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Making Sense, Making Politics: Towards a Political Theory of Sense with Gilles Deleuze and Niklas Luhmann

Richter, Hannah (2018) Making Sense, Making Politics: Towards a Political Theory of Sense with Gilles Deleuze and Niklas Luhmann. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:73326)

Language: English
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This dissertation develops a political theory of sense against the background of a synthetic reading of Gilles Deleuze's post-structuralist philosophy and Niklas Luhmann's sociological systems theory. The aim of this exploratory theoretical project is two-fold: firstly, it seeks to provide an innovative "third way" perspective on onto-epistemological genesis designed to escape the ontological aporias of the linguistic turn and those of the new materialisms by identifying the production of the world as it can be made sense of as ungrounded and relationally immanent. Secondly, this perspective is to be made productive to analyse the functionality of contemporary politics. The arguments developed in this dissertation are grounded in and unfold from a conceptualisation of sense as an ungrounded, self-productive relationality which is always already composed of the creative singularities of both matter and signs.

Having established the synthetic quality of productive sense in Deleuze and Luhmann by retracing their respective uses of Leibniz's monadology, I suggest that this conception of sense allows both thinkers to subvert any strong notion of ontological foundationalism in favour of thinking onto-epistemological genesis as relationally self-grounding. Through Husserl and Nietzsche, on whom both Luhmann and Deleuze draw as philosophical sources of inspiration, I explore how sense is grounded in nothing but relations of time. These relations of time, on their part, also operate self-productively, relying on the eternal return of the event as a moment of rupture to transform circular time into a contingent, but continuous flow of past-future lines. While conditioned by its necessary position within the process of onto-epistemological production, Deleuze's and Luhmann's Whiteheadian event is yet a moment of creative complexity in which a particular future is opened in the relational nexus of sense.

Against this background, the relationally emergent decision which selectively continues a particular line of sense in the eternally returning evental rupture is identified as the operational hinge of a contemporary politics whose legitimacy is no longer based on effective steering power, but rather on the provision of self-observations in sense for society as a whole. It is argued that politics is tied to evental multiplicity in a double-bind: it needs the former to reproduce itself in the decision on the continuation of sense but it must also keep its threatening complexity at bay in order to make this decision possible in the first place. Understood as the operational logic of contemporary institutional-democratic politics, I show how self-productive, recuperative sense-making functions in a way which not only mirrors the functionality of but is also socio-historically intertwined with the rise of capital identified as a mode of social relationality with Marx. Against this background, the proposed political theory of sense firstly makes it possible to critically unpack how the recuperative autopoiesis of a politics of sense functions through complexity-reducing forms such as the crisis. But it secondly also identifies the socio-politically conditioned sense-event as a realm of immanent openness which can be accessed and employed to actualise a different sense of the world.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Rossbach, Stefan
Uncontrolled keywords: Deleuze Luhmann sense post-structuralism immanence relationality system event autopoiesis
Subjects: J Political Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 02 Apr 2019 13:10 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 16:29 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Richter, Hannah.

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