Radicalising Caring Democracy: A Conceptual Inquiry into Aesthetic and Agonistic Political Theory and Epistemic Hegemony and its Relevance for a Political Care Ethics

  • Max Bloem

Student thesis: Master's Thesis: Care Ethics


This thesis concerns a conceptual inquiry into the relevance of post-foundational political thought, exemplified by the works of Jacques Rancière and Chantal Mouffe, for political care ethics. This thesis emphasizes that knowledge is politically situated and constructed, and draws on an illustration of the handling of the Dutch government of the COVID-19 pandemic. By problematizing the way in which particular types of knowledge, especially knowledge derived from positivist science, are privileged, while other types and sources of knowledge are subordinated and obscured. Following from this initial problematization, the argument is made that political care ethics, itself a heterodox field of inquiry, requires a consciousness and response to the politically situated nature of knowledge. By drawing on the concepts of the aesthetic nature of the political, agnostic politics, and (epistemic) hegemony, this political situation of knowledge is explicated and problematized. Subsequently, these concepts are brought into a conceptual dialogue, in which it is argued that the epistemic aspects of depoliticisation and hegemony should be at the forefront of an understanding of the political. Finally, the ramifications for such a notion of the political for care ethics are discussed, and it is argued that a political care ethics could utilize the concepts of aesthetic and agonistic politics and epistemic hegemony in an invigorated notion of the political.
In Chapter 1, the societal and scientific problematization are elaborated on, and the main research questions and aims are defined. The manner in which the COVID-19 crisis is handled in the Dutch context, and the manner in which knowledge is used in this context, is argued to be highly relevant for care ethics. In addition, it is argued that current political care ethics has neglected the relevance of post-foundational thought in a conception of the political. In Chapter 2, the method for this conceptual inquiry is elaborated upon, and key quality criteria are explicated. In Chapter 3, a genealogical account of political care ethics is provided, to ensure a thorough understanding of the conceptual context of this inquiry. A preliminary argumentation for the relevance of post-foundational thought, rooted in care ethics’ relational ontology and epistemic pluralism, is provided. In Chapter 4, post-foundational political thought is explored and described, utilizing the work of Jacques Rancière and Chantal Mouffe. In Chapter 5, the concept of epistemic hegemony is introduced, and illustrated by drawing on the Dutch handling of the Coronacrisis. In Chapter 6, the findings of the previous two chapters are related to each other, and an emphasis on the epistemic nature of depoliticisation and hegemony are argued for. In addition, this chapter concerns a problematization of the work of Mouffe and Rancière. In the final chapter, the earlier concepts are brought into a conceptual dialogue with political care ethics. An understanding of epistemic hegemony and post-foundational thought in care ethics is argued for, and the ramifications and objections to such an understanding are discussed. In addition, the concept of a radical caring democracy is introduced. Finally, in the Conclusion, the findings of the earlier chapters are summarized, the weaknesses of this study are explicated and possible avenues for future research are identified.
Date of Award15 Jul 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMerel A. Visse (Supervisor) & Alistair R. Niemeijer (Supervisor)

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