Polemos, Universitas

In discussions of the so-called ‘culture wars’, it is often the case that ‘war’ here implies the intrusion of polemic into the otherwise routinely civil exchanges of the universities or ‘the public sphere’, as distinct from war—polemos —as such. This notion of the ‘public sphere’—most memorably announced in the work of Jürgen Habermas (1989)—bears a striking resemblance to a ‘gentleman’s club’, an idyllic space of polite conversation in which there are no real conflicts because consensus on the fundamentals has already been achieved, more or less. In its actual functioning, agreement on ‘the fundamentals’ supposes a prior exclusion or suppression which installs a liberal hegemony as the only form of politics and communication.

Full text, co-authored with Brett Neilson, Borderlands, 4:1 2005.

An earlier version appeared as “The Physiognomy of Civilisation,” Arena Magazine, April-May 2005.


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