Chapter

The Problem of the Negative

Simone Bignall

in Postcolonial Agency

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9780748639434
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671878 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748639434.003.0002
The Problem of the Negative

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This chapter describes the prominent philosophy of dialectical process that originates with Hegel. In Western political thought following Kojève's influential interpretation of Hegel in the 1930s, the active cause of history is understood to be desire, particularly conceptualised in terms of a void or a lack. This negative form of desire directs the process of history in a particular way, and the politics informed by this particular concept of desire take a particular form and move in a particular fashion because they are caused by an underlying absence or lack. The negativity of desire disposes the desiring subject to act in certain ways with respect to the difference that negates the unity and consistency of the subject, and which the subject simultaneously yearns for and fears. Difference is then the negativity that drives the dialectic of desire and satisfaction; but simultaneously it is the problematic absence or lack, which desire seeks to eliminate, or the disturbing excess, which desire seeks to assimilate. In this way, the component concepts of desire, power and subjectivity are defined in ways that produce a concept of imperial or colonising agency, which makes history or transforms society through a negating action directed towards difference.

Keywords: Hegel; Kojève; Sartre; deconstruction; desire; difference; causal negativity; lack and politics; transformation

Chapter.  12652 words. 

Subjects: Social and Political Philosophy

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