Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

Negotiating Humanity: Subcommanding the Tender Fury of Justice

Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

Negotiating Humanity: Subcommanding the Tender Fury of Justice

Article excerpt

What I want you to understand is that dialogue is one thing and negotiation is another.

Subcomandante Marcos

One may arguably distinguish four models by which communicating alternatives--or to use Lieve Gies's phrase, "communicative justice" (1)--has been theorized, or perhaps we should say, imagined. There is, of course, the way Habermas has imagined it. (2) With his model of communicative ethics as reasonably argued practical discourse (the origin as well as the result of domination-free, ideal speech situations), Habermas imagined, on the one hand, a universal ethics of communication that promised the possibility of justice grounded in communicative reason and, on the other, absence of domination and power. Communitarians tend to eschew any universalist pretense, especially the kind that hopes to ground such a pretense in reason. Justice, to many communitarians, is to be found locally, among members of communities who communicate affectively, who share emotions, and who (Rorty claims) recognize in each other a capacity to share experiences of suffering. (3)

Habermas's universalist ethics of communicative reason may work, Rorty might argue, but only in localized communities of rationalist universalists who, affectively, share a penchant for procedural "ideal speech situations." However, both strands of communicative justice at least share some common ground. This common ground is the belief (or the imagination) that justice is to be found in communicative movements that are, at heart, centripetal. Communicative rationalists and communitarians seem to share a common ground on which it is assumed that common grounds need to be fixed and steady (at least to a considerable extent they need to harbor possibilities for such fixity and steadiness) before anything like justice can emerge and flourish. Consensus, for example, is part of that which is being aspired to.

Both proponents of a universal ethics and communitarians seem to prefer (or seem to imagine) justice in spaces that, at the very least, seem to allow a certain law of gravity to manifest itself in centripetal dynamics. At the core of justice lies something with gravitas--a universal core, the glued result of power-free, rational deliberations, Habermasians imagine; or, in the imagination of communitarians, a stream of localized cores of shared affect and emotion. Both camps, if watching Mandelbrot configurations emerge and dissipate on a computer screen, are probably likely to be fascinated by the shapes and regularities--"dissipative structures," to use the language of chaos theorists--that form out of disorderly surroundings. The latter (that is, the disorderly surroundings) will probably not draw too much of their attention.

However, not all those concerned with communicative justice will cherish a preference for a law of gravity and its glued and clustered, ordered, orderly products. Those working on or within a "politics of difference," (4) for example, would have difficulties precisely with any form of communicative justice that imagines justice to be there where centripetal dynamics, whether they be universalist or communitarian, are allowed to do their work. In the world of the workers of difference, in their universe, in their community, we might be able to sense a distrust of cores and centers, of universes and of communities. Theirs is a universe of centrifugal difference, or, if you wish, of nonuniversals. Theirs are communities that want to be noncommunal. Theirs is a world where justice is being imagined in spaces of dissipation and fracture. In these (non)communities, in these (non) universes, forces that bring justice tend to be imagined as centrifugal forces. Watching Mandelbrot computer screens, communicators of di fference probably tend not to focus on orderly structurations; they are likely to be drawn into the chaotic, disorderly dissipations that whirl in between the former, and that precede and succeed them. …

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