University of Hertfordshire

By the same authors

The Politics of the Origin(s): Thinking power and political community through the Ontological Turn

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 2020

Abstract

In recent years, theories which reconceptualise or problematise the ontological space of the political have increasingly gained traction. This paper uses Nietzsche’s distinction between two concepts of origin, Ursprung and Herkunft, to investigate what this ‘ontological turn’ contributes to our capacity to think political shaping power and political communities. The paper firstly shows how the ‘ontological turn’ in political theory is characterised by a dichotomy. On the one hand, it includes post-foundational approaches which argue for the necessity of examining the Herkunft of ontological claims as always reproductively intertwined with a particular socio-political world. On the other hand, and more recently, a second set of materialist-realist approaches re-open a speculative engagement with ontological Ursprung to positively reconceptualise the political space beyond the post-foundational genealogical relativization. Against this background, I caution against readily identifying the materialist-realist ‘turn of the turn’ as the next evolutionary step in ontological turn theory. Rather, I make a case for retaining the ontological turn in its frictional two-sidedness because both strands, as I will show, come with their theoretical achievements and their blind spots. Materialist-realist perspectives can reduce the Western cultural-epistemological bias of their predecessors and provide theoretical tools to grasp political challenges which involve non-human forces. However, I argue that a materially focused ontological speculation which is not mediated by the perpetual contextual relativization of post-foundationalism not only reifies a material potentiality as the ‘unmoved mover’ of creative production but is also blind to its own conditionedness by the socio-cultural relations of late capitalist societies.

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