Janar Mihkelsaar "Giorgio Agamben and Post-Foundational Political Ontology"
26.08.2015 - 12:15
On Wednesday, August 26that 12:15Janar Mihkelsaar will defend at Jakobi 2-306 his PhD thesis in philosophy titled "Giorgio Agamben and Post-Foundational Political Ontology", supervisors Professor Ülo Matjus (UT), Research Fellow Jüri Lipping (UT), and Professor Mika Ojakangas (University of Jyväskylä), opponent University Lecturer Sergei Prozorov (University of Helsinki).
The present dissertation that consists of the three articles and the introduction examines Giorgio Agamben’s political philosophy that has gained some currency across disciplines over the recent years. Yet, for many commentators, Agamben’s archaeological reconstructions and reflections paint far too extreme and pessimistic picture of the human condition. With provocative paradigms such as “the concentration camp”, “the state of exception”, and “the Muselmann”, it is hard, if not impossible, to shed light on contemporary socio-political issues that are both diverse and complex. A line of thought, with which I am mainly occupied in the dissertation, departs from Oliver Marchart and Ernesto Laclau’s post-foundational critique of Agamben that associates Agamben’s homo sacer project with the pessimistic reaction to the exhaustion of metaphysical and political categories.
By engaging with Marchart and Laclau’s point of view, I aim at showing how the three major problems of post-foundational political ontology can be rethought on the basis of Agamben’s conception of potentiality.
First, in contrast to Marchart’s claim that Agamben’s intellectualism collapses the political difference between the political (the ontological) and politics (the ontic), I construct Agamben’s account of „the political difference as political difference“. Secondly, in opposition to Laclau and Marchart’s post-foundational political thought that makes political grounding into a never-ending activity, I argue that Agamben seeks to render the political acts of grounding (e.g., “political articulation” and sovereign decision) “inoperative”. This strategy, insofar it does not simply negate, but rather fulfils foundationalism messianically, does not fall prey to the paradox of anti-foundationalism. Thirdly, contrary to Laclau’s position, I argue that Agamben does not eliminate social antagonism, but rather faces political thinking with the task of reconsidering antagonism otherwise than the limit relation. Agamben’s concept of “form-of-life”, as I demonstrate, offers an opportunity to rethink the concept of social antagonism from the ground up.
My three articles—“Political Differentiability”, “Giorgio Agamben’s ‘Messianic Fulfilment’ of Foundationalism in Politics” and “Towards a Rethinking of Laclau and Mouffe’s Conception of ‘Social Antagonisms’”—develop the above-mentioned ideas in detail.