Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Postmodern Ethics, Multiple Selves, and the Future of Democracy

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Postmodern Ethics, Multiple Selves, and the Future of Democracy

Article excerpt

Introduction

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, all type of reflection upon religious fundamentalism, the inescapable tension between faith and the values of a democratic Occident and also the degree of constitutive violence that is implicit in the great monotheistic religions amounted to a new dimension, along with a worrisome type of stringency. All thoughts that follow have as their aim the attempt to stress another sense of 'fundamentalism' - without necessarily labeling it as such -, a more discrete, diffuse and all the more present kind, one that is intrinsic to the very core of our common social reality. My argumentation will entail several steps, and a considerable detour as well.

Approaches that highlight the lack of democracy in the actual political practice of Western states are commonsensical in the area of leftist social critique, as well as the ones that stress the distance between the ethical core of democracy and our political reality. According to these perspectives, arguments are abstracted only from the social, political and economic reality of contemporary world. One alternative involves stressing the social and opportunity inequalities of capitalist states, the lack of social justice, the widening gap between the rich and the poor on a global scale, the exploitation and oppression of extensive social categories belonging to the alleged democratic states or of the poor from the third world countries, and also the merciless exploitation of all natural resources, without concern for the world that will be inherited by future generations. Another alternative involves uncovering hidden aspects from the backstage of the fights for power in parliamentary or presidential democracies, and also criticizing the type of representation that is peculiar to modern political parties, or the hidden economic interest of those chosen by the people, as a consequence of campaign funding and aggressive lobby undertaken by multinationals.

Democracy seems to carry on not as a political reality but rather as a projective experience and a messianic form without a determined content. In agreement with Derrida's famous statement, la démocratie est toujours à venir: it does not have a present nor does it allow itself to be understood on the ground of stable presence or persistence (Anwesenheit, parousia) of a structure (let it be called 'rule of law'), but it is always still to come, perpetually articulating itself at the future tense. In my perspective, Derrida1 offers a radically positive view of democracy: he stresses that it isn't a regulative idea understood in a Kantian sense, but a structure of promise, a pure future that is yet to come. But, in the same time, using a Heidegegerian-Derridian jargon, it happens - it offers itself in the urgency of here and now, inspiring the present social and political order, assuming its perfectibility and the constitutive character (hence, not only regulative) of "the right to autoimmune self-critique" in this sphere2. To put it shortly, democracy à venir is an "experience of the impossible", as another famous Derridian statement rightly assumes.

The hypothesis I will endorse in this study follows another argumentative thread. I will inquire if it is possible to place all the critiques of Western democracy in the basic horizon of the problematic of the self. In other words, the significant gap between the ethical core of democracy and the political practice could be understood and analyzed, in a basic manner, starting from the perspective of the 'simple' relationship to the self of the (majority of) the citizens. This critique assumes, at a philosophical level, the attempt to understand the self not as a substantial entity, a given nature, or a "prereflective familiarity" (M. Frank)3, but as a relation that relates itself to itself (in the words of Kierkegaard, from The Sickness onto Death4): a reflexive "folding" (Deleuze)5 of a certain kind, a manner of subjectivation that is nothing but "the historical correlate" of a specific "technology", as Foucault states6. …

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