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Identity/Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox

William E. Connolly
Copyright Date: 1991
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In this foundational work in contemporary political theory, William Connolly makes a distinctive contribution to our understanding of the relationship between personal identity and democratic politics, particularly in the domains of religion, ethics, sexuality, and ethnicity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9445-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    William E. Connolly
  4. Confessing Identity\Belonging to Difference
    (pp. xiii-xxxii)
  5. INTRODUCTION: The Problem of Evil
    (pp. 1-15)

    The fundamental unfairness of life. Everyone encounters it, in the innocent child who dies, the highly reflective woman in a world that restricts intellectuality to men, the man with instincts of a warrior in a bureaucratic order, the indispensable class condemned to a life of misery, an entire people subjected to genocide because of its religious or political identity.

    Within the framework of theism this experience is called the problem of evil. If a god is omnipotent and good, who or what is responsible for evil? When the issue is transcribed into this question, its center of gravity shifts, even...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Freedom and Resentment
    (pp. 16-35)

    We secularists, it seems, know where we are going. We’re on the road to nowhere. It can even be sung. No illusions about eternal life. No need to pass a new battery of tests to qualify for immortality. No worries about infinite boredom haunting the afterlife of a disembodied soul. Perhaps we compensate by clinging to an ethic of health and longevity. Perhaps some of us have even transfigured the promise of personal salvation into a doctrine of collective progress. Still, these secular dreams and consolations seem innocent enough.

    Appearances deceive here, though. For a pattern of secular insistence about...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Global Political Discourse
    (pp. 36-63)

    In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Then he discovered America. He did not discover a world as it existed in itself; nor could he have. He discovered a world of otherness, a world of promise and danger, Utopian bliss and barbaric cruelty, innocence and corruption, simplicity and mystery, all filtered through a latemedieval culture of perceptions, conceptions, aspirations, faiths, anxieties, and demands. His discovery was an encounter, an encounter that took the form of clashes between his cultural predispositions and unfamiliar beings—strange words, alien acts, surprising appearances, uncanny responses. For instance, once he played martial music to welcome...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Liberalism and Difference
    (pp. 64-94)

    My identity is what I am and how I am recognized rather than what I choose, want, or consent to. It is the dense self from which choosing, wanting, and consenting proceed. Without that density, these acts could not occur; with it, they are recognized to be mine.Ouridentity, in a similar way, is what we are and the basis from which we proceed.

    An identity is established in relation to a series of differences that have become socially recognized. These differences are essential to its being. If they did not coexist as differences, it would not exist in...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Responsibility for Evil
    (pp. 95-122)

    Responsibility is not a simple universal. In other times and places it was not so agent-centered as it is today: the primary human locus of responsibility was often the family or the clan rather than the individual; when heroic individuals were held responsible, the intentions of the actor often weighed less heavily than the results of the action for the community; revenge and sacrifice were often overt ingredients in practices of punishment and responsibility; and sometimes the gods absorbed a portion of the guilt, if not the responsibility, moderns distribute among themselves.

    Thus, to take one example, according to A.W.H....

  10. CHAPTER FIVE A Letter to Augustine
    (pp. 123-157)

    To the Venerable Priest and Philosopher,

    Augustine, Bishop of Hippo:

    Why do I, a posttheist living in the last decade of the twentieth century after the birth of your Christ, write to you, the consummate postpagan living between the fourth and fifth centuries? Do I wish to demean your world of a sovereign, salvational god, a devil, evil, demons, angels, miracles, original sin, grace, heresy, schism, eternal damnation, and eternal salvation? Perhaps, to some degree, though that neither justifies a letter nor provides assurance it will be read. You probably found that the most adamant pagans were unmoved by the...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Democracy and Distance
    (pp. 158-197)

    The functionality of identity. Reassurance in identity. Habituation to identity. Resentment and violence through identity. How could one become responsive to each of these elements? How could the fictive “we”—the we with whom one communes even when its identity remains cloudy—do so?

    Is it possible to think difference without thinking its relation to identity? Surely not, though some have tried to do so. It seems even less possible to live with difference outside the space of identity, even if the identity one lives were to become pluralized, that is, even if the self were to become the locus...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN The Politics of Territorial Democracy
    (pp. 198-222)

    The channels that connect personal identity to collective identity in late-modern states are multiple and deep.

    First, personal and collective identity are connected through the channel of freedom. If I wish to identify myself as a free agent, there must be some coherence between the social roles I am called upon to play and the purposes I adopt upon reflection. Ifwewish to see ourselves as free, free as a people, we must believe that state institutions of electoral accountability carry with them sufficient efficacy to promote the collective ends we most prize. One connection between these two levels...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 223-238)
  14. Index
    (pp. 239-244)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 245-245)