Agonistic Critiques of Liberalism: Perfection and Emancipation

Contemporary Political Theory 7 (4):376–394 (2008)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Agonism is a political theory that places contestation at the heart of politics. Agonistic theorists charge liberal theory with a depoliticization of pluralism through an excessive focus on consensus. This paper examines the agonistic critiques of liberalism from a normative perspective. I argue that by itself the argument from pluralism is not sufficient to support an agonistic account of politics, but points to further normative commitments. Analyzing the work of Mouffe, Honig, Connolly, and Owen, I identify two normative currents of agonistic theory: emancipatory agonism, aimed at challenging violence and exclusion, and perfectionist agonism, aimed at the cultivation of nobility. From a normative perspective the former presents an internal challenge to liberalism, while the latter constitutes an external challenge to liberalism by providing a competing account of the ends of politics. Recognition of the distinction between emancipatory and perfectionist agonism is crucial in assessing the purchase of agonistic critiques of liberalism. Furthermore, this analysis draws us beyond the simple opposition between contestation and consensus. It is not simply a question of valuing genuine pluralism and therefore criticizing consensus; rather the question comes to be: what are the ends of politics?

Similar books and articles

Agonism and pluralism.Monique Deveaux - 1999 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 25 (4):1-22.
Agonism in divided societies.Andrew Schaap - 2006 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 32 (2):255-277.
The opening : Alegality and political agonism.Hans Lindahl - 2008 - In Andrew Schaap (ed.), Law and Agonistic Politics. Ashgate Pub. Company.
Agonism, antagonism and the necessity of care.Keith Breen - 2008 - In Andrew Schaap (ed.), Law and Agonistic Politics. Ashgate Pub. Company.

Analytics

Added to PP
2011-10-20

Downloads
2,398 (#3,267)

6 months
412 (#4,071)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Thomas Fossen
Leiden University

References found in this work

A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition.John Rawls - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
Political Liberalism.J. Rawls - 1995 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 57 (3):596-598.
The Morality of Freedom.Joseph Raz - 1986 - Philosophy 63 (243):119-122.

View all 40 references / Add more references