Politics as Radical Creation

Politics as Radical Creation: Herbert Marcuse and Hannah Arendt on Political Performativity

CHRISTOPHER HOLMAN
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt5hjv3m
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Politics as Radical Creation
    Book Description:

    Politics as Radical Creationexamines the meaning of democratic practice through the critical social theory of the Frankfurt School.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6788-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction: Marcuse, Arendt, and the Idea of Politics
    (pp. 3-10)

    For many years political theorists have been pointing to a crisis of contemporary liberal democracy, a crisis that reveals itself primarily in the expression of popular discontent regarding, not just the nonacknowledgment of the voice or opinion of citizens, but the incapacity of citizens to meaningfully participate in activities that aim at determining the political direction of communities. It is within the context of this participatory discontent that we must recall the historical noncorrespondence of the concepts of liberalism and democracy: ʺOn one side we have the liberal tradition constituted by the rule of law, the defence of human rights...

  5. 1 Marcuseʹs Critique and Reformulation of the Philosophical Concept of Essence
    (pp. 11-34)

    If we are to think the possibility of a mode of political action capable of affirming a certain creative human essence, then we must of course first outline the structure, even if it is only possible to do so in a negative way, of this essence. It will perhaps be necessary, however, given the current state of much contemporary social and political theory, to justify the very deployment of any concept of essence. In ʺThe Foundations of Historical Materialismʺ Marcuse notes his reluctance to use the termontologyin his discussion of the critical philosophical anthropology that grounds Marxʹs speculations...

  6. 2 The Dialectic of Instinctual Liberation: Essence and Nonrepressive Sublimation
    (pp. 35-59)

    In the prior chapter I attempted to demonstrate that Marcuseʹs critical appropriation of Hegel is made for the sake of the affirmation of a nonidentitarian model of essence. It is particularly important to recognize this given the fact that those criticisms of Marcuse that focus on his supposed positive tendencies especially emphasize his philosophical debt to Hegel. Clearly, though, Marcuse does not affirm terminal reconciliation in the way that Hegel does. Now, just as readers often take Marcuseʹs appropriation of Hegel to be evidence of the identitarian elements in the formerʹs thought, so too do they also point to Marcuseʹs...

  7. 3 The Problem of Politics
    (pp. 60-86)

    In the previous two chapters I demonstrated the degree to which Marcuse considers labour to be a potential medium for the expression of a specifically negative and nonidentitarian model of essence. As was mentioned in the introduction to this text, however, such a consideration does not go far enough from the standpoint of Marcuseʹs understanding of the nature of socialism. The latter is considered not simply in terms of a reorientation of the mode of distribution, nor a revolution in the mode of production, but rather the actualization of the impulse for radical creation in all human spheres, including the...

  8. 4 Hannah Arendtʹs Theory of Public Freedom
    (pp. 87-126)

    Like Marcuse, Arendt was wary about deploying terms such as ontology and essence in theoretical discussions. She was always adamant, for example, that her political theory could not be traced back to some foundational affirmation of the basic principles of human nature. InThe Human Conditionshe maintains that it is impossible to posit a human nature if for no other reason than the simple fact that human existence is always conditioned, that whatever enters the human world is assimilated into the human condition and acts back upon the human being, altering the latterʹs basic structure.¹ At the same time,...

  9. 5 Marcuse Contra Arendt: Dialectics, Destiny, Distinction
    (pp. 127-147)

    In the previous chapter it was suggested that Arendtʹs theory of a performative political activity oriented toward the creation of the radically new can perhaps function as a model for the development of a political theory that is ultimately able to affirm Marcuseʹs understanding of the meaning of essence. Specifically, Arendt considers political action to be an intrinsic good-in-itself that looks toward the creative institution of new human actualities, this institution bringing forth a unique type of public joy or happiness. At this point, however, we must reckon with what at first glance appears to be a significant bar to...

  10. 6 Marcuse: Reconsidering the Political
    (pp. 148-177)

    In this chapter I will reconsider the political thought of Marcuse in light of those performative elements of the Arendtian political ontology that I previously called attention to. I would like to first, however, once again refer to the original political-theoretical problematic motivating the analysis. In chapter 3 I explored the contradiction between Marcuseʹs affirmation of essence and his advocacy of a specific form of political practice intended to facilitate the transition to a world capable of actualizing this essence. This contradiction can in a certain sense be traced back to a logical problem inherent in revolutionary strategy. In order...

  11. Conclusion: From the New Left to Global Justice and from the Councils to Cochabamba
    (pp. 178-186)

    In this text I have attempted to theoretically reconstruct a consistent political ontology capable of affirming the critical theory of the Frankfurt School. I attempted specifically to develop a model of political action that eschews as partial democratic demands that look toward an eventual overcoming of the political sphere via the establishment of a terminal condition of existence. On the contrary, this former model understands democratic politics as a potentially performative good-in-itself, undertaken not just to the extent that it is instrumentally aimed at the actualization of an external end, but also to the extent that its practice is understood...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 187-226)
  13. References
    (pp. 227-250)
  14. Index
    (pp. 251-262)