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Opening Spaces beyond Dialectics

As a historical process, all parts of the modern world are brought into a complex set of colonial relations (Wang 2012: 746). In these various tensions between divisions and oppositions, as we will show throughout the book, there is also a self-consciously post-orthodox hybrid trend where seemingly contradictory notions are combined to make “new things” happen (Turner 2010: 316). As Horujy argues, the meeting of sharply different worlds can produce not only conflicts and clashes (i.e., in the form of what Agemben calls remnants; more on this below), but also fruitful connections, in the form of new global political, social and cultural realities (2015: xxi) through the process of hybridization. What we suggest is that we should shift the epistemological structure of knowledge that is based on comparative logic in order to appreciate the hybridizing tendency of things (Ko and Weng 2011: 230). By so doing, China’s experience of modernity can be more productively seen as “an epistemic shift from the older regional network to the inter-national world system of trade and power, and from the local and indigenous cosmologies to a global system of knowledge” (Wang 2012: 746).

It is either a remnant that does not fit any dialectical division or a hybridization that combines the division that operates in the real social body (such as Hoffman’s duty of patriotic professionalism). The differentiating practices of many things are the practices of construction, and thus objects and properties to which these concepts seem to refer are not true to a world independent of us but rather the arbitrary constructions of particular language (Bevir and Rhodes 2010: 70). Thus, we argue, it is always necessary to assume a certain assertion that does not belong to the logical realm of observation or deduction, in other words, an assertion that does not belong exactly to the realm of true or false (Foucault et al. 2014: 96).

As such, critical reflexivity is to be premised on epistemological uncertainty (Amoureux 2015: 92), and any attempt to measure the degree of modernization with a linear developmental scale is surely misguided (Wei-Ming 2005: 151). Similarly, if the “Sinic World” or the “post-Con- fucian” region has succeeded in assuming a modern form of life, then the sharp dichotomy between tradition and modernity must be rejected as untenable, and not useful for analysing developing countries as well as more highly industrialized or post-industrial societies (150-151). In China’s case, active participation in the economic, political, social and cultural life of a thoroughly modernized community is not necessarily in conflict with being authentically Chinese, which implies the possibility that modernization may enhance rather than weaken Chineseness (151).

In this regard, as Agamben argues, what is in question is the epistemological paradigm of inquiry itself (Agamben et al. 2009: 89). Having exposed the problematic approach of comparison and deconstructed the notion of the “linear history of development,” we must thus engage with the moment of a phenomenon’s arising and must renew the sources and tradition of this arising (89). On the one hand, we should examine the moment when knowledge, discourses and spheres of objects are constituted (84); on the other hand, the moment is not an objective given (or specific site in time), but rather a constitutive heterogeneity inherent in historical inquiry itself (85).

That is to say, the moment of arising is objective and subjective at the same time, which means it is never the emergence of the fact without at the same time being the emergence of the knowing subject itself: the operation on the origin is at the same time an operation on the subject (89). Furthermore, as criticism concerns not just the ancient character of the past, but above all must be concerned with the mode in which the past has been constructed into a tradition, it deals with the very structure of historical inquiry (87). The episteme is itself a historical practice (93). As the secondary process of consciousness is always delayed with respect to the primary process of desire and the unconscious, thus the function of analysis is to reduce apparent novelty by showing that it is actually a revival of the same way of happening of the old (96-97).

The history of religion and secularization provides a good example of a case in point. For example, Agamben et al. suggests that we should avoid the very term “religion” and “secular,” and try to instead imagine an x that we must take every care in defining through practising a kind of archaeology that suspends, at least provisionally, the attribution of predicates that we commonly ascribe to religion and law (2009: 90). It is an acknowledgement of the force of religion while disregarding its metaphysical claims (Khatami 2003: 124). The oldest history cannot be localized within chronology, but represents a present and operative tendency within historical languages, which conditions and makes intelligible their development in time (Agamben et al. 2009: 92). In modern politics, there is also an opposition between the discipline of self-purification and politics, between spirituality and “rationally grounding reflection” (Horujy 2015: 72-73). Even if spirituality is not totally absent from the rational, it was very poorly represented (Horujy 2015: 74). From this perspective, religion can be viewed as a kind of national ideology whose role was to provide the necessary foundational cohesion even if the members of the nation were in fact allowed, or already had, diverse religions (Yang 2008: 165-166). Secularization in this sense is a form of repression, which leaves intact the forces it deals with by simply moving them from one place to another. Thus, the political secularization of theological concepts (the transcendence of God as a paradigm of sovereign power) does nothing but displace the heavenly monarchy onto an earthly monarchy, leaving the power of religion intact (Agamben 2015:77). As a result, religion is both local and global, abstract and embodied, bounded by states and linked to international institutions, embedded and disembedded (Huang 1995: 54).

As dialectical logic presupposes contradictory terms that are nonetheless situated within a realm which is ultimately homogeneous, for two propositions to be contradictory or not, it is necessary that they have something in common on the basis of which they can contradict one another. Thus, strategic logic presupposes that it is possible to connect different terms productively; however, these terms nonetheless remain disparate (Dillon 2015: 62). It thus seems possible to breach, however briefly, the boundaries (or threshold) separating the conscious and unconscious, reason and unreason, pleasure and pain, which reveals how distinctions are pliable, uncertain and contingent (Miller 1993: 30). This is further formed by what we call (negative) remnant and (positive) hybridization by this ever-balancing force between oppositions. This is analogous to the immune system, which is “the ever-changing product of dynamic, competitive interactions with the environment rather than a definitive and inalterable given”; thus any distinction must vanish (Esposito cited in Wilmer and Zukauskaite 2015: 9). In other words, each group of discourses is (re)organized precisely according to binary oppositions (Agamben 2013: 12).

In other words, “a hegemonic discourse increases its bloc of control through the logic of equivalence but its ability to do so is limited by a logic of difference that precludes it from achieving full closure. This creates a space for counter-hegemonic discourse to emerge” (Bevir and Rhodes 2010: 55). For example, in the case of biopolitical power, as Wilmer and Zukauskaite argue, “if biopower seeks to define and to capture the biological or animalistic dimension of the political subject, the philosophy of posthumanism seeks to grant political status precisely to this animalistic dimension, human or non-human” (2015: 10). By so doing, the body can be seen as gendered, embodied and embedded, and thus opens the space for feminist materialist philosophy; second, the body engenders different materialist performative strategies, which redefine the notion of the human body or reconsider the notion of life itself; and last, humanization of animals and the bestialization of humans are regarded as two functions of the same biopolitical machine (9-10).

Thus, any critique of our modern politics has to address the analytic of finitude that has been formative in its production, of the infinity of the state, as well as of the infinity of the finite human (Dillon 2015: 88). At this breaking point, “experience” becomes a zone full of turbulence, unformed energy and chaos (Miller 1993: 30). In this sense, the discourse of the China Model, as we discussed in Chap. 2, is actually a kind of Chinese experience that serves as a paradigm for possible politico-economic relations in the world. In this field, critique is not the end goal, but it enables agents to respond to an elusive and messy environment where agencies continuously take shape in unpredictable ways (Amoureux 2015: 94). In this sense, we must reject Marx’s dialectic materialism which excises politics from history and a view of history that glosses over the particularity of events. Instead, we should embrace a positive and open-ended dialectic of reflexivity, by which we can frame an attitude that invites the possibility of self-transformation, rather than a synthesis or truth that repairs the contradictions of material and ideational forces (94). Thus, the approach we are advocating is one where we analyse life not only as multiplicity but also in multiple ways (Wilmer and Zukauskaite 2015: 16).

The productivity of strategic logic derives from connecting the heterogeneous with the different cartographies of the contingent, rather than resolving the contradictory into higher forms of the same. Strategy thus presupposes an irredeemably heterogeneous universe, while the dialectic presupposes a homogeneous one. Thus strategic logic is a re-combinatorial art of design (Dillon 2015: 62). Contingency is not simple uncertainty. It names a particular kind of modern ontology, in which contingency is construed as the condition of emergent possibility, not simply for any kind of existence, or any kind of life, but for a life that is also free (Dillon 2015: 105). In other words, “the idea is to make space for self-forming practices that may differ from those that are dominant and have disciplinary and normative power behind them by drawing on, reworking, or abandoning the resources available to us and, in the process, gives birth to new ideas and strategies” (Amoureux 2015: 94).

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