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Politics From the Outside In: Toward an Aneconomic Reconception of the Subject

  • Author(s): Weiss, Jonathan
  • Advisor(s): Marriott, David S.
  • et al.

This dissertation explores and endeavors to articulate a critical alternative to the constitution of homo oeconomicus as the principal locus of political life. The chief problematic engaged here is the manner in which the emphasis on private concern--on the economic self-interest of subjects--substantially forecloses the possibility of political or public engagement within a wider field that well exceeds the bounds of the self. The argument, then, is that in order to counter the depoliticizing dynamics of self-centering--in order, that is, to reignite the possibility of the political--the subject must be reconceived eccentrically otherwise, in the guise of an ethico-political subject that is given over, pre-originally, to that which exceeds its self.

Along this trajectory, the dissertation begins by tracing the development of economic subjectivity as the center of political life. It opens with a reading of Hannah Arendt's analysis of the manner in which the private concerns of the oikos, or economics proper, extended outward from the household--taking ever-greater hold of the public life of the polis. From its extension into and domination of the public, the dissertation then turns to the manner in which, under neoliberalism, this fully public or politicized economic form doubled back into the private realm of the household once more--coming to structure even the most intimate concerns of the private home in terms of economic arrangements.

Having arrived, with neoliberalism, at the apogee of economic subjectivity, the dissertation then turns toward the wholesale disruption of the economic. Here, in the name of tearing open the walls of the oikos, of the self-contained or proper, the dissertation engages a reading of works by Jacques Derrida--focused broadly on the deconstruction of self-containment, but, more particularly, on the aneconomic dynamics of the gift. Finally, having opened the foreclosed, the dissertation turns toward a subject for whom openness precedes even the possibility of closure--it turns, that is, toward the formulation of a subject constituted through its exposure; toward a subject organized around responsibility and not rights; toward the ethical subject of Emmanuel Levinas.

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