Theory & Event 10: 3 begins with “Empire and the Terrain of Democracy” by Marc G. Doucet and Carlos Pessoa. Theorizing “the [contemporary] conditions of democratic social struggle,” the authors engage in an encounter with Hardt and Negri’s Empire. Reacting especially to Hardt and Negri’s treatments of sovereign power and bio-power, they seek to transcend what they see as a theoretical impasse in Empire’s conception of democracy. Regarding the Hardt and Negri position as limited to opening a closed terrain or ensuring that the terrain is never sealed, they point to other possibilities for an understanding of democracy within Empire’s discourse by contrasting a “politics of democracy” with “a democracy of politics.” Their theoretical aim is to think democracy in terms of how it can be materialized within a configuration of power relations.
Stefan Mattessich also pursues the concept of democracy in his “Delillo’s Thing: Democracy and Reason in Underworld.” Focusing on the psychic topologies of DeLillo’s characters, Mattessich reviews DeLillo’s writings to find “the contours of a slowly maturing anti-democratic paradigm.” Once his focus is on Underworld, Mattessich discerns DeLillo’s speculation, through his characters and the media world in which they exist, about the situation in which the possibilities for democratic expression are lost in the inconsequential discourses that structure contemporary consciousness. For example, pursuing DeLillo’s character, Moorman’s attempt to think while (as Beckett would put it) he is “hounded by their [the structured discourses of state, market, law and norm] vociferations,” Mattessich locates DeLillo’s approach in a redemptive consciousness that “resists its own composition in these structures.” As he pursues some of Underworld’s other characters, Mattesich emphasizes the way in which DeLillo highlights a form of politics (articulated in part by Derrida) in which fictive discourses can exemplify a democratic consciousness.
J. Paul Narkunas’s “Utilitarian Humanism: Culture in the Service of Regulating ‘We Other Humans’” undertakes a critical reading of UNESCO’s “World Culture Reports” with a focus on the text’s articulation of “humanity.” Presuming that there is a plurality of possible “humanisms,” Narkunas treats the way cultural discourses shape the world in which “humanity” is officially constructed. Treating in particular the “global human,” who emerges in the WRC text, he maps a utilitarian, geography-connected normalizing practice and points especially to the dangers of a “utilitarian humanism.” In reaction to such a model, Narkunas argues in behalf of a problematic of humanity that affirms contingencies and singularities that articulate themselves as force, energy and textuality rather than as the normalized constructions of a nation state-oriented cartography.
Finally, In “Theorizing Utopian Agency: Two Steps Toward Utopian Techniques of the Self”, Susan McManus explores the utopian potential for political agency and ethical enactment that is articulated in contemporary political theory. Treating a range of positions: radical liberal theory, post-Foucauldian models of subjectivity, and post-Spinozist forms of affective attachment, among others, she looks at the way in which utopian theory has survived various forms of exhaustion and blocked consciousness. Elevating effective agency to a central position in the dynamic of political renewal, McManus seeks to recover techniques of the self that have hitherto received inadequate epistemological attention - for example dreaming, which is rejected by Hobbes but valued by Nietzsche. She argues that a genealogical exploration of the functioning of dreaming can lead to a recognition of a “fissure” in the construction of “the current regime of subjectivity” and thereby open up spaces of possibility for effective political agency and encourage similarly effective and politicizing practices of the self.
In our review section, Alexander Barder reviews Robert Fisk’s The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East, Sanford Schram reviews Michael J. Shapiro’s, Deforming American Political Thought: Ethnicity, Facticity and Genre, Steven Johnston reviews Seyla Benhabib’s, Another Cosmopolitanism, Laurie E. Naranch reviews Cheryl Hall’s The Trouble with Passion: Political Theory Beyond the Reign of Reason, Thomas Hawley reviews John Farrell’s Paranoia and Modernity: Cervantes to Rousseau, and Sam McLean reviews Peter Hallward’s Out of This World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation.