Abstract
Predicated on a one-sided focus on political ‘voice’, analyses of political silences traditionally focused almost exclusively on their negative role as the harmful absence of participation or responsibility. More recently, a new appreciation for the wide spectrum of political functions of silence has gained ground, including forms of willful renitence and even active resistance. Yet this thematic expansion has also resulted in a loss of focus. Lacking a common analytical framework, research on political silences risks limiting itself to the purely additive: finding and filling in ever more minute ‘blank spots’ on the periphery of the map of political research. Building on the work of the German sociologist Niklas Luhmann, this paper proposes a solution to this dilemma by means of a reconsideration of the political role of expectations. In political discourse, the expected distribution of moments of silence and articulation expresses established power structures, while unexpected silences and the breaking of expected silences conversely present a powerful means of calling these into question. Focusing on this ambivalence paves the way to a new systematic typology of political silences as a distinct mode of political communication. But above all, it points to the value of silence as an analytical probe, an instrument to fathom the expectations and constraints structuring political discourse in various contexts and spaces. Besides providing the study of silence with an overarching research focus, such an approach would thus build a bridge between the issue of political silence and wider debates on the structures of the political field as a whole.
Keywords silence  voice  politics  expectations  Niklas Luhmann  systems theory
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DOI 10.1080/13698230.2020.1796329
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On Revolution.E. J. Hobsbawm & Hanna Arendt - 1965 - History and Theory 4 (2):252.
Silence: A Politics.Kennan Ferguson - 2003 - Contemporary Political Theory 2 (1):49-65.
Silence: A Politics.Matt Cavanagh - 2003 - Contemporary Political Theory 2 (1):49-65.

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