Northwestern Events Calendar


The Agonistic Condition: Nietzsche and the Repression of Instrumentality

When: Monday, October 16, 2023
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM CT

Where: Kresge Hall, 1515 Treinens, 1880 Campus Drive , Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Courtney Essenpreis   (847) 491-7249

Group: Department of German

Category: Academic, Lectures & Meetings


The crisis of liberal democracy has given rise to attempts to think the political in non-representational terms, such as by focusing on agonism. But it remains unclear exactly what it means to characterize the essence of the political in terms of conflict. A huge gap separates Schmitt’s conception of the enemy, from Rancière’s disagreement, and from Connolly’s pluralism. To understand the divergent conception of agonism, I will pursue a short genealogy of agonism to show how it enters the academic discourse of the late 19th century in opposition to a lingering classicism in Germany. The pivotal figure who links the 19th century agonism to recent articulations is Nietzsche. I will show, however, that under the influence of Greek thought, Nietzsche bases his conception of agonism on instrumentality, whereas current versions of agonism reject instrumental calculation following the “critique of instrumental reason.” What is at stake in this difference? I will show that instrumental calculation has a vital role to play in anti-representation conceptions of political action so long as we distinguish it from utilitarianism.

Dimitris Vardoulakis was the inaugural chair of Philosophy at Western Sydney University. Some of his books are Freedom from the Free Will: On Kafka’s Laughter (2016); Stasis Before the State: Nine Theses on Agonistic Democracy (2018); Spinoza, the Epicurean: Authority and Utility in Materialism (2020); and The Ruse of Techne: Heidegger’s Magical Materialism (2024). He is the co-editor of the book series “Incitements” (Edinburgh University Press) and the new journal Philosophy, Politics and Critique. He is currently serving as the chair of the Australasian Society for Continental Philosophy (ASCP).

Add to Calendar

Add Event To My Group:

Please sign-in