Re: Poststructualism, ethics and values

>Hmm, although I usually agree with you, Malgosia, I think that this is
>precisely where poststructuralism gets itself in "trouble." Yes, it
>undermines many (but not all) of the basic tenets of liberal Western
>democracy, but it remains in the negative mode, unable to come up with a
>new vision (and I'm glad about this) that is strctured according to
>values other than autonomy, self-determination, and equality (however
>much these terms may be problematized). As a result, poststructuralism
>is reformist by default.

If I may interfere here, although I would not consider myself to be a
Foucault "expert" (whatever that may be) at all, so Magnolia may forgive me
for some naive comments. Anyway, I am more into the International Relations
Theory discourse, and postmodern ideas have found increasing importance
(t)here since the late eighties (as usual, later than in other social
"science" disciplines...). The discussions, though, have been quite similar.
Concerning the question raised here (about constructing alternatives), there
has been some argument on the building of "horizons". I myself have used
that concept in an article on the European Union (which is still under
review, the article). What is put forward here is that the EU can be read as
a form of political organization transcending "state-ness". Which begs the
question of HOW it may be read, then. The answers to this differ widely.
So from a (my) postmodern perspective, I argue against any model which tries to
give the integration process a finality, commonly in one or the other form
of a federal state. An alternative would be to stress the process itself,
which never really comes to an end, and is partly pushed "forward" (not in
any linear meaning) by the proliferation of "horizons". Horizons have the
advantage that they include different options per definitionem and are never
fixed. They are rather vague and offer possibilities to organize the
different. One horizon which I find particularly interesting is the integral
federalists' notion of integration which included not so much the building
of political institutions but rather a transformation (a functional as well
as regional federalization) of society. I can't go into detail here, and
there are tons of reservations (especially epistemological ones) against
putting these people together under the heading of postmodernism. The
central idea behind the pomo discussion in the whole (sub)discipline of IR
theory, though, seems to go in this direction: to avoid general models of
_the_ world, and to try to construct alternative horizons that comprise "One
World, Many Worlds" (that's a book title by Rob Walker). I guess such a
perspective does acknowldege the power/knowledge nexus and sees the
proliferation of horizons as a political practice in a specific
historical/spatial context. Being such a political practice, it is at the
same time trying to decenter the discourse through offering alternatives to
the dominant models without taking these alternatives to be founded on
secure grounds of whatever kind.

That was a little long and maybe a little obscure, too - sorry for that.
best wishes from Mannheim

Thomas Diez
Mannheim Centre for European Social Research
Mannheimer Zentrum fuer Europaeische Sozialforschung
D-68131 Mannheim


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