We can now answer the question that has provided our first point of orientation. What is depoliticization critique? We need to start off by distinguishing between its localized and generalized varieties. In its localized variety, depoliticization critique is unable to invert the priority relation between ontology and politics, and can for that reason have depoliticizing effects. In its generalized variety, it politicizes ontology itself, drawing on the distinction between politics and the political and insisting that politics is beyond foundation in any final sense. This is the ontological aspect of depoliticization critique. Politics requires a foundation and attempts to provide one, but doing so is ontologically impossible, and that is precisely what accounts for the possibility of the political as a contingent phenomenon. As we have seen, ‘authentic’ politics is redefined in adversarial terms. The impossibility of closure means that we are called to fill the gaps politically, but not only in the sense that there is no other option. Rather, it is precisely a call to action.
By showing how Rousseau and Nietzsche opened up spaces that would otherwise have been sites of the closure of politics, we have shown what is at stake in this call. The ethical aspect of depoliticization is opened to us after we jettison three reifications. First, we have to do away with static concepts of human nature or an account of human history in terms of necessities (or pure accidents). The ethical aspect of depoliticization critique also requires us to move beyond accounts of universality that close off political space and force it to function according to universal criteria, thereby destroying it. Finally, we need to overcome the moral grounding and moral finality of politics. The ethical perspective under which politics appears to itself as emancipated from its ‘past’ fulfills these requirements, but politics cannot be a merely individual or artistic project. It rather represents the overcoming of ontologizing moves by effecting the connection between what is given and action not as a necessary one, but as one that consists of both linkage and heterogeneity. A Schmittian decision is required; one guided by as much knowledge as possible, but in the last instance a leap into the darkness. This double requirement is involved in what Derrida calls responsibility.
Now that we have developed depoliticization as a philosophical concept, we need to develop it further in a context of application. The one I have chosen to analyse is European politics. Why? Simply because ‘Europe’ is very often the target of depoliticization critique; and it has many unique features that I think can be fruitfully analyzed with the framework developed thus far.
In the next series of posts, we analyze the European Union from the perspective of depoliticization critique. This concerns mostly the uses and functions of moralization in European politics, the notion of the European citizen or public that is taken as the foundation of European politics, and the ethical ends – such as peaceful coexistence of the European states and economic growth – that are postulated by and for European politics.