TABLE OF CONTENTS
Suzi Adams, Paul Blokker, Jeremy CA Smith: Editorial
Johann P. Arnason: Hans Blumenberg: The Philosopher in the Middle of History
Abstract: This is the first of two papers on Hans Blumenberg’s work. The interpretation stresses its multi-faceted and unfinished character; Blumenberg combines a philosophical elucidation of history with anthropological reflection, a theory of culture and a project of ‘metaphorology’, dealing with the imaginary presuppositions of reason. Here an attempt is made to read Blumenberg with a view to implicit lessons for the comparative analysis of civilizations. Blumenberg did not venture into that field, and it can be shown that he failed to spell out civilizational connections even when they, in retrospect, seem very obvious. But some of his key themes, especially the problematic of epochs constituted by articulations of and attitudes to the world, overlap with those of civilizational analysts. The epochs most extensively discussed by Blumenberg are late antiquity, late medieval times, and early modernity; in all three cases, further debates must take note of changing emphases in historical scholarship. However, the complex and ambivalent notion of autonomy that is central to Blumenberg’s understanding of the modern age is a contribution of lasting value. In preparation for closer examination of philosophical issues in a sequel, this paper then concludes with a brief description of Blumenberg’s intellectual trajectory, from an early ethical project to pronounced scepticism about normative aspirations.
George H. Taylor: Delineating Ricoeur’s Concept of Utopia
Abstract: This article elaborates the continuing significance of Ricoeur’s development of utopia. Ricoeur develops two not necessarily exclusive aspects of the utopia in its positive sense. First, it acts as an imaginative variation on existing reality, and second, it can act to ‘shatter’ and hence recast existing reality. While Ricoeur himself did not tend to distinguish rigorously between these two senses of the utopia, the article seeks to provide that delineation. Imaginative variation opens the sphere of human possibility but remains hypothetical, while the utopia as that which shatters can introduce a new reality into social existence. In the utopia that shatters, the social imagination can be constitutive of social life. The article situates Ricoeur’s discussion of utopia in his Lectures on Ideology and Utopia in relation to other relevant texts in his corpus, principally The Rule of Metaphor and the forthcoming Lectures on Imagination. The argument locates Ricoeur’s treatment of utopia within the broader field of his work on the symbolic structure of action and social imagination.
Chiara Bottici: From the Imagination to the Imaginal Politics, Spectacle and Post-Fordist Capitalism
Abstract: According to Rorty, philosophy is most of time the result of a contest between an entrenched vocabulary, which has become a nuisance, and half-formed new vocabulary which vaguely promises great things. In this paper, I will explore the contest between the entrenched vocabulary of imagination (and ‘the imaginary’ as its necessary counterpart) and a half-formed vocabulary that promises a lot of interesting things: the vocabulary of the ‘the imaginal’. After introducing the concept of the imaginal, I will move on to show its force and, in particular, the role it plays in contemporary politics and in so-called post-Fordist capitalism.
Erin Carlisle: On the Possibilities of Political Action in-the-World: Pathways Through Arendt, Castoriadis and Wagner
Abstract: This paper clears a path toward an understanding of political action in-the-world. It does so by reconstructing Hannah Arendt, Cornelius Castoriadis, and Peter Wagner’s respective political social theories with a view to the hermeneutic-phenomenological problematic of the world. The analysis begins from the recognition of the human condition as always-already situated in-the-world: both within meaningful and shared world contexts, and within an overarching yet underdetermined world horizon. Two inherently interconnected notions of political action emerge from the reconstruction. The first, as world-disclosing or world-interpreting doing, refers to the political critique that arises through the conflict of interpretations of the world, which reveals the world as a context of unity in a plurality. Connectedly, world-forming or world-making action relates to the introduction of novelty into the socio-cultural and historical field. From this view, political projects rearticulate the world following the interpretative critique of the instituted pattern of socio-cultural reality. As I argue, the openness of the underdetermined, overarching world-horizon provides the precondition for political projects that seek to critically reinterpret and rearticulate the socio-cultural institution of the world. Still, the approach to political action in-the-world offered in this paper remains open for development; the thematics of power and the temporality of doing are avenues for further consideration.
Elsje Fourie: The Intersection of East Asian and African Modernities: Towards a New Research Agenda
Abstract: This article identifies strands of literature across several disciplines that seek to explore the ideational impact of the proliferating linkages between East Asian and African societies. It argues that these debates could more fruitfully engage with one another if their common concern is understood to be the intersection of modernities—broadly defined as—societal self-understandings that wish to provide answers to collective economic, political and epistemic problems. These discussions are well-placed to further explore these intersections by understanding how processes of policy transfer and policy assemblages link various East Asian and African modernities, while reflexive and transnational methodologies such as multi-sited ethnographies may provide innovative methodological tools. A case study of recent attempts to construct Chinese-inspired industrial parks across Ethiopia provides an example of intersecting modernities in practice.
Mikhail Maslovskiy: Brazil, Russia, and the Multiple Modernities Paradigm
Abstract: The article focuses on analyses of transformation processes in Brazil and Russia from the viewpoint of the multiple modernities theory. Shmuel Eisenstadt’s study of the Latin American version of modernity is characterised along with interpretations of his ideas in the works of contemporary sociologists. The peculiarities of modernisation in Brazil are singled out including the impact of orientation to external centres of liberal modernity. The modernising dynamics of Russian society are discussed on the basis of Johann Arnason’s sociological theory. It is argued that Arnason’s analysis of intercivilisational encounters and imperial modernisation is essential for understanding transformation processes in Russia. A comparative analysis of Brazil and Russia should take into consideration the impact of religious traditions and institutions on social and political changes, the unequal length and intensity of imperial experience and the degree of openness towards western liberal modernity. The legacy of the Soviet period is regarded as the main difference of contemporary Russia from Latin American societies.
Paul Blokker: The Imaginary Constitution of Constitutions
Abstract: The modern constitution is predominantly understood as a way of instituting and limiting power, and is expected to contribute to (societal) stability, certainty, and order. Constitutions are hence of clear sociological interest, but until recently they have received little sociological attention. I argue that this is unfortunate, as a sociological approach has much to offer in terms of a complex and historically sensitive understanding of constitutions and constitutionalism. Constitutional sociology has particular relevance in contemporary times, in which the meaning of constitutions and constitutionalism is uncertain, and subject to contestation, and possible transformation. The constitutional sociology developed here is phenomenologically inspired and stresses the importance of understandings of the modern constitution as ‘embedded’ in constitutional imaginaries. Rather than as a visible and rationally designed construct, constitutional sociology understands constitutionalism as ultimately a ‘field of knowledge’. The suggestion is that this field of knowledge or ‘modern constitutional horizon’ is characterized by a tension between two ultimate markers, in terms of what Castoriadis has identified as the social imaginary significations of mastery and autonomy. Mastery and autonomy form prominent constitutional orientations, historically taking the form of solidified, instituted meanings, identified here as the modernist and the democratic imaginaries. In the last section, the two instituted constitutional imaginaries will be ‘unpacked’ in specific components (state sovereignty, absoluteness, fabrication, endurance, and distrust regarding the modernist imaginary; indeterminacy, creativity, dynamism, self-government and popular sovereignty regarding the democratic one). In conclusion, I suggest that constitutional sociology might significantly help elucidating the potential losses and heteronomous tendencies that may result from the contemporary uncertainty and possible metamorphosis that affects the modern constitution.
Natalie J Doyle: The United States in the Work of Marcel Gauchet: A Critical Introduction to ‘Populism as Symptom’
Abstract: Marcel Gauchet is considered to be one of the most significant intellectuals in France today, but rather puzzlingly, his work has not often been translated into English, as opposed to other European languages. Gauchet is the chief editor of the leading French intellectual journal, Le Débat. He has just retired from a research professorship at L’Ecole des Haute Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. In recent years, as the crisis of the European Union has deepened, and the so-called populist right has become more influential in Europe, he has become more prominent as a public intellectual, especially in France. This role has been in keeping with his understanding of democracy as self-reflexive historical praxis.
Marcel Gauchet: Populism as Symptom
Abstract: No matter how disastrous, for Europeans, the election of Donald Trump represents perhaps a decisive opportunity. The unapologetic form of Americano-centrism which it heralds should shake them awake from their intellectual and moral slumber. It should give them an incentive to take back control over their own destiny. A quarter of a century after the end of the Cold War, despite the fact that it has been buried since 1945, it is high time for the question of the difference that separates the two experiences of democracy across the Atlantic to be brought up to the surface and examined. One can understand how, faced with the Soviet Union, the emphasis placed on the existence of a common set of fundamental principles should have prevailed over any other considerations. Europeans clearly should remain eternally grateful to the United States for having saved them first of all from Hitlerian, then Stalinian imperialism. With time, however, this salutary guardianship became a deadly form of alienation in the minds of European ruling circles. A form of alienation which is not totally foreign to the stagnation that now affects the European Union.
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