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.

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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.

Well-founded as it may be, this argument itself comes up against limitations which will not be examined here. By ascribing neutrality to the subject, it deprives the subject of the means to grasp an experience generated and ordered by an implicit conception of the relations between human beings and of their relations with the world.

It prevents the subject from grasping the one thing that has been grasped in every human society, the one thing that gives it its status as human society: namely the difference between legitimacy and illegitimacy, between truth and lies, between authenticity and imposture.

If we refuse to risk making judgements, we lose all sense of the difference between forms of society. We then fall back on value judgements, either hypocritically, beneath the cloak of a hierarchy in the determinants of what we take to be the real, or arbitrarily, in the crude statement of preferences. The Question of Democracy 13 does not result from a transformation of the mode of production. In the case of German or Italian fascisms. But it is important at least to recall that the Soviet regime acquired its distinctive features before the era of the socialization of the means of production and of collectivization.

Modern totalitarianism arises from a political mutation, from a mutation of a symbolic order, and the change in the status of power is its clearest expression. What in fact happens is that a party arises, claiming to be by its very nature different from traditional parties, to represent the aspirations of the whole people, and to possess a legitimacy which places it above the law. It takes power by destroying all opposition; the new power is accountable to no one and is beyond all legal control.

But for our purposes, the course of events is of little import; we are concerned with the most characteristic features of the new form of society. A condensation takes place bet w een the sphere of power, the sphere of law and the sphere of knowledge. Knowledge of the ultimate goals of society and of the norms which regulate social practices becomes the property of power, and at the same time power itself claims to be the organ of a discourse which articulates the real as such.

Power is embodied in a group and, at its highest level, in a single individual, and it merges with a knowledge which is also embodied, in such a way that nothing can split it apart.

The theory - or if not the theory, the spirit of the movement. A logic of identification is set in motion, and is governed by the representation of power as embodiment. The proletariat and the people are one; the party and the proletariat are one; the politbureau and, ultimately, the egocrat, and the party are one. Whilst there develops a representation of a homogeneous and self-transparent society, of a People-as-One, social division, in all its modes.

We I would like now to draw attention to what reinterpreting the political means in our times. The rise of totalitarianism, both in its fascist variant which has for the moment been destroyed, though we have no grounds to think that can use the term despotism to characterize this regime, but only if we specify that it is modern and differs from all the forms that precede it. Power makes no reference to anything beyond the social; it rules as though nothing existed outside the social, as though it had no limits it might not reappear in the future and in its communist variant which these are the limits established by the idea of a law or a truth that is is going from strength to strength obliges us to re-examine democracy.

The distinctively modern feature of totalitarianism is that it combines a radically artificialist ideal with a radically organicist ideal. The image of the body comes to be.


Democracy and Political Theory - Claude Lefort

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.

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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.



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.


Democracy and Political Theory


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