Check out the March 2011 issue of Philosophy & Social Criticism

The new Philosophy & Social Criticism features three particularly interesting articles:

Community and resistance in Heidegger, Nancy and Agamben

Brian Elliott

Over the last two decades the work of Jean-Luc Nancy and Giorgio Agamben has attracted widespread attention both within philosophy and more broadly across the human sciences. Central to the thinking of Nancy and Agamben is a shared theory of community that offers a model of resistance to oppressive power through radical passivity. This article argues that this model inherits the inadequacies of Martin Heidegger’s attempts to conceptualize society and history. More specifically, Heidegger’s understanding of collective history in terms of ‘destiny’ implicitly regulates the figure of community proposed by Nancy and Agamben. This alignment with the Heideggerian notion of destiny means that these later thinkers fail to offer a credible model of resistance in terms of concretely determined means of productive counter-practices. As a consequence the usefulness of the thinking of Nancy and Agamben as a conceptual framework for emancipatory politics is at best extremely limited.

Rethinking deliberative democracy: From deliberative discourse to transformative dialogue

Paul Healy

Given its contribution to enhancing the inclusiveness, responsiveness, transparency and accountability of socio-political decision-making, the deliberative model has achieved considerable prominence in recent times as a basis for revitalizing democracy. But notwithstanding its strengths, it has also become clear that the deliberative proposal exhibits certain weaknesses that stand in need of correction if it is to realize its potential for revitalizing democracy in our contemporary pluralistic and multicultural world. Not surprisingly, then, there have been calls for significant modifications to the core proposal. Of particular interest for present purposes is Iris Marion Young’s call for a ‘communicative’ reappropriation of the standard model with a view to rendering it more inclusive of and responsive to difference.

While Young’s call for reconfiguring the deliberative template in a manner conducive to treating difference as a resource rather than as a barrier to unity is judicious and timely, the present article contends that her communicative proposal does not go far enough to achieve the envisaged outcomes. Instead, to enhance inclusiveness and responsiveness to difference in a manner conducive to promoting mutual understanding and potentially transformative learning, a thoroughgoing dialogical reappropriation is called for, along the lines defended here. Only in this way can the deliberative proposal live up to its pluralistic as well as inclusive intent. Moreover, far from being an external imposition, a dialogical reconfiguration of the requisite sort is rather a means of liberating potentials inherent in the deliberative proposal from the outset but typically suppressed by an undue emphasis on homogeneity, uniformity and consensus.

Sensus communis as a foundation for men as political beings: Arendt’s reading of Kant’s Critique of Judgment

Annelies Degryse

In the literature on Hannah Arendt’s Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy, two sorts of claim have been made by different interpreters. First, there is Beiner’s observation that there is a shift in Arendt’s thoughts on judgment, which has led to the idea that Arendt develops two distinct theories of judgment. The second sort of claim concerns Arendt’s use of Kant’s transcendental principles. At its core, it has led to the critique that Arendt detranscendentalizes — or empiricalizes — Kant, by linking Kant’s judgments of taste to an empirical sociability. In this article, I argue against both of these claims. Early fragments of Arendt’s on judgment make clear that she develops only one theory of judgment. It is only that it is not until later in her life that she fully elaborates it. Nor does Arendt confuse Kant’s idea of enlarged thinking with an actual dialogue with others. In fact, Arendt introduces an interesting interdependence between judgment and speech, or communication. I develop my argument by first outlining the problems Arendt hoped to resolve via judgment. Through my reading of the Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy, I show how Arendt interprets Kant’s Critique of Judgment not as his theory of aesthetic judgments, but as an answer to the more general question ‘How do I judge?’ I also clarify the difference Arendt draws between common sense and community sense. With community sense, Arendt uncovers a foundation not only for men as political beings but also for the idea of humanity. This finding is often overlooked in the literature. I conclude with another Arendtian distinction that is often overlooked, that between spectators and the solitary philosopher.

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