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Responsibility at the Limit: The Line Between Ethics and Politics

Madeleine Fagan

A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of International Politics Aberystwyth University

30th September 2009

DECLARATION This work has not previously been accepted in substance for any degree and is not being concurrently submitted in candidature for any degree. Signed. (candidate) Date. STATEMENT 1 This thesis is the result of my own investigations, except where otherwise stated. Where *correction services have been used, the extent and nature of the correction is clearly marked in a footnote(s). Other sources are acknowledged by footnotes giving explicit references. A bibliography is appended. Signed. (candidate) Date. [*this refers to the extent to which the text has been corrected by others] STATEMENT 2 I hereby give consent for my thesis, if accepted, to be available for photocopyng and for inter-library loan, and for the title and summary to be made available to outside organisations. Signed.. (candidate) Date.

Acknowledgements I have been extremely fortunate in having two fantastic supervisors. Professor Jenny Edkins has provided encouragement, guidance, support and inspiration; I cannot thank her enough for her patience and belief in both me and the thesis. In his position as secondary supervisor Professor Hidemi Suganami has gone far beyond the call of duty, engaging in close and careful reading of my work and providing a constant stream of challenging questions which have improved the clarity and precision of the thesis immeasurably. Most of my friends have had to put up with my absence for far too longthings will get better, I promise! Thanks to Miruna Canagaratnam, Mary Hayman, Parul Rabheru, Anna Solarska, Libby Tregillis and Abigail Wells for reminding me of life outside the thesis and not minding when I go silent for six months at a time. The International Politics Department in Aberystwyth has been a fantastic environment in which to study; friendly, stimulating and intellectually challenging. Thanks in particular to Laura Guillaume, who has kept me sane. I shall be eternally grateful that I have had her to make my way through the last few years with. Thanks also to the Politics department at the University of Exeter where I have found companionship and intellectual stimulation in the latter stages of the thesis. Most of all, my thanks go to my family. They have provided constant and unconditional emotional and financial support, encouragement and belief in me. My thanks for the wake-up calls, the proof-reading, the bibliographic assistance, and for holidays, fun, refuge, and reminding me that there are other things in lifefor this in particular I thank James. Finally, without Nick Vaughan-Williams this wouldnt have happened. He has been unfailingly inspirational, encouraging, engaged, patient and supportive. I cannot thank him enough. I would like to express my gratitude to the ESRC for the research studentship that funded this thesis.

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Summary This thesis engages critically with the question of how poststructuralist notions of ethics and responsibility might inform practical politics. The thesis reviews extant literature in Politics and International Relations which addresses this question and identifies a series of problematic assumptions that underlie these approaches. These tensions are, I argue, a result of a disjuncture between the question asked and the literature drawn upon to answer it. To explore these issues further the thesis then goes back to the work of Emmanuel Levinas, Jacques Derrida and Jean-Luc Nancy which underpins much of the secondary literature, to provide alternative readings of these authors which allow for a different framing of responses to this question. Rather than approaching ethics and politics as originally separable or derivable from one another the thesis argues that the focus needs to shift instead to the relationship between these concepts. The originary ethics drawn from Levinas in order to provide an ethical politics is, I argue, not straightforward. Instead, as the question is traced through this literature the notion of a transcendent Other and the corresponding idea of a pure ethical or responsible relation as a necessary or possible starting point for ethics is challenged. Nancys focus on the line or limit refigures the relationship between ethics and politics in such a way that they are only on the line which both separates and joins them. In this alternative reading both immanence and transcendence are corrupted as grounds, so nothing remains to provide answers on the better way to proceed. Ultimately, returning to the original question, this means that there are no groundsparticularly ethical oneson which to construct a politics of anything; only ethical-political decisions on possible answers can be made.

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Contents Preliminaries Declarations....i Acknowledgementsii Summary...iii Contents....iv

Introduction Ethics in Contemporary Political Life1 Relativism or Inconsistency: A Double Bind.3 Critical Treatments of Ethics and Politics..9 Rethinking Ethics and Politics.12

Chapter 1 Poststructuralist Approaches to Ethics and Politics Introduction..22 Poststructuralist Approaches to Ethics and Politics.24 The Limits of a Poststructuralist Approach? Disrupting Rationality and Prioritising Alterity: Redressing the Balance? A Poststructuralist Ethics? The Move from Ethics to Politics36 David Campbell: The Politics of Alterity Simon Critchley: The Politics of Ethical Difference Alex Thomson: Democratic Politics

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Questions Raised..73 What Does Ethics Do? The Risk of Abstraction? Favouring Alterity and Multiplicity? Recognition and Cultivation Questioning the Questions Chapter Conclusions....89

Chapter 2 Emmanuel Levinas: Responsibility, Politics and the Third Introduction..92 The Other.96 The Other as Primary Subjectivity as Responsibility Response and Responsibility The Relation with the Other(s): The Face-to-Face and the Third..117 The Face The Third Problematising (Ir)Responsibility Problematising Ethics and Politics.133 Justice, Charity and the State Ethics and Politics Chapter Conclusions..144

Chapter 3 Jacques Derrida: The (Im)possibility of Responsibility Introduction148 Decision, Responsibility and Knowledge..150 Subjectivity and the Other Decision Knowledge The Third and the Undecidable..165 Impossible Responsibility Undecidability The Relation Between Ethics and Politics.179 Political Interventions The Conditional and Unconditional: Hospitality and Justice Deducing Ethics from Politics Chapter Conclusions..201

Chapter 4 Jean-Luc Nancy: Displacing the Other Introduction205 Being-With and the Singular Plural...208 Coexistence and the With The Singular-Plural Community.215 Communal Identity and Individuals The In-Common, Communication and Exposure

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Politics and the Political.222 Totalisation and the Retreat of the Political Practical Politics Ethics and Responsibility...233 The Ethical and the Political Relation with no Content Ethics Without Alterity? Separation and the Other Chapter Conclusions..248

Chapter 5 Drawing the Line Between Ethics and Politics: Implications for Practical Politics Introduction....253 Levinas, Derrida, Nancy: From Transcendence to Aporia256 The Original Questions: Looking for a More Responsible Politics...259 The Relation Between Ethics and Politics.267 Immanence and Transcendence.274 Relation and Separation Practical Politics.289 Chapter Conclusions..300

Conclusion Interrogating the Relationship between Ethics and Politics...304 Limitations and Further Questions.318 Bibliography.. ..323

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Introduction Ethics in Contemporary Political Life This thesis draws upon a range of critical work in order to investigate and offer possible new approaches to the broad themes of ethics, responsibility and politics. In particular, the thesis is interested in so-called poststructuralist approaches to ethics, and how these might inform practical politics. The thesis is motivated initially by very concrete, and very common, concerns. How might we relieve suffering? Should we intervene in the affairs of other states? How can we prevent genocide, and how might we best respond to its aftermath? To whom are we responsible? What are our obligations to those inside and outside our state boundaries? In short, what should we do?

Answers to these kinds of questions are usually framed in terms of an appeal to ethics, and this is often backed up by some kind of theory of ethics which informs our thinking. Within the discipline of International Relations (IR) this appeal to ethics frames thinking on a whole range of issues, from foreign policy to environmentalism, as well as more obvious ethical concerns such as human rights and torture. Theories of ethics then do a great deal of work in contemporary political life in terms of offering, arguing for and justifying various better ways to proceed.

A range of theoretical approaches in IR are used to address ethical issues, from cosmopolitanism and communitarianism to pragmatism, Critical Theory and

poststructuralism.1 While most of these theories in a sense lead somewhere, to some vision of a better political organisation, a more ethical way to proceed, a means of judging between ethical claims and so on, poststructuralism has been accused of leading nowhere. 2 It is this difference, and this critique of poststructuralism, which the thesis investigates. Although poststructuralism is a problematic term, I use it to refer to the way that the critics of the approach use the label to group work.3

There is a relative consensus within IR that poststructuralist work does not help with addressing these ethical concerns.4 If poststructuralism has anything to say about ethics, this is not, it is claimed, something which could be used in any practical way to provide answers to pressing ethical questions. In a very broad sense, this thesis examines whether or not this is the case, whether poststructuralist thought does offer any practical guidance for answering ethical questions, whether it can lead to any answers to the question of what we should do.

In light of this, the thesis is prompted in the first instance by criticisms put to socalled poststructuralist approaches which charge it with relativism, inconsistency, or
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See for example, Daniele Archibugi, The Global Commonwealth of Citizens: Toward Cosmopolitan Democracy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008); David Miller, National Responsibility and Global Justice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); Molly Cochran, Normative Theory in International Relations: A Pragmatic Approach (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999); Toni Erskine, Embedded Cosmopolitanism: Duties to Strangers and Enemies in a World of Dislocated Communities (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008); Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations (New York: Basic Books, 1977); Andrew Linklater, Critical Theory and World Politics: Citizenship, Sovereignty and Humanity (London: Routledge, 2007). 2 Chris Brown, International Relations Theory: New Normative Approaches (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992), 223. 3 Many authors associated with this term would resist being labelled as such and it encompasses a huge range of very different approaches. 4 See for example Brown, International Relations Theory; Chris Brown, Review Article: Theories of International Justice, British Journal of Political Science 27(2) (1997): 273-297; Chris Brown, Turtles All the Way Down: Anti-Foundationalism, Critical Theory and International Relations, Millennium 23 (1994): 213-236; Molly Cochran, Postmodernism, Ethics and International Political Theory Review of International Studies 21 (1995): 237-250; Stephen Krasner, The Accomplishments of International Political Theory, in Steve Smith, Ken Booth and Marysia Zalewski (eds), International Theory: Positivism and Beyond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996; Stephen K. White, 'Poststructuralism and Political Reflection', Political Theory 6(2) (1988): 186-208.

blandness in its treatment of ethics and politics; the argument is that work associated with this approach cannot help us with questions of real-world suffering. In the second instance, it is driven by an element of frustration with the literature which prompts these charges and responds to them. Although a range of seemingly divergent responses are offered, many of these ultimately proceed along a similar path. The problem is often approached, in very broad terms, as one of identifying an ethical starting point and then developing a politics from this.5 However, although faithful to the terms of the question posed by the critics, this seems at odds with the philosophical literature which these poststructuralist approaches draw on. This leads it seems to an impossible bind, as noted by the critics: either these approaches offer answers, which seems inconsistent with the philosophical underpinnings of the approach, or they resist doing so, in which case they are charged with relativism. The thesis pursues the question of whether there is a way out of this seeming impasse.

Relativism or Inconsistency: A Double Bind

The question of how poststructural approaches might inform political action is formulated in a number of ways. In the most general sense, poststructuralist approachesand deconstructive approaches in particularare seen as leading nowhere. What is missing, authors such as Chris Brown contend, is an ability to create theory.1 In the same vein Stephen White has argued that deconstruction leads to 'a perpetual withholding operation'.2 In response to the question 'how can

See for example David Campbell, National Deconstruction: Violence, Identity and Justice in Bosnia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998) and Simon Critchley, The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1992). 1 Brown, International Relations Theory, 223. 2 White, 'Poststructuralism, 191.

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poststructuralism inform political reflection?' he argues that the moves of deconstruction are the source of much frustration on the part of someone inquiring about political implications, for it can be interpreted as a strategy for avoiding certain sorts of questions that anyone concerned with politics and political reflection must face. Here is where the suspicion begins to emerge that poststructuralists cannot give coherent answers to such questions.3 As well as these general criticisms regarding giving any answers at all, the specific weakness most often highlighted is the lack of criteria provided by these authors to judge between competing arguments in the fields of normative or ethical claims. For Stephen Krasner, for example, Post-modernism provides no methodology for adjudicating among competing claims If each society has its own truth what is the basis for arguing that they are wrong?4

Although expressions of the general dissatisfaction with approaches labelled as postmodern for not having a research programme, or testable hypotheses, or being able to create theory have become less prevalent, they have been superseded by a more nuanced style of questioning, one which self-consciously claims to have taken on board the way in which these approaches cannot be judged by the same criteria as positivist approaches. While not disregarding the insights of poststructuralism wholesale these sympathetic readings nonetheless find themselves running up against what they see as the limitations in this otherwise potentially interesting body of literature when it comes to judging normative claims.

These are the more interesting critiques for the purposes of my discussion because they demonstrate precisely the way in which the questioning of poststructuralism
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White, 'Poststructuralism, 189. Krasner, The Accomplishments of International Political Theory, 125.

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along these lines, however sympathetically approached, cannot produce satisfactory answers. These critiques are not the product of a careless reading but of a very real disjuncture between approaches: poststructuralist approaches are indeed lacking if these are the criteria by which they are judged.

This series of questions generally starts with the assumption, explicit or not, that justifications and decisions, particularly of an ethical variety, need to be based on impartial rules. As Brown argues, the problem with poststructuralists is that they are unwilling to think of ethics in terms of the requirements of justice, where justice is understood in terms of acting in accordance with impartial rules.5 Similarly, Molly Cochran, whilst recognising the political import of a condemnation of existing political orders and practices (as undertaken in this case by Ashley and Walker), makes the argument that clearly, a criterion of judgement, however understated, must be the base of such condemnation.6

Cochrans argument however is twofold, firstly a restatement of the assumption that criteria are required for judgement and secondly an argument that Ashley and Walker are in fact sharing this assumption (though they may be unaware of doing so, or attempting to disguise the fact). That is, that their judgements are based on grounds and criteria and hence their approach is inconsistent.7 Starting from the assumption
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Brown, Theories of International Justice, 294. See also Brown, Turtles All the Way Down, 225, for a discussion of the need for foundations/justifications. 6 Cochran, Postmodernism, 246. Ashley and Walker themselves discuss these types of claims in some depth in Richard K. Ashley and R. B. J. Walker, Reading Dissidence/Writing the Discipline: Crisis and the Question of Sovereignty in International Studies, Special Issue: Speaking the Language of Exile: Dissidence in International Studies, International Studies Quarterly 34(3) (1990), 367-416, 368. See also Marysia Zalewski, All These Theories yet the Bodies Keep Piling up in Steve Smith, Ken Booth and Marysia Zalewski (eds), International Theory: Positivism and Beyond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) for a discussion of the problems with this type of questioning and requirements for criteria. 7 Cochran, Normative Theory.

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that criteria are required, it is impossible to conceive of a political or ethical intervention which does not make reference to these criteria in some way. This, the logic runs, where there are political judgements, there must, somewhere in the shadows, be grounds and criteria. Approaches informed by poststructuralism then cannot, if they are to be internally consistent, engage in ethical or political judgement.

This is one arm of the pincer movement in which critics would place poststructuralist approaches. The second is the insistence that when these approaches do offer guidance on how to go about making judgements, they do not go far enough. There is ultimately a lack of content in any poststructuralist ethics; insufficient guidance on how we might go about ensuring a better global politics.8 In response to work in this area by Maja Zehfuss, Hannes Stephan makes a similar point in asking how this might help us to answer the question of how to recognise and combat evil, as opposed to mere difference. 9 Similarly, Brown thinks that Campbells ethical prescriptions are a little bland.10

The difficulty in judging competing claims is also addressed by authors who identify themselves as working within a broadly poststructuralist approach. In this case the questioning is of a slightly different form but ultimately points to a similar dissatisfaction. This work engages with this difficulty in order to produce a discussion of the possible ways in which we might be able to differentiate between others and resist violences based on this approach. The desire to be able to differentiate between

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Cochran, Postmodernism, 250. See also Cochran, Normative Theory, chapter 4. Hannes R. Stephan, Book Review: Constructivism in International Relations: The Politics of Reality by Maja Zehfuss, IN-SPIRE (July 2004): 251. 10 Chris Brown, Theories of International Justice, 295.

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good and bad others is evident for example in Richard Kearneys work,11 whilst David Hoy asks how poststructuralism might assist with normative justifications of resistance to domination. He addresses head-on the problem of relativism, as he sees it, through the question why resist?, that is, why resist this particular form of violence?12 Poststructuralism, he argues, may need supplementing if it is to be ethically and politically relevant.13 The interesting thing here is that whilst Hoy acknowledges that the questions he asks are not the poststructuralist questions, he attempts to answer them anyway. Jim George also explicitly poses this question in relation to Levinas, asking how do we choose between competing responsibilities?.14

It is from this literature that the terms of the question addressed in the thesis are drawn. It is this literature which positions the work of authors such as Ashley, Walker and Campbell as poststructuralist and which situates its questioning in the disciplinary context of Politics and IR. The thesis is a response to the research question what are the implications of poststructuralist conceptions of ethico-political responsibility for thinking about practical politics?

Many of the authors considered in the thesis would hesitate to subscribe to the poststructuralist label, and the diversity of the work collected under this banner is huge. One question which I examine in the thesis is whether a poststructuralist answer in general can be given or makes sense. Only particular authors and texts can be considered and those in the selection addressed here have in common a motivation
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See for example Richard Kearney, Strangers, Gods and Monsters: Interpreting Otherness (London: Routledge, 2003). 12 David Couzens Hoy, Critical Resistance: From Poststructuralism to Post-Critique (Cambridge MA: MIT press, 2004). 13 Hoy, Critical Resistance. 14 Jim George, Realist Ethics, International Relations, and Post-modernism: Thinking Beyond the Egoism-Anarchy Thematic, Millennium 24(2) (1995): 195-223, 211.

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to explicitly answer the questions of applications and practical ethics and politics. This means that the thesis seeks to investigate sources which may not usually be considered poststructuralistfor example the work of Emmanuel Levinasas well as work which falls outside the disciplines of Politics and IR. The framing of the thesis in terms of poststructuralist approaches is a reference only to the terms of the question posed to authors seen to be working in this tradition. Similarly, the use of practical politics is a reference to the particular kinds of answers that this questioning seems to demand. That is, the criticism usually levelled, as discussed above, is that poststructuralist approaches do not tell us what we should do in the practical realm; they may produce theory about politics but this is of little use in answering real world ethical and political questions.

This question of practical politics is an enduring and seductive one. Particularly with regard to so-called poststructuralist accounts, authors are charged by their critics with a demand to make clear what their approach can tell us about this practical realm, in terms of both politics and ethics. In trying to demonstrate the substantial practical ethical and political significance of a poststructuralist argument, I analyse whether the temptation is to provide answers which satisfy these critics, in terms of political or ethical guidance, however minimal. This is, after all, the only way in which a question posed in this way can be addressed on its own terms. The possibility of this tendency in the poststructuralist literature provides the second observation which drives the thesis.

Critical Treatments of Ethics and Politics

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What is interesting about approaches such as Cochrans is that they do flag up an important issue. The problems with inconsistency may be real ones, that is, showing how offering criteria and guidelines is inconsistent with a poststructuralist approach is not an unimportant gesture. But it is not as if Ashley and Walker are unaware of this difficulty. It is here that a key issue emerges: whether we need to go about making judgements, interventions and arguments without recourse to foundational claims or clear criteria (and if so, how), or whether some minimal guidelines might be found to assist in this. The thesis investigates whether, in the literature on which I focus, these minimal grounds can be found. Is Cochran is correct in arguing that an affirmative ethics does not fit with postmodern method, at least as far as the authors I consider?1 Is thinking of ethics in terms of whether it is affirmative the only option? The thesis asks whether an ethics of this affirmative type can be constructed and what the impact of attempting to do this is. Does a construction of this type limit the scope of an interrogation of the particular construction in political and ethical terms?

The issue at stake then may not be that poststructuralist approaches do not go far enoughdo not have enough content, are not affirmative enoughbut that there may be in some work a tendency to go too far, to try to appease those asking for an ethics and to provide it in the terms imposed by the questioners. It is this attempt at answering which then means that the parallel lines of critique, of inconsistency or emptiness outlined above can be introduced. One overall aim of the thesis is to systematically examine the terms of the questions put to poststructuralist approaches, as one possible way out of this impasse.

Cochran, Postmodernism, 250.

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However, the construction of or perceived need for ethical codes is not only performed by critics of poststructuralism. The reason that this type of questioning needs to be examined in detail is precisely because it also informs poststructuralist contributions. Whilst approaching issues in a very different way from their critics, there is nonetheless enough of a similarity here, at least on some readings, for charges of inconsistency or relativism to gain a foothold.

Rather than dismissing these critiques out of hand, it is instructive to examine the conditions for their possibility in more detail. That is, it is useful to address whether, and to what extent, poststructuralist authors do engage with the questions as posed to them in the terms of those questions. In the terms of Cochrans critique of Ashley, Walker, and Connolly for example the question then becomes whether Cochran misreads what are particular political choices as prescriptions, or whether her highlighting of these prescriptions does demonstrate a tendency by these authors to determine a political programme.

The work which opens itself to these charges falls into (at least) two groups. On the one hand, authors such as Jim George offer more specific suggestions; a commitment to a democratic and emancipatory political agenda, an opposition to fascism, a stance of permanent critique. 2 George argues for an ethics, simply put, which insists that there are no good reasons why Others in the world should not have the opportunities that I have had for a healthy environment, education, a secure food supply, and the chance for participation in political decision-making. In general, therefore, it is an ethic which supports political strategies which seek to provide this opportunity and, in general, opposes political strategies which seek to deny it.3
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George, Realist Ethics, 219, 222. Jim George, Realist Ethics, International Relations, and Post-modernism: Thinking Beyond the Egoism-Anarchy Thematic, Millennium 24(2) (1995): 195-223, 219.

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On the other hand, work such as Michael Dillons is less straightforward in its suggestions. Underlying these other approaches is a shared assumption that whilst we may not be able to make general prescriptions about the best way to proceed or which political institutions to support and so on, there is nonetheless a need to recognise our way of being as disrupted, shared, and other to itself, and to find ways of welcoming this otherness or alterity. Dillon argues for cultivating an ethos that welcomes rather than denies the human plurality that is integral to its being.4 It is in this vein that Ashley and Walker also contribute, in calling for an ethics of marginal conduct; constantly critically working on limits, 5 or an ethics of freedom. 6 Outside of the disciplines of Politics and IR, Jeffrey Nealon calls for an ethics which affirms alterity, leading to an alterity politics of response and Richard Kearney seeks a strategy for distinguishing good from bad others. 7

Of course, this tendency is not evident across all the work of the various authors mentionedthese are very selective examples intended only to illustrate the difficulty in moving outside the terms of the question. Nor is it evident in all the authors addressing these themes. Jenny Edkins, Vronique Pin-Fat, Nick Vaughan-Williams, and Maja Zehfuss for example offer approaches which steer away from this inclination and in doing so move outside of the bounds of the question.8 However, these are more oblique treatments of the issues which I pursue in the thesis.
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Michael Dillon, Another Justice, Political Theory 27(2) (1999): 155-175, 162. Ashley and Walker, Reading Dissidence, 392. 6 Ashley and Walker, Reading Dissidence, 395. 7 Jeffrey T. Nealon, Alterity Politics: Ethics and Normative Subjectivity (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998), 14. See also David Couzens Hoy, Critical Resistance: From Poststructuralism to PostCritique (London: The MIT Press, 2005). 8 See for example Jenny Edkins, Whose Hunger: Concepts of Famine, Practices of Aid (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000; Vronique Pin-Fat, Universality, Ethics and International Relations: A Grammatical Reading (London: Routledge, forthcoming); Michael J. Shapiro, Cinematic Geopolitics (London: Routledge, 2008); Nick Vaughan-Williams, Border Politics: The Limits of Sovereign Power (Edinburgh; Edinburgh University Press, 2009) and Maja Zehfuss, Wounds of Memory: The Politics of War in Germany (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
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It is at this point that my analysis starts because, whilst the debates between various approaches on the issue of ethical guidance are of key importance, this is not the primary positioning of the thesis. Rather, the thesis starts at the point of examining the responses given by poststructuralist authors to the questions outlined above, the way in which they have approached the difficulties in negotiating this type of questioning and the insights and limits of their approaches.

Rethinking Ethics and Politics

I will ask in the thesis whether the temptation to offer answers in the terms of the original question should be resisted. The thesis considers whether the philosophical work which many of these poststructuralist arguments draw on provides resources for such an answer and whether, if not, this is a failing or limitation. I explore whether the work of the philosophical authors I consider is lacking in such as way as to require a supplementthat Derrida needs supplementing with Levinas, or Levinas with Derrida,9 for exampleor whether the lack is where ethical and political possibilities are brought to the forefront.

Through exploring this question the thesis aims to offer one possible way out of the debate about ethics thought of in terms of what we should do. It focuses on whether this approach must always ultimately rely on grounds or foundations which may be problematic. The thesis aims to contribute to the undoing of the terms of this type of

As Critchley and Campbell respectively, argue in Critchley, The Ethics of Deconstruction and Campbell, National Deconstruction.

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question and answer, which are, I will argue, what underlie any approach thought of in terms of what ethics might offer by way of guidance for practical politics.

What this undoing, through foregrounding the limitations of so-called poststructuralist thought introduces is a possibility for making ethical and political claims without generalising, abstracting or needing to rely fully on grounds or foundations. That is, the opening of the possibility for making and convincingly arguing ethical claims outside of the terms of the dominant way of thinking. But the authors I draw on, I will argue, do not provide means to adjudicate between claims, do not, in and of themselves, lead to any particular ethical or political commitments. Nor do they lead to a position which prefers the opening, destabilising and welcoming which is often seen to characterise their thought. Rather, they demonstrate that we are always placed (whether this is acknowledged or not) in an unstable position between competing imperatives and that there is no secure way of choosing between these claims. In fact, they demonstrate that insecurity is the very condition of possibility for ethics and politics. Further, these authors do not lead to the position that acknowledging or recognising this positioning is any better than not.

However, the thesis asks whether it is precisely these limitations, these refusals to claim that one way is better than another, which allows for this work to be properly ethical and political. If these approaches do not give any answers, does an appreciation of this mean that claims can and must be interrogated as properly political, or ethical, in each instance? Are these modes of interrogation themselves the end or groundis the question of whether a recognition of our political and ethical situation is the better outcome also a political one?or are they rather all we are left

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with? A key concern of the thesis is the exploration of whether stopping at this point is a satisfactory answer or approach, and whether it is possible to go any further.

The central question, of the implications of poststructuralist conceptions of ethicopolitical responsibility for thinking about practical politics, relies on a number of presuppositions which I go on to interrogate: the separation between ethics and politics, and a particular understanding of what these realms might comprise, and the separation of theoretical and practical realms. These separations are enabled by particular readings of the philosophical literature whereby the terms on which these separations rely are similarly seen to be in an oppositional and separable relationship, terms such as singular/plural, conditional/unconditional, other/third, immanent/transcendent. Rethinking these relationships through a re-examination of the philosophical literature allows then for a rethinking of the nature of the relationship between ethics and politics. This in turn allows for a different route into thinking about responsibility and practical politics.

If the philosophical literature on which poststructural positions draw has merit then our usual ways of developing answers to pressing ethical and political issues are thrown into question. Thinking in terms of adding poststructural insights to alreadyexisting modes of enquiry does not work, as demonstrated by the charges of relativism and inconsistency. However, these remain important questions that we need to offer answers to and, importantly, that we do offer answers to. As such, new ways of thinking about how to do this and about how we do do this are urgently necessary, and these, it seems, may need to start with an analysis of the terms and mode of enquiry.

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Whilst some poststructuralist work does address this question of what poststructuralist notions of ethics might have to say about practical politics, one hypothesis is that the terms in which it is posed mean that no answer which draws on poststructuralist approaches will ever be satisfactory, either in the terms in which the question is posed, or in terms of fidelity to the philosophical literature which is drawn on. In the face of questioning of this type, so-called poststructuralist approaches are placed in an impossible bind: either the answers given are seen as weak and relativist, or they are seen as internally contradictory. There is a sense in which I am sympathetic to these criticisms. Answers of the type desired by the critics necessarily fall, I will argue, into one of these camps. However, the question remains whether this is a failing of the question itself, and the temptation to answer it, rather than of the poststructuralist approach.

In order to investigate more fully what existing literature offers in response to the question of poststructuralism, ethics and politics, I draw initially on the work of David Campbell, Simon Critchley and William Connolly. These authors all attempt to set out, from a poststructuralist perspective, an answer to what an ethical politics might look like. Although a great deal of other work touches on these issues, these are particularly detailed and systematic approaches. They also all draw on the work of Jacques Derrida, whose deconstructive approach is frequently cited, as above, when arguing that poststructuralist approaches do not help us with ethical and political questions. The thesis then actually addresses a rather more limited question than that posed by the critics of poststructuralism, but this in itself is part of the answer. This

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also means that there are many other possible answers, drawing on other collections of literature which might be, and have been, formulated.

The literature I focus on in Chapter 1 then is work which attempts to answer the question of the application of poststructuralist ethics to politics, and which deals explicitly with this theme. Although the field here is relatively broad, as suggested above, much of the work draws on the thought of Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida and so it is the authors who develop this thought that I focus on, in particular Campbell, Critchley and Connolly. In engaging with the work of these authors I investigate whether there is a tendency towards providing grounds or prescriptions, albeit very minimal and of a rather different kind from those usually posited. I ask whether in this literature there is a desire to provide an account of a poststructuralist ethics, which can be used to inform politics and a corresponding political goal.

This analysis raises the question of whether the positions articulated are necessary outcomes of the philosophical literature that is drawn on, whether they are supported by this literature, and whether they represent the only possible reading of it. Do Levinas and Derrida provide resources for answering the question that the authors in Chapter 1 draw on them to do? If the charges of inconsistency, relativism or blandness can be made, is this a valid critique of either authors such as Campbell, Critchley and Connolly, or of the positions they draw on? To what extent does the question which Levinas and Derrida are drawn upon to answer determine the reading of their work which is adopted? In order to investigate this I turn back to the philosophical literature.

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Chapter 2 focuses on the work of Emmanuel Levinas, who often provides the ethical starting point for the approaches discussed in Chapter 1. I ask whether this starting point is as clear-cut as it initially seems, whether Levinas does provide resources from which either ethical or political positions can be developed. The chapter presents a reading of his work where the figure of the Third is foregrounded. The chapter asks whether a reliance on a particular reading of Levinas in which the Third is not taken seriously enough leads to the attempt to provide an ethics which can then be used to inform politics. Does Levinas provide an unproblematic ethical starting point, as he is often taken as doing? Are ethics and politics separable in Levinass work in such a way that one can inform the other?

The adoption of Levinas as a resource for the thinkers discussed in Chapter 1 is in many ways due to the use of his thought by Jacques Derrida. This chapter investigates whether Levinas can provide the ethical backbone of a deconstructive approach as he is often taken to do (for example by the authors considered in Chapter 1). Chapter 3 then moves on to consider Derridas work and investigate whether Derrida provides resources lacking in Levinas for formulating an ethical politics.

With a more explicit focus on the difficulties internal to concepts such as ethics and responsibility, Derridas work highlights more clearly the problems in constructing an ethics. Overall, these chapters ask whether it is possible to read the work of Levinas and Derrida as rather more complementary than is often the case. Is the approach whereby one provides resources to fill in the gaps in the others work supported, and are there alternative ways of looking at their relationship?

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Derridas work focuses in more detail on the nature of the relation between ethics and politics and raises the question of the relation between them and of the possibility of ethics and responsibility. This chapter analyses Derridas use of ethics and politics and their relationship to the realms of the conditional and unconditional, right and law and so on. I ask whether these realms are separable and whether the concepts of ethics and politics are aligned with one or the other. Derridas work also introduces the themes of aporia and hiatus which raises the question of how we might be able to think about the concepts of ethics and politics with this in mind. How are ethics and politics connected or separated? How might they be separated or contain a gap within themselves? Is this gap or limit a problem to be overcome?

In order to examine the notion of this gap, line or limit further, Chapter 4 turns to the work of Jean-Luc Nancy. Nancy provides a resource rarely used in the literature on ethics and politics in IR and Politics which I focus on here, but one which is useful in thinking about how the concepts of ethics and politics are related. Both Levinas and Derrida retain a commitment, even if only as a starting point for demonstrating their interpenetration, to thinking ethics and politics in opposition. Nancy, on the other hand, shifts the terms of the debate somewhat, in focusing instead on the line or limit as such as the starting point. Nancys ontology of being-with thus provides one alternative way of approaching questions of ethics and politics which allows for a move outside the framing of the debate in terms of how ethics might inform politics.

Whilst Levinas and Derrida both bring into question whether we need something from outside to provide ethical impetus, to interrupt the totalising realm of politics, and whether there is any place from which to derive original principles, Nancy gives this

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questioning a place at the centre of his project. The chapter explores his concept of transimmanence as a potential way of reconceptualising the nature of and relation between ethics and politics which means that we do not need to look to an outside for ethics, or rather which disrupts the terms of the question that places immanence and transcendence in opposition in this way. Nancy provides a possible way out of oppositional thinking with implications for how we think about ethics and politics, responsibility and the importance of the line or limit not as limitation but as site of possibility.

Having brought into focus the questioning of the line between ethics and politics, Chapter 5 then investigates the implications of this for the original research question. The chapter asks whether we need to appeal to an outside to provide ethics or an ethical disruption, and whether there are grounds on which we can know if this disruption is the better way to proceed. Can ethics solve the questions of politics? Can a politics of anything be derived from it?

Whilst the authors considered for example in Chapter 1 attempt to get away from the problem of providing programmes for politics by recourse to politics in terms of practices I ask whether this attempt is successful. Can or must we consider ethics and politics as the same types of things? What are the implications of doing this? Is it possible to move away from the notion of ethics as answerable and decidable and if so what does this mean for politics?

This final chapter investigates what the implications are of an approach which refuses an answer to the problem of ethics. It asks whether ultimately this leads back to

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relativism and a disengagement from political decisions. The chapter also looks into the question of whether a recognition of the difficulties inherent in ethical and political decisions should be promoted; whether it is better to acknowledge or uncover the unstable grounds on which we operate.

It seems very difficult to break away from a notion of ethics as decidable, and so a corresponding notion of politics as answerable is always present. In this instance, politics slips back into being answerable rather than a question of practices. Reemphasising practical politics goes some way towards resisting the temptation to theorise political answers but this move can only be made once the relationship between ethics and politics and the nature of these concepts in the first place has been re-examined. However, and perhaps more importantly, what emerges is that the decision to recognise or cover over the difficulties in providing programmes or theories are ultimately ethical and political ones. The thesis does not provide grounds for arguing that this uncovering, or politicisation, is the better way to proceed. The philosophical literature drawn on, it will be argued, provides no guidance. This leads to neither relativism nor inconsistency but to unlimited ethical and political decisions and interventions, whether recognised as such or not, for which, in the absence of grounds we, as singular-plural, are always responsible. Of course, this lack of ground casts the analysis offered in the thesis too in terms of an ethical and political intervention. This too undertakes the task of theorising and making general claims about the nature of politics, but one key point is that we cannot get away from this; it is all we can, and do, do.

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The student has requested that this electronic version


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of the thesis does not include the main body of the work - i.e. the chapters and conclusion. The other sections of the thesis are available as a research resource.

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