Juan J. Molina

Juan J. Molina
Juan J. Molina

viernes, 12 de noviembre de 2010

Wittgenstein, Political Theory and Democracy, Wittgenstein, teoría política y democrática

Chantal Mouffe, http://them.polylog.org/2/amc-en.htm

Wittgenstein, Political Theory and Democracy

The goal of this article is to show how a Wittgensteinian perspective could provide a new way of thinking about democracy that departs fundamentally from the dominant rationalist approach which characterizes most of liberal-democratic theory. A democratic thinking that would incorporate Wittgenstein's insights, especially his insistence on the need to respect differences, would be more receptive to the multiplicity of voices that a pluralist society encompasses. Taking off from reflections of Wittgenstein's later work, a series of central issues in contemporary political theory is discussed in order to sketch out this alternative way of democratic thinking.

Universalism versus contextualism
Democracy as substance or as procedures
Democratic consensus and agonistic pluralism
Wittgenstein and responsibility


Democratic societies are today confronted with a challenge that they are ill-prepared to answer because they are unable to grasp its nature. One of the main reason for this incapacity lies, in my view, in the kind of political theory which is dominant today and of the type of rationalistic framework which characterizes most of liberal-democratic theory. It is high time, if we want to be in condition to consolidate and deepen democratic institutions, to relinquish that framework and to begin thinking about politics in a different way.
  My argument in this paper will be that Wittgenstein can contribute to such a task. Indeed I consider that we find in his later work many insights that can help us not only to see the limitations of the rationalistic framework but also to overcome them. With this aim in mind, I will examine a series of issues which are currently central in political theory in order to show how a Wittgensteinian perspective could provide an alternative to the rationalist approach. However I want to indicate at the outset that my intention is neither to extract a political theory from Wittgenstein, nor to attempt elaborating one on the basis of his writings. I believe that Wittgenstein's importance for us today consists in pointing out to a new way of theorizing about the political, one that breaks with the universalizing and homogeneizing mode that has informed most of liberal theory since Hobbes. This is what is urgently needed, not a new system, but a profound shift in the way we approach political questions.
In inquiring about the specificity of this Wittgensteinian new style of theorising, I will follow the pioneering work of Hanna Pitkin who in her book Wittgenstein and Justice argues very convincingly that, with his stress on the particular case, on the need to accept plurality and contradiction and the emphasis on the investigating and speaking self, Wittgenstein is particularly helpful for thinking about democracy. According to her, Wittgenstein, like Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, is a key figure to understand our modern predicament. By examining the craving for certainty, his later philosophy is, she says, »an attempt to accept and live with the illusionless human condition – relativity, doubt and the absence of God«  

  I will also take my bearings from James Tully who in my view, provides one of the most interesting example of the kind of approach that I am advocating here. For instance, he has used Wittgenstein's insights to criticize a convention widely found in current political thought, the thesis »that our way of life is free and rational only if it is founded on some form or other of critical reflection«   Examining Jürgen Habermas' picture of critical reflection and justification as well as Charles Taylor's notion of interpretation and scrutinizing their distinctive grammars, Tully brings to the fore the existence of a multiplicity of languages – games of critical reflection, none of which could pretend to playing the foundational role in our political life. Moreover, in his recent book Strange multiplicity   , he has shown how such an approach can be used not only to criticize the imperial and monological form of reasoning which is constitutive of modern constitutionalism but also to develop a post-imperial philosophy and practice of constitutionalism.

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