The Autonomy of the Political: Conquered or Posited?
Posted: 29 Mar 2010
Ideals of autonomy are prevalent in contemporary political theory, especially in relation to notions of individual responsibility. These also figure in discussions about the relationship between the economic, political, and cultural field in modernity. Once coupled with “the political” – an unavoidable yet elusive category – the question of autonomy has elicited several critical reactions. The range is wide: from defenders of the autonomy of the political who see this autonomy as a precondition of meaningful political actions, to critics who see as yet another liberal and secular conceit that we are well advised to abandon. This essay interrogates these terms of discussion and presents an argument about the autonomy of the political that emphasizes both the structural nature of its emergence, as well as the role of political action in rendering it meaningful. The autonomy of the political thus emerges as something conquered rather than merely structurally posited.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation