They are staged in that this space contains within it a quasi-representation of itself as being aristocratic, monarchic, despotic, democratic or totalitarian. As we know, the corollary of the desire to objectify is the positioning of a subject capable of performing intellectual operations which owe nothing to its involvement in social life. Such a neutral subject is concerned only with detecting causal relations between phenomena and with discovering the laws that govern the organization and the workings of social systems or sub-systems. The fiction of this subject is vulnerable to more than the arguments of critical sociologists and Marxists who object to the distinction between factual judgements and value judgements, and who show that the analyst is working within a perspective forced upon him by the need to defend his economic or cultural interests.

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Reviewed by Fred Dallmayr, University of Notre Dame For English-speaking students of political philosophy, this is an eminently welcome book. Claude Lefort is one of the most innovative and insightful philosophers and political thinkers of the last half century -- but a thinker largely ignored or sidelined in America.

Bernard Flynn is highly qualified to remedy this deficit. In the Introduction to his new book, Flynn presents the French philosopher as preeminently concerned with the ambivalent character of modernity -- and also with the difficult linkage between theory and practice. In contrast to devotees of "pure" theory or abstract metaphysics, Lefort has allowed his theorizing to be informed by his own lived condition or his embeddedness in the "life-world".

In fact, Flynn adds pp. To be sure, his own distinctive perspective emerged only slowly through trial and error. After the war, together with Cornelius Castoriadis, he founded a group called "Socialisme ou Barbarie" which championed a non-repressive socialist politics against the barbarism of the immediate past.

The influence of Aron bequeathed to Lefort the commitment to a non-dogmatic or non-ideological liberalism -- and also a strong aversion to any kind of coercive and "totalitarian" rule.

Following the same trajectory, he was also led to discern the novelty and hideous quality of modern "totalitarianism" as a political paradigm distinct from traditional tyranny. Basically, for Lefort, totalitarianism is "a response to the modern experience of the void" -- a response that seeks "to fill the empty place of power.

What attracted Lefort to this work was clearly not its reputed "Machiavellianism" but rather its sensitivity to political divergence. In many ways, the Florentine appeared to him as a herald or precursor of typically "modern" developments: particularly the "disincarnation" of the body politic and the nonidentity of society with itself. As he points out pp. In opposition to the Habermasian focus on rational validity, Lefort attends to the Merleau-Pontyan "intertwining" of sense and nonsense, reason and nonreason, thus steering a course between ideal finality and randomness.

Lefort, Flynn comments pp. As previously indicated, premodern society for Lefort was typically a form of life whose meaning was securely anchored elsewhere, a regime whose symbolic structure was "fixed to nature or to a supersensible world, another place" p.

Although medieval Christianity adhered to an eschatological vision, this vision was not part of a historical process; at least for mainstream theology, "the signs of providence were not legible within history" p. This unity was shattered by modernity and especially by the succession of modern revolutions. While undercutting these human distinctions, modernity ushers in novel gaps between appearance and reality, between "imaginary" interpretations and real conditions.

Lefort is fond in this context of invoking psychoanalytic terminology. In opposition to some "unrestrained" antimodernists, Lefort sees the chief gain of modern democracy in "the institution of an interrogation that will call the Law and all authority into question. Paraphrasing Lefort, Flynn p. Actually, his book contains a number of additional features which I had to bypass for the sake of brevity.

Among these features is the discussion of the relation between "modernity and law" -- where Lefort stresses the rule-governed character of democracy even in the absence of an ultimate anchor -- and the relation between "modernity and rights" -- where Lefort emphasizes the political and symbolic rather than purely moral character of rights.

With regard to the character of modernity, Arendt saw the distinguishing trait in the "rise of the social" and the eclipse of politics by "labor" and "work," while Strauss located the basic change in the demise of classical "natural right" and the upsurge of history and political "science.

Some purely technical flaws must be attributed to the editor at the press: Schleiermacher appears as "Schreimacher" p. Other questions, however, can be addressed to the author. In the comparison between Arendt and Lefort on the issue totalitarianism, Flynn clearly sides with the French thinker.

However, one might wonder -- with Arendt -- whether the upsurge of totalitarianism is not attributable, at least in part, to certain tendencies inherent in modernity, including subjectivism, voluntarism, and rampant will to power today manifest on the global level.

This cultural and "civil society" dimension cannot be irrelevant, and actually seems crucial, to the legitimacy of democratic regimes. Without neglecting the liberal stand, one may wish to upgrade phenomenology in this equation in order to "humanize" the emptiness of democracy and salvage a measure of democratic legitimacy.


Democracy and Political Theory - Claude Lefort

Through an analysis of some of the key texts of 19th and 20th century thought - from Marx, Michelet and de Tocqueville to Hannah Arendt - the author explores the ambiguities of democracy, the nature of human rights, the idea and the reality of revolution, the emergence of This book examines the central questions of democracy and politics in modern societies. Through an analysis of some of the key texts of 19th and 20th century thought - from Marx, Michelet and de Tocqueville to Hannah Arendt - the author explores the ambiguities of democracy, the nature of human rights, the idea and the reality of revolution, the emergence of totalitarianism and the changing relations between politics, religion and the image of the body. While developing a highly original account of the nature of politics and power in modern societies, he links political reflection to the interpretation of history as an open, indeterminate process of which we are part. This work should interest specialists in social and political theory and philosophers.



Biography[ edit ] Lefort studied at the Sorbonne. From , he belonged to the small French Trotskyite. In , he met Cornelius Castoriadis who came to Paris from Greece. Right away, they formed a faction in the Trotskyist Parti Communiste Internationaliste called " Chaulieu—Montal Tendency ", that left the party and became the Socialism or Barbarism group and which, in , started a journal with this name. Socialism or Barbarism considered the USSR to be an example of state capitalism and gave its support to anti-bureaucratic revolts in Eastern Europe — especially the uprising in Budapest in That year he abandoned the idea and ideology of political revolution and ceased his militant activism.


Democracy and Political Theory

Zulkizshura Every organization, association or profession is thus subordinated to the planning of the state. Tim marked it as to-read Oct 01, Lefort is fond in this context of invoking psychoanalytic terminology. With them as well as Pierre Clastres and Marcel Gauchet he created Libre inwhich was published up untilwhen there were some disagreements with Castoriadis as well as with Gauchet. Bernard Flynn is highly qualified to remedy this deficit. There are no discussion topics on this book yet.


Claude Lefort


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