The weak subject: Peace and nihilism reconsidered

Philosophy and Social Criticism 29 (4):407-425 (2003)
Abstract
Using the notion of subjectivity as a guiding thread, the article explores the implications of European nihilism for the theoretical debate about peace. Most of the continental peace theories have been inspired by schools of thought associated with German Idealism and Marxism and assume a ‘strong subject’ as a precondition for the social construction of peace. However, the recent debates around ‘humanitarian interventions’ suggest that a critique of violence that fails to embrace the weakening of the subject is ineffective. Drawing upon the emancipatory interpretation of Nietzsche provided by Gianni Vattimo, the article seeks to recover a critique of violence that is based on a weak notion of subjectivity and no longer invokes any ultimate foundations. Instead, it appreciates the emancipatory and non-violent potential of nihilistic aesthetic experience. From this perspective, peace can only be thought as separate from security, and emancipation as incompatible with violence. Key Words: aesthetics • emancipation • fundamentalism • nihilism • non-violence • peace • subjectivity • violence.
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