The Poetics of Political Thinking

The Poetics of Political Thinking
Book Pages: 192 Illustrations: 2 illustrations Published: February 2006

Author: Davide Panagia

Subjects
Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory, Politics > Political Theory, Theory and Philosophy

In The Poetics of Political Thinking Davide Panagia focuses on the role that aesthetic sensibilities play in theorists’ evaluations of political arguments. Examining works by thinkers from Thomas Hobbes to Jacques Rancière, Panagia shows how each one invokes aesthetic concepts and devices, such as metaphor, mimesis, imagination, beauty, and the sublime. He argues that it is important to recognize and acknowledge these poetic forms of representation because they provide evaluative standards that theorists use in appraising the value of ideas—ideas about justice, politics, and democratic life. An investigation into the intertwined histories of aesthetic and political accounts of representation—such as Panagia presents here—sheds light on how modes of poetic thinking delimit the questions of unity and diversity that continue to animate contemporary political theory.

Panagia not only illuminates the structure of much contemporary political theory but also shows why understanding the poetics of political thinking is vital to contemporary society. Drawing on Gilles Deleuze’s critique of negation and his privileging of paradox as the source of political thought, Panagia suggests that a non-teleological concept of difference might generate insight into pressing questions about foreignness and citizenship. Turning to the liberal/poststructural debate that dominates contemporary political theory, he compares John Rawls’s concept of justice to Rancière’s ideas about political disagreement in order to demonstrate how, despite their differences, both thinkers comprehend aesthetic and moral reasoning as part and parcel of political writing. Considering the writings of William Hazlitt and Jürgen Habermas, he describes how the essay has become the exemplary genre of what is considered rational political argument. The Poetics of Political Thinking is a compelling reappraisal of the role of representation within political thought.

Praise

“[I]t should be clear to all readers that this will be a fertile area of theoretical and political engagement in the future. The Poetics of Political Thinking provides an excellent place to begin this important engagement.” — Samuel A. Chambers, Political Theory

“A picture, we are given to believe, paints a thousand words. Davide Panagia’s short book (124 pages of text) also achieves much with a few well-chosen—even masterful—brush strokes. . . . Its great merit is that the reader is stimulated and provoked by the range and diversity of offerings.” — Leslie Paul Thiele, Theory and Event

“Panagia has written an insightful and provocative book. Though not uncharted territory, he provides a relevant and fruitful analysis of the aesthetic dimensions of political judgment. His reinterpretations of key political figures can only improve the quality of future scholarship and bridge existing ideological divisions.” — Edvard Lorkovic, Philosophy in Review

“While not quite a genealogy, The Poetics of Political Thinking exposes the legacy of two prominent aesthetics that support the idea that political thought should get beyond imagery and reach a domain of truth that is universally recognizable.” — Eve Wiederhold, jac

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Davide Panagia holds a Canada Research Chair and is Assistant Professor in the Cultural Studies Department of Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario.

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Paper: 978-0-8223-3718-8 / Cloth: 978-0-8223-3706-5
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