Disiplinlerarası Çalışmalar Dergisi Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

New Ontological and Theological Imaginaries in Political Theory and Democracy

This paper analyzes three seemingly disparate but related developments in contemporary Euro-American political thought: political ontology, critical political theology, and new formulations of radical democracy, all of which embrace clear ontological imaginaries. As I walk through each genre, I demonstrate how, when taken together, they cultivate a new mood that signifies an awareness of the ontological and theological elements in one’s own thinking. I argue that this awareness eventually prefigures new imaginaries for radical democracy. In the end, the normative hope is that this new development will engender more generous ethico-political formations by enabling a deeper sensibility toward difference and otherness, including the non-Western other. The first section examines how ontology has recently come to the fore in these two traditions in the form of post-foundational ideas. The basic trend noted here is how several thinkers now maintain the unavoidability of ontology in political thinking as opposed to anti-foundationalist views. But the idea of ground here is a far more elusive, non-determinative one that also defies foundationalist premises. I present the North American versions through White’s “weak” and “strong” ontology dichotomy while focusing on the European representatives of this streak through Marchart’s conceptualization of post-foundationalism, which draws on the distinction between politics and the political. Next, I look at how the theological element is being increasingly acknowledged as an ineradicable element of political theory. As a result, many political theorists and political theologians have converged to articulate this theological residue together. As regards the field of political theology, this is where one finds the emancipatory thinking of critical political theologians, especially liberation theology. As for political theory, I look at three theological concepts that have entertained a worthwhile afterlife: mythos, messianicity, and theodicy. I will demonstrate how these particular concepts can be productively used in political theory. As a case in point, I will pay particular attention in this section to Jacque Derrida’s concept of “democracy-to-come.” Coming to terms with our thinking’s ontological and theological elements is most meaningful when we consider the new imaginaries of radical democracy. My concern here is to underline how radical democracy’s ontological dimension has gradually acquired a crucial significance. In addition to their ontological critique of liberal democracy, radical democratic thinkers are now concentrating more on the ontological conception of democracy as an infinite ideality. My overall goal in this article is to show that a new mood is emerging in Euro-American political thinking. Inasmuch as our partners are more conscious of their ontologies and the operative mythoi in their own political thinking, our dialogical engagement will be more amenable to political arrangements that pursue more free, just, and egalitarian political arrangements. Halil İbrahim YENİGÜN
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