Order, experience, and critique: The phenomenological method in political and legal theory

Continental Philosophy Review 54 (2):153-170 (2021)
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Abstract

The paper investigates phenomenology’s possibilities to describe, reflect and critically analyse political and legal orders. It presents a “toolbox” of methodological reflections, tools and topics, by relating to the classics of the tradition and to the emerging movement of “critical phenomenology,” as well as by touching upon current issues such as experiences of rightlessness, experiences in the digital lifeworld, and experiences of the public sphere. It is argued that phenomenology provides us with a dynamic methodological framework that emphasizes correlational, co-constitutional, and interrelational structures, and thus pays attention to modes of givenness, the making and unmaking of “world,” and, thereby, the inter/subjective, affective, and bodily constitution of meaning. In the case of political and legal orders, questions of power, exclusion, and normativity are central issues. By looking at “best practice” models such as Hannah Arendt’s analyses, the paper points out an analytical tool and flexible framework of “spaces of meaning” that phenomenologists can use and modify as they go along. In the current debates on political and legal issues, the author sees the main task of phenomenology to reclaim experience as world-building and world-opening, also in a normative sense, and to demonstrate how structures and orders are lived while they condition and form spaces of meaning. If we want to understand, criticize, act, or change something, this subjective and intersubjective perspective will remain indispensable.

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