as a new historical actor is that the unification of a plurality of demands in a new configuration is constitutive and not derivative. In other words, it constitutes an act in the strict sense, for it does not have its source in anything external to itself. The emergence of the ’people’ as a historical actor is thus always transgressive vis-à-vis the situation preceding it. This transgression is the emergence of a new order. (228)

Rahva loomine ei toimu mingite huvide alusel. Rahva loomise akt loob ka huvid. Eelneva aluse puudumine. See ei tähenda muidugi täielikku isolatsiooni valitsevast kirjelduskeelest, vaid täpse definitsiooni puudumist. Vrd Occupy: meie olemegi meie nõudmised – vastus küsimusele, mis on teie nõudmised. Siin täielik kokku langemine poliitilise subjekti ja huvide vahel.

We can no longer understand capitalism as a purely economic reality, but as a complex in which economic, political, military, technological and other determinations – each endowed with its own logic and a certain autonomy – enter into the determination of the movement of the whole. In other terms, heterogeneity belongs to the essence of capitalism, the partial stablilizations of which are hegemonic in nature. (230)

Finally, there is the question of the status of the political. In my view, the political is linked to what could be called contingent articulation – another name for the dialectic between differential and equivalential logics. In this sense, all antagonism is essentially political. (231)

Kogu antagonism on olemuslikult poliitiline ehk: poliitiline on olemuslikult antagonistlik. Kui käsitleda antagonismi tõlkimatusena, nagu nt Andreas Ventsel on teinud, saame tähendusnihkest poliitilisuse tingimuse? Denotatsiooni ja tähenduse kokkulangemise võimatus loob aluse poliitiliseks praktikaks. Liberaal-demokraatlik poliitika: selle nihke kustutamisvajadus, ühiskond peab olema täpselt kirjeldatav, subjektid paika pandud. Laclau radikaalne demokraatia samuti kokkusobimatu tänapäevase “tegeliku demokraatiaga”?

How does this unifying mechanism operate? According to Empire, it does not involve any kind of political mediation. Because it is only natural, according to the authors, that the oppressed revolt, their unity is simply the expression of a spontaneous tendenct to converge. Unity, as a gift from Heaven, occupies in their theory the same place we attribute to hegemonic articulation. Since vertically separated struggles do not need to be horizontally linked, every political construction disappears. The only principle ensuring the union of the multitude around a common goal is what Hardt and Negri call ’being against’: it is a matter of being against everything, everywhere. The aim is universal desertion. This process is already taking place through the nomadic, rhizomatic movements of people accross frontiers. (240)

What is important is that Hardt and Negri’s approach to this question leads them to oversimplfy the political process. If there is a natrual tendency to revolt, no political construction of the subject of the revolt is needed. (241)

Subjekt eeldab vahendatust ehk kommunikatsiooni. Subjekt saab tekkida ainult (auto)kommunikatsiooniprotsessis, semioosis. (Siit ka etteheide Foucault’le: biopoliitika tegeleb subjektide kui objektidega, ei pööra tähelepanu enesekommunikatsioonile – Foucault küll üritas end viimastel aastatel parandada…)

[…] while police involves the attempt to reduce all differences to partialities within the communitarian whole – to conceive any difference as mere particularity, and refer the moment of universality to a pure, uncontaminated instance […] – politics involves an ineradicable distortion, a part that functions simultaneously as the whole. While the task of political philosophy traditionally has been to reduce politics to police, truly political thought and practice would consist in liberating the political moment from its enthrallment to policed societal frameworks. (245)

Rancière identifies the possibility of politics too much, I believe, with the possibility of emancipatory politics, without taking into account other alternatives – for example, that the uncounted might construct their incountability in ways that are ideologically incompatible with what eiher Rancière or I would advocate politically (in a Fascist direction, for instance). (246)

See on oluline kriitika. Dissensuse-poliitika ei tähenda automaatselt emantsipatiivset poliitikat. Seepärast vajalik edasi mõelda Badiou kolme subjektiprotsessi terminites: truudus, reetmine ja okultatsioon.

The ’people’ is for him [Rancière] as for me, the central protagonist of politics, and politics is what prevents the social from crystallizing in a fully fledged society, an entity defined by its own clear-cut distinctions and functions. (249)

Ernesto Laclau “Discourse”

February 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Laclau, Ernesto 2007. Discourse. – Goodin, R.E.; Pettit, P.; Pogge, T. (eds). A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy, Volume Two. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 541-547.

Saussure’i järgi on strukturaalne lingvistika korrastatud kahe põhiprintsiibi ümber. Esiteks see, et keeles puuduvad positiivsed terminid, on ainult erinevused. […] See keeleliste identiteetide puhtalt suhtel põhinev ja eristuv [differential] iseloom tähendab seda, et keel moodustab süsteemi, kus ühtki elementi ei saa määratleda teistest sõltumatult.  Teiseks printsiibiks on see, et keel on vorm ja mitte substants—see tähendab, et iga süsteemi element on ainuüksi määratletud ühendus- ja asendusreeglitega teiste elementide suhtes. […] Selles täielikult erinevusel põhinevas universumis, mida domineerivad puhtformaalsed reeglid, eksisteerib range isomorfism: igale sõna moodustavale häälikutevoole vastab üks ja ainult üks mõiste.  Tähistaja kord ja tähistatava kord on rangelt kattuvad. (542)

Saussure’ilikust vaatepunktist on diskursus igasugune lausest ulatuslikum keeleline jada.  See aga tähendab, et saussure’ilikus perspektiivis on diskursuse lingvistika võimatu, sest lausete järgnevus, mida valitseb üksnes kõneleja kapriis, ei kujuta endast mitte mingit üldise teooriaga haaratavat struktuurset regulaarsust. (542)

Kui elementidevahelist ühendust ja asendust valitsevate formaalsete reeglite abstraktne süsteem pole enam paratamatult seotud mitte ühegi konkreetse substantsiga, siis saab igasugust tähistamissüsteemi ühiskonnas—toitumiskorda, mööblit, moodi jne—kirjeldada selle süsteemi terminites. (543)

Kui formalism rakendub rangelt, siis tähendab see, et substantsiaalsed erinevused keelelisuse ja mitte-keelelisuse vahel tuleb samuti kõrvale heita.  Teisisõnu, tegutsemise ja struktuuri vaheline eristus muutub teisejärguliseks eristuseks tähenduslike totaalsuste üldisema kategooria raames. (543)

Lõpuks, range formalism võimaldas samuti ületada ühe teisegi takistuse lingvistilise diskursuseteooria formuleerimisel: niivõrd kui kõiki eristusi tuli pidada lihtsalt erinevusel põhinevaiks—s.o struktuurisisesteks—, polnud subjekti enam võimalik vaadelda tähenduse allikana, vaid hoopis ühe järjekordse konkreetse asukohana tähenduslikus totaalsuses. (543)

Klassikaline fenomenoloogia oli keskendunud väidete (statement) tähendusele, sulustades nende osutuse mis tahes välisele reaalsusele.  Foucault’ siirdub teise tasandi sulustamisele, näidates et tähendus ise eeldab ette [pre-supposes] loomistingimusi, mis ise ei ole tähendusele taandatavad.  Selline “kvaasi-transtsendentaalne” käik viib välja nähtustekihi/ladestu eraldamiseni, mida Foucault nimetab diskursuseks. (544)

Niisiis järeldas ta, et diskursiivse formatsiooni ühtsusprintsiipi pole võimalik leida ei samale objektile viitamise, ei lausungite produtseerimise ühtse stiili, ei mõistete püsivuse ega ka ühisele teemale viitamise alusel, vaid selles, mida ta kutsus “regulaarsuseks hajutatuses” [regularity in dispersion]—püsivus välistes suhetes elementide vahel, mis ei allu mitte mingile põhjapanevale või olemuslikule strukturatsiooniprintsiibile. (545)

Kuna aga teostunud on just üks, mitte aga teised võimalikud konfiguratsioonid, siis tuleneb siit: (1) et tegelikult eksisteeriv konfiguratsioon on olemuslikult sattumuslik; (2) et seda ei saa seletada mitte struktuuri enese kaudu, vaid jõu kaudu, mis peab olema osaliselt struktuuriväline.  See on hegemoonse jõu roll.  “Hegemoonia” on teooria otsuste kohta, mis langetatakse otsustamatuse tandril/väljal.  Järeldus on, nagu näitab dekonstruktsioon, et kuna otsustamatus toimib ühiskondlikkuse pinnal enesel, muutuvad objektiivsus ja võim eristamatuks.  Just seda silmas pidades on väidetud, et võim on sattumuslikkuse jälg struktuuris (Laclau, 1990). (545-546)