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Philosophy Today

Volume 59, Issue 3, Summer 2015

Janar Mihkelsaar
Pages 409-427

Towards a Rethinking of Laclau and Mouffe’s Conception of “Social Antagonisms”
Agamben’s Critique of Relation

What is at stake in the antagonistic limits of society is the limit form of relation between dichotomous concepts. By determining this relation, Laclau and Mouffe’s “political articulation” and Agamben’s sovereign decision institute a particular type of order. In contrast to Laclau and Mouffe, however, Agamben aims to render the subversive interplay of binary concepts “inoperative.” What, I contend, is at issue in this disagreement is neither pessimism nor optimism, neither totalitarianism nor democracy, but rather the question of how to conceive social antagonisms. When, namely, the limit type of relation between negativity and positivity, life and law, shows itself as such, then the antagonistic relation reveals itself as “pure antagonism.” This is why Agamben deems it necessary to deactivate the empty form of relation which political articulation and sovereign decision express. Agamben’s inoperativity, however, does not found an undivided society, but rather proposes to rethink antagonisms as “the form-of-life.”

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