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Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

THEATRICALITY OF POWER: HEGEL AND SHAKESPEARE ON CONTEMPORARY POWER STRUCTURES

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
6.10.00  Humanities  Philosophy   

Code Science Field
H001  Humanities  Philosophy 

Code Science Field
6.03  Humanities  Philosophy, Ethics and Religion 
Keywords
theatricality, power, authority, repetition, comedy, action, Hegel, Shakespeare
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (5)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  05945  PhD Mladen Dolar  Philosophy  Researcher  2019 - 2023  697 
2.  36342  PhD Simon Hajdini  Philosophy  Researcher  2020 - 2023  150 
3.  37757  PhD Bara Kolenc  Philosophy  Researcher  2019 - 2023  141 
4.  28324  PhD Mirt Komel  Philosophy  Researcher  2019 - 2023  492 
5.  29356  PhD Gregor Moder  Philosophy  Head  2019 - 2023  173 
Organisations (1)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0581  University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts  Ljubljana  1627058  97,958 
Abstract
This research project is a philosophical investigation of the theatricality of power, designed as a series of Hegelian interventions into Shakespeare’s work. We will pursue the argument that in order to understand political relations and structures, it is not sufficient to account solely for rational interests and capacities of the individuals or groups involved. A proper interpretation of power must also account for an ideological dimension, a dimension enrooted in desire and fantasy. Political power is based on interests and circumstances just as much as it is dependent on the effects of argumentation, rhetoric, presentation, and staging. We identify this dimension in the broad sense as the “theatricality of power”. As such, theatricality of power is a trans-historical phenomenon, described already by Plato and Aristotle. In truth, most, if not all political actions can be seen as theatrical in the broadest sense of the term – this is precisely why the theatrical metaphor works so well for political actions and actors. The tradition of political philosophy, as well as contemporary debates on the matter, usually takes one of the following approaches to theatricality of power. One, theatricality in politics, religion and public discourse in general is seen as theatrics, inimical to truth, which must be morally condemned. Two, the question of power is approached through the critique of ideology, understanding power as always already theatrical and focusing on the power struggle rather than weighing the arguments being made. This project, however, insists that a proper analysis of power must move beyond this alternative and argue for the importance of the category of truth in the framework of power as inherently theatrical. We will take the cue from Foucault’s famous distinction, in Discipline and Punish, between the theater of punishment as practiced by the early modern monarchic regime and the multiplicity “micro-theatres of power” typical for the ideas of modern penal system, as presented in Bentham’s fascinating idea of Panopticon. Foucault remarked that the grasp of power is all the stronger in the modern regime, where convicts seem to be their own instruments of surveillance and punishment. With contemporary technological tools in mind, and considering the mode of operation of contemporary social media where users provide their own personal data to public view, it would seem that Foucault’s remarks have only gained in importance. Furthermore, recent developments in the political arena of contemporary democratic societies, ranging from the rise of the alt-right to the proliferation of authoritarian and populist politics, have propelled theatricality of power to the center stage. A thorough analysis of the theatricality of power is today more needed than ever. The wager of this project, however, is that in order to move beyond the alternative between moral condemnation of theatricality and the impasses of ideology critique, a change of perspective could prove most productive. We will therefore investigate how theater itself thinks theatricality of power. Two figures embody the historical transition from early modern to modern theatricality of power: Hegel and Shakespeare. They are the privileged instances of the shift from theatrical display of royal sovereignty to the micro-physics and micro-theatricality of power. We therefore propose to investigate the theatricality of power through Hegelian interventions into Shakespeare’s theater. Our general thesis is that this detour through theater’s own understanding of the theatricality of power will provide us with innovative, original tools that will help breach the impasses of the more traditional approaches of political and social philosophy. More specifically, our research objectives are to analyze the concept of the theatricality of law and power, the role of comedy and humor in relation to power, the concept of authority, the notion of political action and the idea of r
Significance for science
1) Broadly speaking, political and social philosophy, taking account of both analytic and dialectic tradition, has historically taken one of the two basic approaches to the theatricality of power. We could call them the moral approach and the approach of the ideology critique. The wager of this project is to investigate beyond the two prevailing models of understanding theatricality of power and argue for a third approach, one that takes the idea of the theatricality of power quite seriously, but does not give up on the importance of the categories of truth and virtue. In other words, our aim is to formulate the approach which accepts that power structures as such are theatrical, but nevertheless insists on the importance of the category of truth in politics. If successfully executed, the results of this project have the potential to significantly impact the research field of political and social philosophy.   2) In contemporary use, the term theatricality in its relation to power is quite loose, and perhaps even over-exploited. Political and social philosophy would benefit greatly from a shift of perspective, so that the analysis would no longer be borrowing a loosely defined concept of theatricality from a neighboring discipline to explain power structures, but vice-versa: so that the analysis would draw from theater’s own concept of theatricality of power. This shift of perspective can have a significant impact on the scientific field.   3) Since the current debates in political philosophy mostly underscore the importance of transparency, accountability and truthfulness in the democratic process, the results of our research could greatly disrupt and help re-shape the predominant perspective on how democracy works – in political and social disciplines as well as in the society at large. While we do not question the premise that democracy is impossible without transparency, accountability and truthfulness, the results of this project could demonstrate that these factors are simply not enough for a functioning democracy. The rise of fantasy driven politics in recent years, especially on the far right, is a clear indication of this. If our research is successfully conducted, and the results do point toward an inherent element we identified as theatricality in power structures, then the liberal democratic forces in our societies will benefit greatly by counting on this element.
Significance for the country
1) Broadly speaking, political and social philosophy, taking account of both analytic and dialectic tradition, has historically taken one of the two basic approaches to the theatricality of power. We could call them the moral approach and the approach of the ideology critique. The wager of this project is to investigate beyond the two prevailing models of understanding theatricality of power and argue for a third approach, one that takes the idea of the theatricality of power quite seriously, but does not give up on the importance of the categories of truth and virtue. In other words, our aim is to formulate the approach which accepts that power structures as such are theatrical, but nevertheless insists on the importance of the category of truth in politics. If successfully executed, the results of this project have the potential to significantly impact the research field of political and social philosophy.   2) In contemporary use, the term theatricality in its relation to power is quite loose, and perhaps even over-exploited. Political and social philosophy would benefit greatly from a shift of perspective, so that the analysis would no longer be borrowing a loosely defined concept of theatricality from a neighboring discipline to explain power structures, but vice-versa: so that the analysis would draw from theater’s own concept of theatricality of power. This shift of perspective can have a significant impact on the scientific field.   3) Since the current debates in political philosophy mostly underscore the importance of transparency, accountability and truthfulness in the democratic process, the results of our research could greatly disrupt and help re-shape the predominant perspective on how democracy works – in political and social disciplines as well as in the society at large. While we do not question the premise that democracy is impossible without transparency, accountability and truthfulness, the results of this project could demonstrate that these factors are simply not enough for a functioning democracy. The rise of fantasy driven politics in recent years, especially on the far right, is a clear indication of this. If our research is successfully conducted, and the results do point toward an inherent element we identified as theatricality in power structures, then the liberal democratic forces in our societies will benefit greatly by counting on this element.
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