Philosophy: Chapter 3 (Preface) A complete summary of Chapters One and Two and a detailed roadmap of Chapter Three and beyond: The Value of Power a primer (for newer and older readers)
Chapter 3 -Preface
A summary of Chapters One and Two with a roadmap of Chapter Three and beyond
The Value of Power a primer (for newer and older readers)
In Chapters One and Two, I feel I moved quickly, presenting large ideas in rapid succession and not completely linking them together. This was needed, to a point, to lay the background for the upcoming chapters where those links will be expanded upon and tied together.
In this preface to Chapter Three, I want to step back a moment and summarize and direct this blog conversation.
My motivation for writing this blog series, The Value of Power.
In contemporary philosophy, there are two movements that I am fascinated by with and impressed with. The first is Phenomenology, a discipline carved out in the early-20th century, generally attributed to Husserl, Heidegger, and Sartre, but precursored and informed by the likes of Hegel, Nietzsche, James, and Bretano. The second is Social Ontology, studying the fundamental state of being of both citizen and society. This is a rather new movement and has yet to fully emerge as a standardized discipline. Philosophers working on social ontological questions include John Searle and Ásta Kristjana Sveinsdóttir.
My motivation is the fact that the discipline of Phenomenology lacks an adequate model of political philosophy. Many phenomenologists have touched on political theory, but it is agreed upon that a complete phenomenological system has not been developed.
I believe that the work I have been doing the past five years is just that: a model of the phenomenology of the political. It is based in my concept of Relational Materialism and accounts for not only the phenomenological experience, but for the epistemic structure of that experience as well as the ontological structure of the structures of the experience. This personal work of mine has been greatly influenced and inspired by the recent multi-discipline endeavors in the Social Ontology and UC Santa Cruz's History of Consciousness.
Main Ideas and Summary of Chapters One and Two
In Chapter One I discussed the intricacies and difficulties of a meaningful and true political revolution. This introduction to my blog series was inspired by recent political events such as the Arab Spring, the Turkish Gezi protests, and the Occupy Movement.
I wanted to present the realistic obstacles and possibilities of popular revolution and lay out the fact that this blog is ultimately about such revolution and is interested in healthy and meaningful political change.
The main ideas of Chapter One include:
1. Badiou’s theory that Political Existence is created and sustained by Facts and Truths.
Facts are objects, ‘things’ conceived in the dominant group’s language, pieces controlled by the structures of the State in order to maintain, legitimize, and empower its own hierarchal authority. Facts are not truths. Facts are concrete, preconceived, and catagorizable.
Truths reveal themselves in the process of their discovery, in the moment of creative, dynamic and evolving self-definition. Truths are spontaneous organizations and relational social interactions resulting between self-creating political subjects interacting in harmonious congress.
Truth is found in the subject’s recognition of her/his ‘self’ as a political vehicle, and as this is a communal event, it is relational, thus incorporates the cumulative subjectification of all those involved in producing new ways to perceive and understand.
In sum: facts control, truths emancipate.
2. Both Badiou and Machiavelli stress the fact that an Event of political revolution is destabilizing and destructive, and there is a deep need to cling to aspects of the old social structure while simultaneously dismantling and replacing it.
These two conflicting needs of the Event create a contradiction of necessities both internal to and external to individual political agents: the need to fill the vacuum created by a revolution struggles against the need to sustain the impossible creative momentum of the revolution.
3. If modern civilization is to move forward in a healthy and meaningful way, there needs to be an in-depth analysis of the structures involved in revolutionary actions, an analysis designed to locate the vital ontological structures creating the stage where political agents experience their lives in relation to natural and social forces.
Chapter Two concerned the phenomenological agent, which I called Citizen X.
I brought in the ideas of autonomy and power, and discussed these concepts at both individual and state levels. Using Foucault, Bartky, and Oshana, I began to lay out the basic interactions between state power and individual power and how personal and social identity create the space for both oppressive political behavior and emancipatory personal growth.
The main ideas of Chapter Two include:
1. The core notion of autonomy is “self-law,” or better, “self-authority.” An autonomous agent is able to decide and act in accordance with his or her own choices and does not need to confirm these choices with any authority higher than their own.
True autonomy is a rarity in contemporary society and this is due to the fundamental structure of the modern liberal state and its hierarchical and temporal normative assumptions and practices.
2. Citizen X, the phenomenological political agent, does maintain a complete and vital “Self” in the midst of all social construction, fragmentation, and mystification. This self is the seat of subjective experience and political truth creation.
3. Modern Princely (State) power is no longer strictly a hierarchical chain of command as in the past, but now it is embedded in social structures and bureaucracies and exists as relationships within a complex of social situation.
4. Power itself exists in the actions of agents (be they individual or groups such as in a legal action, i.e. Brown v. Board of Education). Power is a capacity that exists only as action and the limit to every exercise of Power is Resistance, the point where the action of one agent reaches the limits of its capacity.
Foucault writes that modern state power is an action upon actions, and I understand this as meaning that political resistance ultimately occurs at a point where an action resolves from the choices that could be made into the one actually made.
5. The structures of the modern state are fundamentally oppressive, as what the state needs to operate involves a necessary restriction of personal autonomy. These mechanisms are not inherently oppressive, but under the influence of the current model of capital-based liberal ideology, they unarguably are.
Moving forward from here: Chapter Three and Beyond
Moving forward, I will slow down a little and begin going into more detail concerning certain topics, most importantly Power and Value.
I will explain in great detail the notion I have brought up of Citizen X, the phenomenological political agent.
I will also begin unpacking my original model “Relational Materialism” and show how and why it is a fully adequate and complete model of a phenomenologically based political philosophy, and how it is useful to our greater community of theorists and activists.
In the upcoming Chapter Three, Part One I will begin my task.
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