Politics as the quest for unity: Perspectivism, incommensurable values and agonistic politics

Philosophy and Social Criticism 34 (8):905-924 (2008)
In this article I argue against the view, recently espoused by several authors, that the `incommensurability of values' and `political pespectivism' offer us decisive reasons as to why we should break the link between representation and (the quest for) unity. I hold that it is of paramount importance to retain this essential link. Since Sir Isaiah Berlin has played a major (and in my view unfortunate) role in linking `politics as the quest for unity and the common good' with the `totalitarian temptation', I proceed to show how it is possible to have an understanding of politics as precisely such a quest, but without succumbing to the temptation to totalitarianism that Berlin alerts us to. I then take issue with Chantal Mouffe's view that the tendency to antagonism, rather than the quest for unity and rational consensus, is `the essence of the political'
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