Beyond the Search for the Subject: An Anti-Essentialist Ontology for Liberal Democracy
European Journal of Political Theory, DOI/10.1177/1474885118763881, Forthcoming
37 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2018
Date Written: March 27, 2018
Reading Foucault’s work on power and subjectivity alongside “developmentalist” approaches to evolutionary biology, this article endorses poststructuralist critiques of political ideals grounded in the value of subjective agency. Many political theorists embrace such critiques, of course, but those who do are often skeptical of liberal democracy, and even of normative theory itself. By contrast, those who are left to theorize liberal democracy tend to reject or ignore poststructuralist insights, and have continued to employ dubious ontological assumptions regarding human agents. Against both groups, I argue that Foucault’s poststructuralism must be taken seriously, but that it is ultimately consistent with normative theory and liberal democracy. Linking poststructuralist attempts to transcend the dichotomy between agency and structure with recent efforts by evolutionary theorists to dissolve a similarly stubborn opposition between nature and nurture, I develop an anti-essentialist account of human nature and agency that vindicates poststructuralist criticism while enabling a novel defense of liberal democracy.
Keywords: agency, evolutionary biology, Foucault, freedom, poststructuralism, power, subjectivity
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