Sustaining Affirmation: The Strengths of Weak Ontology in Political Theory

By Stephen K. White | Go to book overview

Chapter Five
THE ONTOLOGY AND POLITICS OF A
“POST-NIETZSCHEAN SENSIBILITY”:
WILLIAM CONNOLLY

LIKE TAYLOR, William Connolly is quite explicit about the importance of attending to the “ontological dimension of political thought.” As he says, “every interpretation presupposes or invokes some … problematical stance with respect to the fundamental character of being.”1 And, of course, the qualifier “problematical” indicates that Connolly is not pursuing a project with strong ontological characteristics. The variant of ontology that he elaborates draws sustenance, like Butler's, from the work of Nietzsche and Foucault. But unlike any of these thinkers, Connolly has methodically enacted an affirmative turn. By this I mean he has engaged extensively the question: Within what modes of affirmation—ontological, ethical, and political—should we locate the critical insights and techniques of genealogy? Connolly remains a strong believer in the value of genealogy for decentering and detaching us from conventional dispositions and presumptions, but he argues that adherents to this mode of critique must realize that

detachment from any particular set of dispositions and presumptions inevitably attaches me to another set. It is hard, indeed impossible, to become detached as such. So it is important to articulate the ideal to which your strategies of critical detachment are attaching you.2

Fully articulating such an affirmative “ideal” involves elaborating ontological claims, sketching a congruent “ethical sensibility,” and using those insights for a “rethinking of democratic theory.” In my terms, Connolly is advancing on all the fronts that I have identified as necessary

The following abbreviations will be used for referring to Connolly's books.

____________________
1
EP, xxv, 1; AI, 149.
2
EP, 35

-106-

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