Concretising the Ethical in the Political

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Politics of Difference/Recognition

The politics of difference, recognition and multiculturalism are linked to more tolerant strands of communitarianism that emerged in political philosophy in the 1980s and 1990s, and represent a positive desire to promote cultural plurality and tolerance of difference, and to recognise such differences in the political sphere (Diprose, 2006). On first appearances, the politics of difference appears to provide respect for ontological forms of cultural difference in ways that liberalism (and communitarianism), on the whole, does not. Yet on Levinas‘s account, the politics of recognition would, like 62 liberalism and communitarianism, also tend toward the opposite. Avril Bell (2008) contrasts Levinasian ethics with the politics of recognition for the ―practice of nondominating modes of interaction‖ (p. 850) in the context of Indigenous and settler relations in Aotearoa–New Zealand. Bell argues that the politics of difference/recognition (as articulated by Charles Taylor (1994) remains within the economy of comprehension of Western metaphysics and fails, for the New Zealand context to ―de-centre‖ settler dominance.

Non-Foundational Politics

I have argued that politics represents the sphere where decisions are required for the functioning of sociality, of human co-existence. Politics always entails relations of inclusion and exclusion, and in Levinasian thought it is always a matter of the least harmful decision. Working further into the sphere of politics, I remain concerned to articulate an approach to politics that makes space for the ethical, but does not accept the totalising foundation I have found implicit in liberalism and the other authoritative traditions I have canvassed so far. I am interested in a non-foundational approach to politics, where the forms of agreement that constitute such a politics are arrived at not through the imposition of an a priori and universal notion of the good life, but through the contestation and negotiation of cultural practices, preferences and forms of life that exist in social life. I argue that such an approach has the best chance of providing for political justice, and is an approach akin to Indigenous and Māori multiform and dynamic constitutionality. Importantly, a non-foundational approach open to contestation and cultural diversity holds the best possibility of remaining open to ethical responsibility.

Agonistic Pluralism/Relational Justice

Mouffe (2005) presents her own approach to democracy as ―agonistic pluralism‖, which is the ―agonistic confrontation‖ between conflicting interpretations of constitutive liberal democratic values (p. 103). Agonistic pluralism turns on the idea that all political unities create an ‗us‘ and ‗them‘. This is a constitutive feature of politics and the opposition cannot be overcome, but can be conceived differently. Agonism as opposed to antagonism perceives the ‗them‘ not as an enemy to be destroyed, but as an adversary. An adversary is a friendly/legitimate enemy, someone with whom social space is shared but who wants to organise social space in a different way. Agonistic pluralism sees conflict as the condition of democracy, and attempts to move antagonism toward agonism where passion, contestation and disagreement do not disappear from the public sphere but are worked towards democratic ends.

Case study–Thesis Interconnection

The preceding theoretical chapters represent a conceptual and analytical framework for the case study. The ideas in Chapters Two, Three and Four offer an understanding of the ethics and politics of the intersubjective, cross-cultural and political relations at the heart of this case study. The theory chapters can be, and I hope will be, read as intimately linked to the case study, and indeed as an analysis of the case. Consequently I do not explicitly apply the theory in the case study chapters. Instead analytical threads are drawn together in Chapter Eight, the concluding chapter to the whole thesis. I regard the work in the previous chapters as representing my own theoretical and philosophical journey, and that as such it should stand in a somewhat discrete relation to the case study account itself. Standing alone, the case study remains an important record and point of learning and reflection for the people whose case it is, and for those people whose case it will become.

Methodological Orientations

A case study is not produced in a paradigmatic or methodological vacuum. Here I identify, in no particular order, three methodological guides or frames underpinning this study. These frames are discernible in the preceding chapters, although I highlight them here for providing methodological context for the case study account. In very broad terms, I cast this thesis within a qualitative and post-positivist paradigm (Lather, 1992). Within such a broad approach the study is influenced by critical and postmodern/poststructural methodologies (Lather, 1991, 2007); Indigenous and Māori theorisation including Kaupapa Māori methodologies and Mātauranga Māori20 (Bishop, 2005; Royal, 2004, 2008; G. H. Smith, 1997; L. T. Smith, 1999); and, finally, a methodological evoking of Levinasian ethics (Levinas, 1969, 1998a, 1998b).

Table of Contents :

  • Abstract
  • Acknowledgements
  • Preface
  • Glossary
  • Chapter One Introduction
    • A Case in Point
    • Thesis Outline
    • Part One
    • Part Two
  • Chapter Two Ethics: Kanohi ki te kanohi
    • Introduction
    • Levinas‘s Critique
    • He Whakaaro Māori
    • Levinas‘s Phenomenological Antecedents
    • Husserl
    • Heidegger
    • He Whakaaro Māori
    • Levinas‘s Phenomenology
    • Subjectivity and Responsibility
    • The Other
    • He Whakaaro Māori
    • The Saying and Said
    • Conclusion
  • Chapter Three From Ethics to Politics
    • Introduction
    • The Third Party
    • The Relation of Totality and Infinity
    • Concretising the Ethical in the Political
    • Small Goodnesses
    • Rights as the Concretisation of the Ethical
    • Politics as Dis-incarnation
    • Ethics, Politics and Cultural Difference
    • Cultural Identity and Representation
    • Enacting Cultural Ethicality
    • Conclusion
  • Chapter Four An Ethical Politics
    • Introduction
    • Section One
    • Liberalism
    • Communitarianism
    • Politics of Difference/Recognition
    • Section Two
    • Non-Foundational Politics
    • Section Three
    • Treaty Politics
    • Māori Responsibility
    • Conclusion
  • Chapter Five Methodological Influences and Research Practice
  • Chapter Six Case Study: Governance
  • Chapter Seven Case Study: Relationality
  • Chapter Eight Concluding Reflections

Māori and Levinas: kanohi ki te kanohi for an ethical politics

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