(Institut für Philosophie, Universität Wien)
Subjectification and Spaces of Meaning: Suggestions and Questions with Hannah Arendt
To investigate the sense of subjectification, I will go back to a figure in Hannah Arendt’s work which I will elaborate as her hidden methodological strategy to explore “spaces of meaning” and their impact for being or becoming a subject. Arendt’s “location thesis,” that certain practices belong to certain spaces, has famously been criticized as “phenomenological essentialism” by Seyla Benhabib. I want to claim that this critique misses out on the not-at-all-essentialist analysis of a dynamics of what happens to certain activities in certain meaning-constellations and how they can create meaning-structures themselves. This can be a helpful tool to analyze precisely the impact of “precarious conditions” on practices of subjectification.
Also, it can help us to reflect on a possible aporia of contemporary political theory: To have impact, actions would need stable spaces of appearance, but their erection and consolidation—if at all possible—always seems to imply a “politics of exclusion.” This problem can produce an unwanted complicity of critical political theory with the capital’s interest to keep things “dynamic,” and “volatile.” After all, what happens in the “staging of scenes of dissensus”? And, more importantly, what remains of it? It seems that the momentum of concrete participation in the dissensus movements we have witnessed in the last years is an important “lived experience” for the activists but, “outside” of participation, appears to be an evanescent “event” like many others. Arendt’s question, how to “save the appearances” under “modern,” i.e. capitalist, consumerist, globalized and precarious conditions, not only for agents but also for their actions, remains relevant also beyond the criticism of her political theory as a model of an “exclusive polis” (—which, I believe, she implicitly tried to mitigate not only with her insistence on a “right to have rights” but also by an inherent “ethics of plurality”—but this only raises another question: can ethics be the only answer to this aporia?)
Selected Publications: Einführung in die Rechtsphänomenologie: Eine historisch-systematische Darstellung (2010); Das Fremde im Selbst. Das Andere im Selben. Transformationen der Phänomenologie (2010; ed. with Matthias Flatscher); Anspruch und Rechtfertigung: Eine Theorie des rechtlichen Denkens im Anschluss an die Phänomenologie Edmund Husserls (2008).