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Writing Democracy: a comparative study, in the light of late twentiethcentury theorisations of radical democracy, of works by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Michel Leiris, with special reference to the Discours de l’inégalité, Contrat social, Rêveries du Promeneur solitaire; Miroir de la tauromachie. Fibrilles.

Inston, Kevin; (2003) Writing Democracy: a comparative study, in the light of late twentiethcentury theorisations of radical democracy, of works by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Michel Leiris, with special reference to the Discours de l’inégalité, Contrat social, Rêveries du Promeneur solitaire; Miroir de la tauromachie. Fibrilles. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis expounds the view that the notion of radical democracy advanced by Laclau and Mouffe, as a political form that accepts contingency, ambiguity and conflict as its condition of existence, is prefigured in complex ways in the writings of Rousseau and Leiris. The absolute difference of Rousseaus metaphor of the origin, nature, from the social, divests society of any essentialist dimension, thereby opening it to perpetual reconfiguration; in this it resembles Leforts empty space of power in democracy. Similarly, Leiris, in his quest for an ethics of poetry, confronts negativity as the affirmative condition of experimentation and innovation, recognising that what characterises both politics and art is their lack of fixed rules. Aesthetic processes powerfully figure the constitutive tension and indeterminacy of democracy. Rousseau theorises democracy not as a regime, but as the ground of inscription of any political order, for, in the absence of an essential foundation for civil society, its structures can only be sanctioned by the will of the people. The general will, as the generative energy behind social change, resists positive determination, remaining forever available to the advent of new political configurations. As Rousseau and Leiris indicate, this negativity makes fiction an integral part of any definition of social truth. The always incomplete separation of fiction from reality prevents political closure, allowing society to be constantly re-imagined. The autobiographical space, through its social autonomy, emerges as a site in which this re-imagining can possibly occur, as the autobiographer questions and redefines his relationship with society. The mutual indeterminacy of the subject and the social stops them from coinciding in a self-identical way; both coordinates converge in their involvement in an endless process of identity construction. Rousseau, Leiris and theorists of radical democracy expose the non-closure of politics as giving hope of freedom and transformation.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Writing Democracy: a comparative study, in the light of late twentiethcentury theorisations of radical democracy, of works by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Michel Leiris, with special reference to the Discours de l’inégalité, Contrat social, Rêveries du Promeneur solitaire; Miroir de la tauromachie. Fibrilles.
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10100588
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