Extraordinary Matters: The Political After Martin Heidegger
Vega, Facundo Hernán
Extraordinary Matters: The Political After Martin Heidegger examines why a return to ontology became a vital source for conceptualizing political beginnings in contemporary continental thought. Martin Heidegger was exemplary of this trend. His ontological view of political foundation, I contend, reveal a philosophical desire to challenge everyday life and denounce quotidian monotony and repetition. My research rereads this period in Heidegger’s work in order to propose a radical rethinking of current accounts of political beginnings. I argue, in particular, that his theoretical unification of politics and ontology epitomizes a pervasive philosophical enmity toward ordinariness. Such an enmity has since become widespread in continental thought, influencing thinkers from Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe to Jean-Luc Nancy to Ernesto Laclau. Breaking with such readings of Heidegger that see political novelty as part of the realm of “the extraordinary,” my work instead reassesses the ordinary enactment of what I call “the common” as constituting the very core of political beginnings. The first chapter of my dissertation uses archival material to reconstruct the understudied encounter between Heidegger and Carl Schmitt in the 1930s. Analyzing the dispute between the two thinkers and its broader context, I argue that this encounter catalyzed Heidegger’s ontologization of politics. Heidegger rejected liberal and communist versions of “life in common” both politically and philosophically, replacing these conceptions with what I describe as “exceptionalism”—an ontological account of “the political” [das Politische] based on extraordinariness. In the remaining chapters of the dissertation, I scrutinize the variations on exceptionalism as they appear in a number of postwar works of continental philosophy influenced by Heidegger. In the second chapter, I begin with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Jean-Luc Nancy, and their Centre de recherches philosophiques sur le politique, to illustrate the impact of the notion of “the political” on French deconstruction and the problem of “the common.” Through a theoretical reading of archival material, this chapter raises questions about the ontological distinction between “politics” [la politique] and “the political” [le politique]—a distinction that has become prominent in contemporary critical theory. In its stead, I argue for a politics of the common that radicalizes what Lacoue-Labarthe terms a “déconstruction active du politique.” The final chapter further questions the collapse of politics and ontology by examining “the populist moment” in political thought. This chapter considers plural and ordinary enactments of “the many” at work in political beginnings, eschewing essentialist theories of the political body found in texts such as Ernesto Laclau’s On Populist Reason. Challenging prevalent conceptions of contemporary continental thought, especially the idea that exceptional moments or the actions of “great men” might account fully for political beginnings, I turn to the role played by “the many,” that is, those who manifest what I claim is an an-archic principle of democratic politics.
Political science; Heidegger; The Common; The Extraordinary; The Many; The Ordinary; The Political; Philosophy
Waite, Geoffrey Carter W; Frank, Jason; Balibar, Etienne
Ph. D., Comparative Literature
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis