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Maria Muhle: From the Plebs to the Demos: Two Notions of Political Subjectification
From the Plebs to the Demos: Two Notions of Political Subjectification
(p. 25 – 41)

Maria Muhle

From the Plebs to the Demos: Two Notions of Political Subjectification

PDF, 17 pages

This essay reconsiders the tradition and departure of Rancière from Foucauldian discourse analysis, recapitulating the basic concepts of politics and police in the examination of the plebs and the demos as terms and concepts between these thinkers. To think the political as a politics of the supplement returned to the voidless police is to acknowledge the precondition for the latter’s rupture, and to render it distinguishable. Across that rupture, the demos is that which is at once the whole and its part, and the defining moment of those that lack a part in the whole. Its aesthetic involves a quasi-mimetic capacity, to which Foucault’s treatment of the plebs as an aspect of the infamous can be considered precursory. This leads to what is probably the central, certainly the most persistent question of thinking the political: How can resistance be thought within systems, if those systems double as the objects of resistance? As Foucault places the resistance of the plebs within the relations of power from which it emerges, the mimesis that familiarizes resistance at its most dangerous with the shape of the resisted comes into focus.

  • contemporary art
  • art
  • activism
  • resistance
  • politics
  • social movements
  • community

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Maria Muhle

is professor for aesthetic theory at Merz Akademie Stuttgart. Her research focuses on contemporary political and aesthetic theory, especially on biopolitics and the notion of “aesthetic realism” in the context of a political aesthetics. She is also the co-founder of August Verlag Berlin, a publishing house for theory at the crossroads of philosophy, politics and arts.

Other texts by Maria Muhle for DIAPHANES
Anneka Esch-van Kan (ed.), Stephan Packard (ed.), ...: Thinking – Resisting – Reading the Political

This volume contrasts a number of recently suggested concepts of the political – each of which connects to certain instances of art and literature in its discourse – with questions concerning the rigidity of those connections: How strongly do such claims to politics depend on their specific examples, what is the scope of their validity to understand art with regard to politics, and how can they help us grasp the political within other pieces of art? In each case, manners of thinking concepts of the political, the mutual resistance of such concepts and their academic treatment, and the turn towards specific readings informed by those concepts converge.

The essays collected in “Thinking Resistances. Current Perspectives on Politics, Community, and Art“ engage with political phenomena in their interrelations with arts as well as with recent theoretical and philosophical perspectives on the very meaning of politics, the political, and community.

With contributions by Armen Avanessian, Friedrich Balke, Judith Butler, Simon Critchley, Anneka Esch-van Kan, Josef Früchtl, Andreas Hetzel, Jon McKenzie, Dieter Mersch, Chantal Mouffe, Maria Muhle, Nikolaus Müller-Schöll, Stephan Packard, Wim Peeters, Jacques Rancière, Juliane Rebentisch, Gabriel Rockhill, Frank Ruda and Philipp Schulte.

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