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Time, Narrative, and the Political: The Dislocated Logic of Political Foundations

Reilly, Jack; (2017) Time, Narrative, and the Political: The Dislocated Logic of Political Foundations. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

From the earliest works of political theory dealing with the constitution of legislative and executive powers to more recent theories of revolutionary change, there has always been an urgency among political thinkers to theorise moments of radical transformation. The central claim of this thesis is that narratives of radical political transformation necessarily pass through a moment of opacity or circularity. Moreover, I propose that narrative opacity can be theorised while maintaining a rigorously materialist ontology. The first chapter reads Søren Kierkegaard’s ‘moment’ as describing a change which is irreducible to its prior conditions. Rather than requiring a theological paradigm, I claim the moment can be read as indicating a fractured materialism in which ontological incompleteness has a temporal character. Throughout the second, third, and fourth chapters, I show how speculative and theoretical accounts of political change necessarily encounter moments of narrative opacity. In contractarian accounts of political origins we find an unavoidable narrative distortion characterising the founding moment in which, as Rousseau openly states, an effect must serve as its own cause. The authority of the God-like sovereign of Carl Schmitt’s Political Theology is shown to be reflexively determined through the recognition of a political subject, while reflexive determination itself produces irresolvable narrative distortions. The same dislocated chronology that shows up in Hobbes and Rousseau can also be located in Badiou’s concept of the event. The event cannot be construed as a single, indivisible unit; instead, it contains a split between the sheer occurrence and the intervention or nomination that registers the occurrence as an event. As in Rousseau, an effect must serve as its own cause, albeit at the cost of narrative intelligibility. The final chapter ties the preceding arguments together through reference to the ‘transcendental materialism’ of Adrian Johnston and Slavoj Žižek.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Time, Narrative, and the Political: The Dislocated Logic of Political Foundations
Event: University College London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Political Philosophy, transcendental materialism, narrative, time, sovereignty, constitutive power
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > SSEES
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1557891
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