Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 73 (3):525-551 (2013)

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This essay sets up a dialogue between Lefort’s view on the relationship between the state and modern society and Foucault’s thesis of a governmental turn in the modern power regime, whereby the relations between state and society are thoroughly redrawn. What are the main results? 1) Whereas Lefort’s political ontology leaves room for divergent agencies from which the symbolic institution of the social may unfold, his preoccupation with democracy leans him to inseparably link the symbolic institution of modern society with the functioning of the modern state. 2) By contrast, Foucault’s history of governmentality documents a shift from the political and legal power regime to the biopolitical regime. This shift seems to be accompanied by a turn in the regime of the symbolic institution of modern society. Where that institution hitherto relied on the state, today, a symbiosis of state and neoliberal governmentality seems to be taking over. 3) This shift in power regimes brings along major problems. In political respect, it leads to a re-adjustment of the instituting representations of contemporary society, to a depoliticization of political and social relations, and to the erosion of democracy.
Keywords Lefort  Foucault  State  The Political  Neoliberalism  Governmentality  Symbolic Institution
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