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Title: The Impotence of the New
Subtitle: Political Change in an Age of Invisible Ideology
Author(s): SCHOONHEIM, Liesbeth
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 22    Issue: 4   Date: 2015   
Pages: 635-665
DOI: 10.2143/EP.22.4.3127270

Abstract :
Claude Lefort’s extensive oeuvre includes a short and often overlooked passage describing ‘Invisible Ideology’, a form of ideology of which he contends that it dominates Western Europe. This passage is important, first, because it repairs a deficit within Lefort’s theoretical framework; and second, because the text in question provides us with the conceptual tools to identify threats to contemporary democracy. More specifically, the present article tries to disentangle Lefort’s account of Invisible Ideology by singling out three concepts: the entre-nous, which mostly consists in the semblance of reciprocity between politicians and citizens due to mass media; the idea of objectivity, which amounts to the predominance of the social sciences in political debates; and finally, the fixation on newness. It will be argued that these concepts are tantamount to a specific experience of time, one in which social progress seems to take place effortlessly and automatically because of the unhindered circulation of news, opinions and facts. In this way, Invisible Ideology provides an important addition to Lefort’s limited and outmoded typology of modern experiences of time, which basically consists of the juxtaposition of a democratic experience (of a historical society with an open future) and a totalitarian experience (of a revolutionary, a-historical society of which the future is already fully known). As Invisible Ideology successfully creates the semblance of democracy, while halting the contestation and social change that are inherent to democracy, I argue that it gives rise to a sense of political impotence. This impotence is particularly noticeable in the transformations of social urban movements, and in contemporary political discourse on austerity measures. This article hence concludes with drawing out the threats entailed in these transformations and the political discourse, using Lefort’s concepts – the entre-nous, the prevalence of objectivity and the fixation on newness.

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