For this reason, Mouffe attempts to reintroduce adversity and opposition at two distinct levels within society. First, she secures a permanent element of contention in specifying her particular vision of citizenship. For her, radical democratic citizenship:
“[...] will emphasize the numerous social relations where relations of domination exist and must be challenged if the principles of liberty and equality are to apply. It should lead to a common recognition among different groups struggling for an extension and radicalization of democracy that they have a common concern and that in choosing their actions they should subscribe to certain rules of conduct; in other words, it should construct a common political identity as radical democratic citizens” (The Return of the Political, p. 70).
In other words, radical democratic citizens are bound by their common goals of challenging and overturning oppressive power relations wherever these might be found such that all might better exercise the rights secured by the liberal democratic political association. Accordingly, such citizenship would craft a common political identity for marginalized groups and interests seeking recognition from a dominating, normalizing adversary; existing groups such as blacks, women, workers, gays, ecologists and so on would show mutual support for one another’s causes.
Yet this first level of contention does not suffice insofar as it would limit the interpretation of citizenship to a uniquely radical democratic framework. As such, room must be made at the level above for second-order conflict as well, as concerns the definition and specific content that goes into the different interpretations of citizenship by the different parties within democratic society and the liberal political association. Liberals, civic republicans, libertarians, deliberative democrats, participatory democrats, radical democrats: these are not simply differences in theoretical perspective but, more importantly, a plurality of views concerning the responsibilities and concrete content of citizenship.
In other words, such groups might well agree on the rules to be respected by citizens but differ on how those rules are best instantiated within citizens, citizenry and citizenship. More simply, what kind of citizen best embodies those ideals? It is precisely this notion of rivality and revision that distances Mouffe from Rawls and puts her more closely in line with the thought of Jeffrey Stout, amongst others. This shows just how far, on this count at least, Mouffe goes in opposing the strictly liberal interpretation of democracy.
Thus, conflict is preserved at a double level on Mouffe’s view: at the level of the fight against oppression for the radical democrat citizen and at the level of the interpretation democratic citizenship. This reintegration of conflict and conflicting interpretations has further interesting consequences for her view of identity and subjectivity at a conceptual level:
“In this case, citizenship is not just one identity among others, as in liberalism, or the dominant identity that overrides all others, as in civic republicanism. It is an articulating principle that affects the different subject positions of the social agent (as I will show when I discuss the public/private distinction) while allowing for a plurality of specific allegiances and for the respect of individual liberty” (ibid., pp. 69-70).
“Such an approach can only be adequately formulated within a problematic that conceives of the social agent not as a unitary subject but as the articulation of an ensemble of subject positions, constructed within specific discourses and always precariously and temporarily sutured at the intersection of those subject positions” (ibid., pp. 71).
Accordingly, to the view of the singular, substantial individual in whom are united a number of interlocking preferences and who exercises considerable control over the organization and fulfillment of those preferences in the private and public spheres of life, is substituted instead a collection of processes which arise from and are attached to a number of distinct, heterogeneous activities and practices and which have their basis not in the unified subject’s willing, but in their belonging to a common point of origin, to which they accrete in some sense. This view of an articulation of subject positions constructed from a variety of independent, language games brings to mind our earlier examination of Jean-François Lyotard’s outlining of subjectivity in La condition postmoderne. It should be remembered to what extent Mouffe’s thought is, of her own avowal, indebted to the former. As the progenitor, of some sort, of radical democracy, Lyotard’s influence is to be seen everywhere within this theory as its logical extension, and, as for Lyotard, the unitary and unifying subject can be nought but a modern myth, for the radical democrat.
How are we then to understand citizenship on Mouffe’s picture?
In order to bring out more clearly her understanding of a renewed, ethico-political engagement, Mouffe distinguishes the notions of universitas and societas. Whereas the first of these “indicates an engagement in an enterprise to pursue a common substantive purpose or to promote a common interest”, something contrary to the advances made by liberalism conceded by Mouffe, the second “or ‘civil association’ designates a formal relationship in terms of rules, not a substantive relation in terms of common action” (ibid., p. 66). In short, the terms in which the relationship between individuals and community proves the essential difference and allow us to preserve the distinctly modern element of a renewed ethico-political bond. Mouffe sees here an essential difference with the liberal forms of political association as she specifies in the following passage:
“To belong to the political community what is required is that we accept a specific language of civil intercourse, the respublica. Those rules prescribe norms of conduct to be subscribed to in seeking self- chosen satisfactions and in performing self-chosen actions. The identification with those rules of civil intercourse creates a common political identity among persons otherwise engaged in many different enterprises. This modern form of political community is held together not by a substantive idea of the common good but by a common bond, a public concern. It is therefore a community without a definite shape or a definite identity and in continuous re-enactment” (ibid., p. 67).
In sum, citizens are bound to one another and the community through a bond centering on the ability of each citizen to make full use of his or her rights. Yet this description recalls a merely liberal view of political association. Where then is the essential difference to be found with the liberal view? If liberalism also views political association as a purposive enterprise with a specific end, its aim, on the contrary, remains at the level of the instrumental: the promotion of self-interest and the fulfillment of predetermined, aggregated preferences. By contrast, the ethico-political view operates at an intrinsic or final moral level: the necessity of adherence to the rules in order to promote a vibrant, democratic culture as an end in itself.
In this way, Mouffe thinks to distance herself strongly from such views as Rawls’, to whom she attributes merely instrumental concerns. The reality of the matter proves rather more complex as Mouffe seems unaware of an element in Rawls’ work, already present in A Theory of Justice, that promotes just such an ethico-political bond: civic friendship. Within this notion, “[t]he public will to consult and to take everyone’s beliefs and interests into account lays the foundations for civic friendship and shapes the ethos of political culture” (A Theory of Justice, p. 417), thereby reinstating precisely the sort of sittlich relation that Mouffe finds to be absent on the liberal picture. This goes to show that Mouffe is, in fact, closer to Rawls and certain liberals than she is likely to grant and that her combination of elements is not itself without precedent.
That said, Mouffe does diverge strongly from Rawls and his notion of “civic friendship” in one key manner: the displacement of consensus and the emphasis on power relations and oppression. For, despite her affinity for the position of societas and its affinity with Rawls, Mouffe finds that such a position possesses one major flaw: in building an ethico-political consensus around a body of rules, it eliminates the reference to adversity that is itself constitutive of the political. In sum, such consensus only serves to obscure that which is most vital to democratic politics.
?:?? am: Skulking, ever skulking, through the tunnels beneath this old world, only to ascend and find oneself in a study, recognized then for what one is, a murderer, to be chased through halls, courtyards and still other tunnels to the machine, a half-circle of small black cylinders collected around a platform atop a spiral stair. Crawling in and being whisked off with one’s accomplice to another era entirely. A first to some time after the incident, necessitating a quick return to the platform. A second to the twenties, actresses awaiting in white hospital gowns, some time spent hidden away on the bottom floors to drink. A third to the forties, and this a mistake, the companion having been born in this era, and with murderous return to the platform after an inquiry in the city, blood on the hands becoming change in her person, become a man during the flight to a time without these machines, two lost children raised as their own.
6:28 am: This marks the first instance in which the dreamlogic has crafted an explicit mechanism for time-travel. Although past dreams have involved shifts in time and place and between material substances (e.g. water and air), there did not figure at the center of these any device dedicated to the end of effecting such shifts. These simply occurred of themselves, as things do in the dream. Accordingly, if the new mechanism retains the dream-subject’s incomprehension as well as the startling lack of the sensation of movement, it demonstrates nevertheless a greater place made for the agency and decisionmaking of the (dream-) subject position. One simply crawls in from one period and out into another. Does the dream-logic do so with any purpose or to any end? Such coincidence of different eras within a single space recalls remarks made offhand by physicists to the effect that times overlap and overlay within space, such that past and future are materially present if still undetectable.
Chantal Mouffe opens her discussion in “Democratic Citizenship and the Political Community”, collected in The Return of the Political, with the following reflection:
“The themes of ‘citizenship’ and ‘community’ are being discussed in many quarters of the left today. This is no doubt a consequence of the crisis of class politics and indicates the growing awareness of the need for a new form of identification around which to organize the forces struggling for a radicalization of democracy. I believe that the question of political identity is crucial and that the attempt to construct ‘citizens” identities is one of the important tasks of democratic politics. But there are many different visions of citizenship and vital issues are at stake in their contest. The way we define citizenship is intimately linked to the kind of society and political community we want.
How should we understand citizenship when our goal is a radical and plural democracy? Such a project requires the creation of a chain of equivalence among democratic struggles, and therefore the creation of a common political identity among democratic subjects” (The Return of the Political, p. 60).
Mouffe proposes to achieve this chain of equivalence through the tried and true method of splitting the difference between liberal democracy and communitarianism as embodied in the political justice of John Rawls and the civic republicanism of Michael Sandel. At issue in the debate between these positions is the opposition between the premodern citizen’s substantive conception of the common good in political society and the modern legal subject’s negative freedom from public interference in private life. How is one to reconcile the liberty of the ancients with that of the moderns?
For Mouffe, the answer cannot lie wholly with one camp or the other. On one hand, the modern liberal has the right of things in maintaining a distinction in principle between the private and public spheres of life, as well as the priority of the right over the good, such that the modern citizen is free to exercise his or her freedom and equality to pursue the way of life that best suits him or her. This is something that the communitarian tends to forget in the tendency towards more traditional, civic republicanism. On the other, the communitarian is right to maintain that the liberal view of citizenship is an impoverished, instrumental view; the person becomes a mere bearer of a certain legal status permitting him or her to pursue goals without reference to the wider community. Not only do individuals engage with such communities in devising life plans, they have need of some moral view of political society and association to ensure their participation in and support of that society so as to secure its continued functioning and preserve the rights that he or she exercises. Mouffe notes that:
“The absence of a single substantive common good in modern democratic societies and the separation between the realm of morality and the realm of politics have, no doubt, signified an incontestable gain in individual freedom. But the consequences for politics have been very damaging. All normative concerns have increasingly been relegated to the field of private morality, to the domain of Values’, and politics has been stripped of its ethical components. An instrumentalist conception has become dominant, concerned exclusively with the compromise between already defined interests. On the other hand, liberalism’s exclusive concern with individuals and their rights has not provided content and guidance for the exercise of those rights. This has led to the devaluation of civic action, of common concern, which has caused an increasing lack of social cohesion in democratic societies” (ibid., p. 65).
In short, the communitarian correctly identifies the ethical vacuum or malaise in which contemporary liberal institutions have come to rest.
So it is that Mouffe puts forward a synthesized version of the liberal and communitarian views, according to which active political participation is far from mutually exclusive with the priority of the right over the good. On the contrary, the two prove to be in a mutually reinforcing relationship in which participation further secures the exercise of those rights. This establishes the distinctly modern aspect of the newfound rationale for active political participation all the while preserving the radical indeterminacy at the heart of the contemporary liberal regime, an element that Mouffe deems key to the democratic project. This indeterminacy is key to preserving the freedom of the modern individual to determine life-plans and to ensuring equality amongst different parties in pluralist society.
What this synthesis portends for understanding citizenship remains to be developed.
“Dans cette dissémination des jeux de langage, c’est le sujet social lui-même qui paraît se dissoudre. Le lien social est langagier, mais il n’est pas fait d’une unique fibre. C’est une texture où se croisent au moins deux sortes, en réalité un nombre indéterminé, de jeux de langages obéissant à des règles différentes [...] On peut retirer de cet éclatement une impression pessimiste: nul ne parle toutes ces langues, elles n’ont pas de métalangue universelle, le projet du système-sujet est un échec, celui de l’émancipation n’a rien à faire avec la science [...]” (Lyotard, La condition postmoderne, pp. 66-67).
Comme Lyotard se consacre exclusivement dans La condition postmoderne à la question de l’état du savoir (et non celui du sujet ou du savant au sens très large), ce dernier n’y apparaît que très rarement et ne reçoit pas de traitement considérable. Cependant, dans la mesure où tout savoir renvoie à un savant (encore, au sens très large), il nous semble important de poser cette question avec, pour ne pas dire pour, Lyotard qui s’en occupe ailleurs dans son oeuvre. Alors, quelles conclusions provisoires peut-on tirer des passages comme celui au-dessus?
Avant tout, il est important de souligner le rapport étroit qui se tisse entre le sujet, la société et les jeux de langage. Si le sujet social semble se dissoudre, cela est précisément en raison de la nature même de la société dans laquelle il se trouve, ainsi que le lien entre ce sujet et tout autre. Cette société se révèle être langagière au sens où les différents domaines et activités qui la constituent renvoient aux jeux de langages. Ce sont les mêmes jeux auxquels participe le sujet à chaque fois qu’il s’adresse à l’autrui de sorte que le sujet s’implique sans exception dans un jeu de langage ou un autre. Cela n’en est pas moins vrai lorsque le sujet ne s’adresse à personne en particulier sauf lui-même, car les formes pour s’adresser à soi-même découlent également de l’usage fixé par la société.
Ainsi, au même titre que les jeux de langage sociétaux constituants, la société dans laquelle se trouve le sujet s’avère une affaire du multiple. C’est pour cette raison que Lyotard affirme du sujet “social” qu’il paraît se dissoudre dans la multiplicité des jeux de langages composant la société. Avec une pluralité de liens à tisser entre les sujets différents vient en même temps une pluralité d’aspects différents sous lesquels il convient de considérer telle ou telle partie du sujet comme approprié au jeu de langage et au lien en question. De la variabilité même des rapports entre les sujets sociaux est né la mort de l’idée même du sujet social, du moins de la façon dont on considère habituellement celui-ci. Au lieu du sujet identique une fois pour toutes, stable à travers tous les rapports qu’il pourrait entretenir aux autres, aussi stables que lui-même, se substitue peu à peu une perspective d’après laquelle le sujet se présente comme autant de sujets différents qu’il y a d’autres, de rapports éventuels et de jeux de langages possibles.
Suivant un point de vue pareil, la question de la légitimation disparaît aussi bien pour le sujet que pour le savoir et un nouveau régime de subjectivation s’instaure. La question est désormais de savoir, d’une part, s’il existe toujours une manière dont les aspects langagiers différents du sujet se tiennent en un individu comme on le conçoit le plus souvent (d’où le sens de maintenir que le sujet social paraît se dissoudre – le sujet social mais non tel autre et non en réalité) et, d’autre part, si une telle manière existe, en quoi elle consiste plus précisément. Si l’on reste le sujet ou l’individu concret d’après la façon habituelle de penser, reste à voir quel ensemble de règles ou quelle grammaire sous-tend ce premier.
d. English Romanticism: Wordsworth and Coleridge
First, a brief word about their biographies. Coleridge (1772-1834) is born in Devon, England to a small family, the head of which was the Reverend John Coleridge. At the age of 6, he begins to read a number of literary classics and at the age of 19 (1791) enters Jesus College at Cambridge. He leaves the university to join the Royal Dragoons in 1793 under a false name but is discharged in 1794 under the reason of insanity; it would seem that Coleridge had a severe bout of depression while there. He returns to Jesus College, although he never completes his degree. According to a number of contemporary historians, his frequent depression and anxiety make it likely that he suffered from bipolar disorder, undiagnosed in his time. His lifelong opium addiction, first given to him to treat the frayed nerves resulting from this condition, probably worsened his overall health in the long-term, despite the initial benefits. These health problems do not keep him from his work, which goes on to produce such poems as “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Khan” as well as an impressive amount of critical work in his Biographia Literaria, equal parts biography, commentary of English classics, such as Shakespeare, and contemporary German philosophy (such as Kant). He meets Wordsworth (1770-1850) in 1795, and they go on to develop a fast friendship.
For his part, Wordsworth is born in Cumberland in 1770, in the picturesque Lakes District of England, and, thanks to his father’s connections, grows up in a large mansion in a small town. Although their relationship was strained, his father encourage him in his reading, so, by a young age, Wordsworth had already committed large parts of Shakespeare, Milton and Spenser to memory. Thanks to a series of fortunate circumstances, Wordsworth changes schools at a young age and enters one better known for its scholarly pursuits, all of which enables him to enter St. John’s College, Cambridge in 1787. He will complete his BA in 1791. He spends the years before meeting Coleridge refining his craft and traveling through the Continent. In 1798, Coleridge and Wordsworth decide to travel to Germany and spend the years of 1798 and 1799 in Germany. While Coleridge purportedly finds the trip stimulating and greatly improves his command of German, Wordsworth becomes homesick, despite the presence of his sister and so makes preparations to hasten their return. Upon their return in 1799, he and Coleridge return to Wordsworth’s native Lake District to make a home there for a time. The year of their departure also sees the anonymous publication of their collaborative work, Lyrical Ballads, a collection of poems written in a more conversational style, both out of a desire of primitivism and to overturn the learned, sculpted and artificial forms of 18th century English poetry. Hence the title: “lyrical” ties the poems to ancient bards while “ballads” are related to the oral tradition of the common folk.
c. Romanticism, nature and science
Far from seeing progress in technological advancement and industrialization, Romanticists think that our lives have grown poorer and have depreciated in value. This does not stem from any opposition to science on the part of the Romanticists. On the contrary, they view science as a fundamental way of relating nature to humanity. Yet, for them, science or rational control is but one way in which humanity can relate to nature, one according to which nature is outside humanity and to be controlled. By contrast, Romanticists hold that nature is not only outside of us but within. In other words, nature exists within us as well in some unique form that can only be brought to light or understood through the exercise of creative imagination. This inner moral source clamors for unique or individual expression. This expression is a common thread to all forms of Romanticism: in paying closer attention to our feelings, particularly those intense emotions such as terror and awe, we bring out the truly human element of our experience. While this can be done in part through introspection, it also involves paying greater attention to nature and the world outside of us so as to find inspiration for our expression in a way unavailable to the proponents of rational control. (Hence, one of the original senses of Romantic: that which is in praise of natural phenomena.) In short, there is still an important role for science, but this must be complemented in order to become more human, humane and humanistic. A close relationship, on one hand, to nature, and, on the other, to our emotions and intuitions is mentally and morally healthy.
Much as is the case for the Industrial Revolution, English Romanticism did not simply come from nowhere. It has two roots: the transmission of ideas from the Continent to England but, more importantly in the reaction to the kinds of beliefs that directly enable the societal and cultural changes that we see in both the Enlightenment and the Revolution. In this way, despite their differences, Romanticism is inextricably linked to and continuous with, to a greater or lesser extent, those views to which it is nevertheless opposed. (A prime example of this is the centrality of our feelings, senses and sympathy, a notion that was, as we saw, first developed with the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment.)
If Romanticism has its beginnings on the Continent in Germany and France (with such philosophers and writers as Jena thinkers and Rousseau, respectively), it does not leave England untouched. Although the application of the term to literature first becomes common in 1790′s Germany (romantische Poesie) with the Schlegel brothers, it soon reaches the British Isles and becomes a guiding notion in British culture from 1800 to 1850 with such writers and artists as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, John Keats, the Shelleys, William Turner and John Constable, amongst others. Here, the emphasis is on a new mode of aesthetic experience, one typified by two new artistic sources. On one hand, this owes to the more prominent role of emotion and intuition in the process of artistic creation. When creating, the artist is supposed to overflow with emotions and feeling, such that his or her creation pours out of its own. Hence, the Romantic archetype of the creative genius, an individual whose exceptional work is instructive to us all. On the other, the Romanticists also privilege folk art, legend and myth, including the means and meanings of everyday life in their work. These two elements come together particularly well in the ideal shared by Coleridge and Wordsworth: conversational poetry.