The phenomenology of utopia : reimagining the political

Bahnisch, Mark Stefan (2009) The phenomenology of utopia : reimagining the political. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This thesis argues that the end of Soviet Marxism and a bipolar global political imaginary at the dissolution of the short Twentieth Century poses an obstacle for anti-systemic political action. Such a blockage of alternate political imaginaries can be discerned by reading the work of Francis Fukuyama and "Endism" as performative invocations of the closure of political alternatives, and thus as an ideological proclamation which enables and constrains forms of social action. It is contended that the search through dialectical thought for a competing universal to posit against "liberal democracy" is a fruitless one, because it reinscribes the terms of teleological theories of history which work to effect closure.

Rather, constructing a phenomenological analytic of the political conjuncture, the thesis suggests that the figure of messianism without a Messiah is central to a deconstructive reframing of the possibilities of political action - a reframing attentive to the rhetorical tone of texts. The project of recovering the political is viewed through a phenomenological lens. An agonistic political distinction must be made so as to memorialise the remainders and ghosts of progress, and thus to gesture towards an indeconstructible justice which would serve as a horizon for the articulation of an empty universal.

This project is furthered by a return to a certain phenomenology inspired by Cornelius Castoriadis, Claude Lefort, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Ernesto Laclau. The thesis provides a reading of Jacques Derrida and Walter Benjamin as thinkers of a minor universalism, a non-prescriptive utopia, and places their work in the context of new understandings of religion and the political as quasi-transcendentals which can be utilised to think through the aporias of political time in order to grasp shards of meaning. Derrida and Chantal Mouffe's deconstructive critique and supplement to Carl Schmitt's concept of the political is read as suggestive of a reframing of political thought which would leave the political question open and thus enable the articulation of social imaginary significations able to inscribe meaning in the field of political action. Thus, the thesis gestures towards a form of thought which enables rather than constrains action under the sign of justice.

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ID Code: 30134
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Kendall, Gavin, Bean, Clive, & Scott, Roger
Keywords: political, political theory, sociology, phenomenology, global politics, neoliberalism, political imaginary, philosophy, universalism, Marxism, Cornelius Castoriadis, Jacques Derrida, Claude Lefort, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Carl Schmitt, Chantal Mouffe, late
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > QUT Carseldine - Humanities & Human Services
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 29 Jan 2010 06:08
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:54

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