Imaginal Politics: Images Beyond Imagination and the Imaginary (New Directions in Critical Theory)
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Between the radical, creative capacity of our imagination and the social imaginary we are immersed in is an intermediate space philosophers have termed the imaginal, populated by images or (re)presentations that are presences in themselves. Offering a new, systematic understanding of the imaginal and its nexus with the political, Chiara Bottici brings fresh perspective to the formation of political and power relationships and the paradox of a world rich in imagery yet seemingly devoid of imagination.
Bottici begins by defining the difference between the imaginal and the imaginary, locating the imaginal's root meaning in the image and its ability to both characterize a public and establish a set of activities within that public. She identifies the imaginal's critical role in powering representative democracies and its amplification through globalization. She then addresses the troublesome increase in images now mediating politics and the transformation of politics into empty spectacle. The spectacularization of politics has led to its virtualization, Bottici observes, transforming images into processes with an uncertain relationship to reality, and, while new media has democratized the image in a global society of the spectacle, the cloned image no longer mediates politics but does the act for us. Bottici concludes with politics' current search for legitimacy through an invented ideal of tradition, a turn to religion, and the incorporation of human rights language.
realized through the principle of authority itself (Proudhon 2001:125–133).21 Anarchism, by contrast, cannot. One of the reasons why anarchism contains an antidote is that anarchist thinkers work with a more variegated notion of domination that emphasizes the power of noneconomic forms of exploitation. Hence also its happier marriage with feminism: if the relationship between Marxism and feminism has been characterized overall as a problematic one, in which the same logic of domination going on
crisis of democracy. 11. This is why we have argued that the conservative reproduction of life has become a source of legitimacy for political power as crucial and thus as ideal-typical as the other three identified by Weber. 12. For instance, Kepel (2006) observes that the category of fundamentalism was coined within the Christian world and cannot easily be applied elsewhere. 13. On the imaginary appeal of Islamism, see in particular Challand (2011b), from which I largely draw in what
in the contemporary French imaginary the veil recalls images of female submissiveness (if not direct oppression). There is therefore a dramatic contrast between tradition and oppression, on the one hand, and modernity and freedom, on the other. By looking at this image, sensations (the perception of forms, colors, signs, and so on) are transformed into particular feelings—feelings of incompatibility and threat. This interpretation is reinforced by the context in which it first appeared.
mobilization offered by the new media, must still come to terms with the logic of the mass media. The latter rely on the spectacularization imposed by the “golden rule” of the audience, according to which we can speak only of what can capture people’s imagination. The mass media tend to value and give visibility to forms of religiosity that produce media events—that is, events that contain a potential for spectacle and exceptionality. Take as an example the travels of John Paul II. The
the “reasonable” to the “imaginal,” a new point of departure can be developed to tackle the paradox from which we started. As we have seen, the imaginal denotes what is made of images (imagines); as such, it can be both the product of an individual faculty and of a social context, as well as the result of a complex, yet to be determined interaction between the two. Furthermore, in contrast to the term imaginary—which primarily refers to what exists in fancy, has no real existence, and is