Post-Truth and the Crisis of the Political

Newman, Saul. 2019. Post-Truth and the Crisis of the Political. Soft Power, 6(2), pp. 91-108. ISSN 2389-8232 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

I understand post-truth as a new paradigm in politics - one that goes beyond mere political lying and spin and points to the decline of the symbolic authority of truth itself. In so far as, as Arendt claimed, politics depends on a shared acknowledgement of certain factual truths, post-truth thus represents a crisis of political life. The post-truth condition is a post-political condition. To grasp this thoroughly, we need to understand the paradoxical relationship between truth and politics, locating a problematic that goes back to the very origins of the demos in ancient Greece: the original conflict between the singular truth of the philosopher and the affairs and concerns of the polis. Here I will draw on two different approaches to this problem: Hannah Arendt’s discussion of the conflicting, and yet inextricable, relationship between the stability of truth and the contingency and plurality of political life; and Michel Foucault’s exploration of parrësia or ‘frank speech’ – a form of truth-speaking which, while often in conflict with the polis, is also necessary for any notion of ethical conduct in political life. Both approaches suggest that politics bears some essential relation to truth, even if truth often finds itself impotent in the face of mere opinion. Yet, while there is some question about the efficacy today of asserting facts against lies or ‘speaking truth to power’, I argue that there is something valuable in Foucault’s idea of truth speaking as a form of ethical (and also political) subjectivation.

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Post-Truth, politics, post-politics

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23 February 2019Accepted
July 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

23 Oct 2019 12:37

Last Modified:

16 Sep 2022 18:32

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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