Politics and the Political: Correlation and the Question of the Unpolitical
This essay discusses the underlying logic of the relation between the concepts of politics and the political, i.e., “political difference,” specifically in Carl Schmitt’s and Michel Foucault’s works, as well as in the post-foundational thought of Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy, Chantal Mouffe, Jacques Rancière and Alain Badiou. It is suggested that the political, as the new common sense of critical political theory, is characterized by its correlation with the classical, state-oriented conception of politics. The essence of the political is a critique of politics, each concept (politics and the political) functioning primarily as the negative of the other. Politics and the political are involved in a never-ending relation of differentiation and play, which is at the heart of the concept of the political difference. However useful and innovative, the political is not devoid of problematic moments, in particular as it exhibits a tendency toward totalization. Since the political is presented as the ontological condition of politics and of being-together in general, it results in the exclusion of so-called unpolitical elements from the conceptual schema of post-foundational political thought. The present critique concludes in raising the question of the unpolitical and providing a brief account of the latter in the works of Schmitt, Foucault, Rancière and Badiou.
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University of Victoria