Agonism, Democracy, and Law

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The essay will begin by examining the origins of agonism in the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s early text ’Homer’s Contest’. It will then attempt to formulate a political interpretation of agonism that could provide law and legal studies a post-Marxist and Nietzschean critical position in which democracy is central. A first attempt at the formulation is an analysis of the constitutional theorist Carl Schmitt’s ’antagonist’ and ’polemical’ notion of politics that is based on a friend-enemy distinction, and of the consequences of such a notion for state constitutions and law. Schmitt serves as the background for the political theorist Chantal Mouffe whose ’agonistic pluralism’ represents a conscious effort to moderate Schmitt’s existentially belligerent critique of liberalism into a workable politics in late modernity. Interpretations of agonism provided by William E. Connolly and Bonnie Honig and their possible links to law and legal studies are then briefly discussed. The essay concludes that there is a kinship between political agonism understood in this way and a contemporary strain in political theory represented by, for example, Jacques Rancière. The roots of this kinship are traced finally to a post-Marxist tradition of ’radical liberalism’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Law and the Humanities
EditorsSimon Stern, Maksymilian Del Mar, Bernadette Meyler
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication date2 Apr 2020
Article number23
ISBN (Print)9780190695620
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2020
MoE publication typeA3 Book chapter

Fields of Science

  • 513 Law
  • 517 Political science
  • 611 Philosophy

Cite this

Minkkinen, P. (2020). Agonism, Democracy, and Law. In S. Stern, M. Del Mar, & B. Meyler (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Law and the Humanities (pp. 427-442). [23] Oxford: Oxford University Press.