„Partykularne – uniwersalne” i pytanie o podmiot w myśli Theodora W. Adorna i Ernesta Laclaua

Jakub Górski


The Particular and Universal. Asking about the Subject in Theodor’s W. Adorno and Ernesto’s Laclau Thought

The understanding of particularity-universality interrelation in the context of subject in T.W. Adorno’s Negative Dialectics and Ernesto Laclau’s (with Chantal Mouffe’s) Hegemony and Socialist Strategy and Laclau’s (with Judith Butler and Slavoj Zizek) Contingency, Hegemony, Universality is the topic of this essay. T.W. Adorno (1903–1969), the co-founder of Frankfurt School, member of Institute for Social Research, was a representative of the first stage of the Critical Theory. Ernesto Laclau, a post-Marxist, the creator of ‘Essex School of Discourse Analysis,’ may be on the other hand regarded as a representative of the third generation of critical thought. The aim of this paper is to discuss similarities in understanding of the particularity-universality interrelation in both philosophers. In Adorno as well as in Laclau, this relation defines the discursive field, and – as it will be argued – it determines the form of political commitment, therefore it is a condition for gaining the social identity. Adorno’s constellation and Laclau’s discourse, Adorno’s the Name and Laclau’s name, Adorno’s and Laclau’s non-identity are exemplifications of the particular-universal and the problem of subject. These pairs of notions were submitted to comparative analysis for the sake of argument. The common core understanding of the subjectivation in Adorno and Laclau has been found as a result of this analysis. Laclau draws from Lacan’s empty signifierclosely related, in turn, to Adorno’s moment of non-identity. The moment of non-identity in Adorno’s critical theory determines the form of particularity-universality, and therefore the shape of subjectivity. Similarly, in Laclau the logic of empty signifiers defines the form of particular-universal relation. Despite these theoretical similarities, they express entirely different attitude towards political engagement and action. Adorno proposes a radically critical approach of a non-involved intellectualist. Laclau, on the contrary, formulates the theory of hegemonic decision and the directly engaged political action. Despite the important similarities in philosophical discourse proposed by both philosophers, there remains the question of the sources of difference in Adorno’s and Laclau’s idea of political commitment and action. Their different understanding of the process of subjectivation will also be analyzed.

Keywords: Theodor W. Adorno, Ernesto Laclau, antagonism, subjectivity, hegemony, discourse, ideology, post-Marxism, deconstruction, overdetermination.

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