Law and Agonistic Politics

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  • Edited by Andrew Schaap, University of Exeter, UK
  • Series: Edinburgh/Glasgow Law and Society Series
  • The Ancient Greek notion of agonism, meaning struggle, has been revived in radical legal and political theory to rethematize class conflict and to conceptualize the conditions of possibility of freedom and social transformation in contemporary society. Insisting that what is ultimately at stake in politics are the terms in which social conflict is represented, agonists highlight the importance of the strategic, affective and aesthetic aspects of politics for democratic praxis.

    This volume examines the implications of this critical perspective for understanding law and considers how law serves either to sustain or curtail the democratic agon. While sharing a critical perspective on the deliberative turn in legal and political theory and its tendency to depoliticize social conflict, the various contributors to this volume diverge in arguing variously for pragmatic, expressivist or strategic conceptions of agonism. In doing so they question the glib assumptions that often underlie a sometimes too easy celebration of conflict as an antidote to de-politicizing consensus.

    This thought provoking volume will be of interest to students and researchers working in legal and political theory and philosophy.
  • Contents: Preface; Introduction, Andrew Schaap; The democratic Narcissus: the agonism of the ancients compared to that of the (post)moderns, Andreas Kalyvas; Democratic agon: striving for distinction or struggle against domination and injustice?, Jean-Philippe Deranty and Emmanuel Renault; The opening: alegality and political agonism, Hans Lindahl; The expressive agon: on political agency in a constitutional democratic polity, David Owen; Staging dissensus: Frederick Douglass and 'we the people', Jason Frank; Polemos and agon, Alex Thomson; Questioning the law? On heteronomy in public autonomy, Bert van Roermund; Agonism, antagonism and the necessity of care, Keith Breen; The stranger in synagonistic politics, Nathalie Karagiannis and Peter Wagner; Passionate subjectivity, contestation and acknowledgement: rereading Austin and Cavell, Aletta J. Norval; On the rationality of disagreement and feeling: brethren, bombers and the construction of the common, Fiona Jenkins; The complex agon, Adrian Little; The absurd proposition of aboriginal sovereignty, Andrew Schaap; Index.
  • About the Editor: Andrew Schaap is lecturer in politics at the University of Exeter, UK where he teaches international relations and political theory. His research interests include the the work of Hannah Arendt, transitional justice, the concept of the political and democratic theory. He is currently working on a monograph on the politics of human rights.
  • Reviews: 'Agonism is often described in terms of what it opposes or lacks rather than what it stands for. Its critics claim agonists have little to say about law. This important volume says otherwise. Most of its first rate contributions stand up for agonism, promoting agonistic politics as best fitted to the plural, fractious situation of late modern democracies. Distinguishing among different brands of agonism and covering a wide variety of thinkers and cases, this book will quite simply change the way political and legal theorists think about agonism and law. A must-read.'
    Bonnie Honig, Northwestern University, USA

    'Schaap's collection should be considered a timely and welcome contribution to the field of agonistic critique, as too often that body of literature elides engagement with the question of law as such. To note that a politics of conflict is always already launched within a legal context, and then to ask what sort of problematic relation such a politics takes in relation to that context, is already an achievement. This volume goes well beyond, however, sketching in broad strokes the complex terms by which agonistic politics is shot through with the law, even as it moves to displace it.'
    Law, Culture & the Humanities

    ‘The volume, thus, deserves to be read not only by agonistic theorists, but also by democratic theorists more generally.’
    Contemporary Political Theory