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Date of Award

8-2004

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Supervisor

Imre Szeman

Language

English

Abstract

This thesis evaluates the inadequacy of a contemporary and dominant concept of politics in/for modernity as a means by which to characterize the transformations of power/sovereignty associated with globalization, and locates a potential to broaden the concept of the political in the form of Judith Butler, Ernesto Lac1au, and Slavoj Žižek's Contingency, Hegemony, Universality. While critics of this text have bemoaned its reiterative insistence on the irreducible differences separating the three theorists' projects, and have attempted to unify them, I suggest that the text's most significant contribution toward reformulating a useful and nuanced political concept stems from its insistently heterodox approach to the subject.

Carl Schmitt's Concept of the Political provides a paradigmatic articulation of modem politics. Schmitt's work, however, with its underlying assumption of a characterizable and stable friend/enemy delineation, proves inadequate as a tool by which to understand a contemporary/postmodern/globalizing proliferation of potential points of perpetually unstable identification. Drawing on implications of Foucault's notion ofbiopower and Giorgio Agamben's homo sacer, I suggest several ways in which Schmitt's concept was from its inception inadequate.

In Contingency, Hegemony, Universality Butler, Žižek and Laclau theorize an emancipatory political project, one which might address some of the all too visible shortcomings of Schmitt's concept. Focusing my analysis on each theorists' work as demonstrating an important and necessarily discrete singularity, I work to demonstrate that a productive rearticulation of the concept of the political, one adequate to the rapidly transforming conditions of globalization, may well lie in appreciating the inevitability of contingency and in learning to embrace difference.

McMaster University Library

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