the contextual life

thoughts without borders

when one thing leads to another

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as mentioned in a past post of mine, my favorite authors always lead me to other authors, other books. as some of you may know, i am blogging zizek’s In Defense of Lost Causes. this morning, i found a great example.

from what little i’ve read of zizek’s work – mainly opinion articles at this point – and from what i know about him through biographical films and what appears to be an endless stream of short video clips, taped lectures, and print features – his whole thing is breaking down other philosopher’s theories and constructing something new. part of the excitement of reading In Defense of Lost Causes has been a crash course in other philosophers. so far i’ve learned about heidegger’s nazi affiliation, stalin’s absurd world with the big Other – to put it in lacanian terms (which i now have a rudimentary understanding of) – there’s been some analysis of sartre and i can kind of see why laclau was wrong about populism. 

but what caught my eye this morning was chantal mouffe’s theory of the “democratic paradox

zizek ends this particular section with laclau’s neglect in emphasizing the uniqueness of democracy. he’s referring to laclau’s theory that there are two opposing logics in democracy: the logic of differences – “society as a global regulated system” – and the logic of equivalences – “the social space as split into two antagonistic camps which equalize their inner differences”. i didnt fully understand these definitions but you can still comprehend what zizek is saying if you look at the rest of the argument.

what zizek is saying is that laclau misses the “full inner entwinement of these two logics.” he says we should note that it is “only in a democratic political system [that] the antagonistic logic of equivalences is inscribed into the very political , as a basic structural feature.”

enter chantal mouffe whose work zizek says “is here more pertinent, in its heroic attempt to bring together democracy and the spirit of agonistic [argumentative] struggle…” pg. 283

a few pages before this conclusion, page 281, mouffe’s “democratic paradox” is laid out for us. it is definied as the fundamental paradox of authoritarian fascism – that authoritarian fascism “almost symmetrically inverts” the democratic paradox. to explain it more sharply, as zizek often does, he goes on:

“While fascism brings the antagonistic logic to its extreme it posits as its political goal precisely the opposite, an extremely ordered hierarchical social body… while democracy admits antagonistic struggle as its goal its procedure is regulated-systemic; fascism, on the contrary, tries to impose the goal of hierarchically structured harmony through the means of an unbridled antagonism”. 

basically, what is going on here is that democracy needs antagonisms to function, that antagonisms are the main goal. whereas, with fascism, structure is the main goal and antagonisms are used to get there. the reverse position of what mouffe calls, the “democratic paradox”.


Written by Gabrielle

October 24, 2009 at 11:50 am

Posted in books

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