Is negative political ontology fundamental? Phenomenology on the limits of Heideggerianism

Document Type : Original Article


University of Winchester, United Kingdom


In this paper, my aim is to put into question Heideggerian versions of political ontology. In the first section of this article, I will discuss the main tenants of Heideggerian political ontology. I will then suggest that political ontologies indebted to Heidegger are based on a mistaken inference, which functions as an incorrect evidence for the political effectiveness of Heidegger’s concepts: the Heideggerians believe that the continuous changes which characterise ontic politics are an observable proof for the existence of a negative ontological foundation. My belief – which I will argue for in the second section of this paper – is that political phenomena do indeed appear as contingent (here I agree with the Heideggerians); however, this phenomenological fact does not necessitate the Heideggerian conclusion that ontic politics presupposes negative ontological foundations. Drawing on the phenomenological descriptions of Edmund Husserl, Emmanuel Levinas, and Catherine Malabou, I will demonstrate that phenomena might simultaneously appear as contingent and as grounded in positive objects and processes. Phenomenology, therefore, provides resources to critique Heideggerian political ontology, and its conviction that ontic contingency is an evidence for the existence of negative foundations. I will conclude the paper by offering a sketch of an alternative, positive political ontology centered on the notion of antagonism, and the concomitant concept of political change.


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