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Theory and Society

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 553–566

First Online: 19 June 2011


The aim of the article is to show that the contradiction between dialogue and antagonism can be overcome with the help of the idea of dialogue as developed by the Russian thinker Mikhail Bakhtin. The lack of such theory led to the rejection of liberalism or to the introduction of dialogical principle into the body of liberal politics. It was Jürgen Habermas who first understood the necessity of dialogical consensus as the basis of liberal democracy. On the other hand, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe developed the concept of agonistic democracy, claiming that conflict is inevitable in liberal democracy because consensual relations cannot harmonize contradictory political identities. The second part of the article is the elaboration of Bakhtin’s theory of dialogue and its relevance for political theory. The main point is that dialogue leads to better understanding but not necessarily to consensus. If this is so, then both conceptions of the political are moments in never-ending dialogical relations. The significance of Bakhtin’s idea of dialogue for political theory consists thus in the recognition of the inevitable dialogical nature of society. However, this dialogical concept also has a normative character. Society has to find a balance between two extremes: excessive dialogue, which leads to anarchy, and the lack of dialogue, which leads to totalitarianism.

KeywordsDemocracy Hegemony Liberalism Bakhtin The political  Download fulltext PDF

Autor: Leszek Koczanowicz


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