Twenty Theses on Politics

Twenty Theses on Politics

Latin America in Translation/En Traducción/Em Tradução

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Book Pages: 184 Illustrations: 9 tables, 8 figures Published: December 2008

Author: Enrique Dussel

Translator: George Ciccariello-Maher

Contributor: Eduardo Mendieta

Latin American Studies, Politics > Political Theory, Theory and Philosophy > Critical Theory

First published in Spanish in 2006, Twenty Theses on Politics is a major statement on political philosophy from Enrique Dussel, one of Latin America’s—and the world’s—most important philosophers, and a founder of the philosophy of liberation. Synthesizing a half-century of his pioneering work in moral and political philosophy, Dussel presents a succinct rationale for the development of political alternatives to the exclusionary, exploitative institutions of neoliberal globalization. In twenty short, provocative theses he lays out the foundational elements for a politics of just and sustainable coexistence. Dussel first constructs a theory of political power and its institutionalization, taking on topics such as the purpose of politics and the fetishization of power. He insists that political projects must criticize or reject as unsustainable all political systems, actions, and institutions whose negative effects are suffered by oppressed or excluded victims. Turning to the deconstruction or transformation of political power, he explains the political principles of liberation and addresses matters such as reform and revolution.

Twenty Theses on Politics is inspired by recent political transformations in Latin America. As Dussel writes in Thesis 15, regarding the liberation praxis of social and political movements, “The winds that arrive from the South—from Nestor Kirchner, Tabaré Vásquez, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Evo Morales, Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro, and so many others—show us that things can be changed. The people must reclaim sovereignty!” Throughout the twenty theses Dussel engages with Latin American thinkers and activists and with radical political projects such as the World Social Forum. He is also in dialogue with the ideas of Marx, Hegel, Habermas, Rawls, and Negri, offering insights into the applications and limits of their thinking in light of recent Latin American political thought and practice.


Twenty Theses on Politics is an important contribution to the discourse on political philosophy in Latin America.” — Dave O. Benjamin, International Social Science Review

“This is a much-anticipated text by those who are familiar with the work of Enrique Dussel. . . For those who are not familiar with Dussel’s work, this book provides a brief introduction to his expository method and perspective.” — Lucas Savino, Political Studies Review

“Dussel has convincingly brought a radical and ethically responsible understanding of ‘the political’ back to bear in political theory. This is a philosophy and politics of liberation grounded in a robust acknowledgment and understanding of ethics as first philosophy.” — Michael R. Paradiso-Michau, Radical Philosophy Review

“Dussel is . . . probably the most important Marxian scholar of our era. . . . Twenty Theses on Politics reveals that, if anything and against the odds, politics as it is now being understood in Latin America has become the art of the possible. It is a short book, but may take a long time reading, mainly because of the depth of knowledge, insight and experience that Dussel has brought to bear in compiling it. In the language of the WSF itself, it represents a manifesto for a plural, diverse, non-governmental and non-partisan politics seeking a more solidary, democratic and fair world. It is perhaps the most important statement for many years of the degree to which de-colonial theory—and Latin America itself—is now providing a real source of intellectual leadership in debates that have floundered in the post-industrial world.” — Gavin O’Toole, Latin American Review of Books

“From his early work in ethics and the philosophy of liberation to his examination of the epochal events of 1492 in the Americas, Dussel has been a leading Latin American voice in the critical study of modernity. With Twenty Theses on Politics, he now embarks on what could well be his magnum opus. . . . [T]his book is relevant for us today because it defends the idea that an alternative to the status quo is indeed possible.” — Diego von Vacano, Perspectives on Politics

“From the pen of perhaps Latin America’s foremost philosopher of liberation comes this brilliant condensation by Enrique Dussel of his political philosophy. . . . [A] deft, disciplined intervention into English publication for philosophers and religious scholars. With bracing spirit and conceptual rigor, Dussel engage the global North from the struggle of the South. . .” — Mark Lewis Taylor, Journal of Religion

"These 20 succinct theses take on the purpose of politics and the fetishization of power, the liberation praxis of movements, reform and revolution—while engaging with political projects like the World Social Forum, ultimately developing a moral and political foundation contrary to that of neoliberal globalization.” — NACLA Report on the Americas

Twenty Theses on Politics is a groundbreaking manifesto charting new terrain toward de-colonial political philosophy and political theory. It is based on the experience and interpretation of current events in Latin America. There is nothing comparable.” — Walter D. Mignolo, author of The Idea of Latin America

“Enrique Dussel is one of the giants of emancipatory thought and liberation philosophy. This grand text is a concise expression of his subtle analysis and courageous vision!” — Cornel West, Princeton University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Enrique Dussel is Professor of Ethics in the Department of Philosophy at the Iztapalapa campus of the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana. He also teaches courses at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Dussel is the author of more than fifty books, including Beyond Philosophy: Ethics, History, Marxism, and Liberation Theology; The Invention of the Americas: Eclipse of the “Other” and the Myth of Modernity; and Philosophy of Liberation. He is a co-editor of Coloniality at Large: Latin America and the Postcolonial Debate, also published by Duke University Press.
George Ciccariello-Maher is a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of California, Berkeley. Eduardo Mendieta is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Center at Stony Brook University. His many books include Global Fragments: Globalizations, Latinamericanisms, and Critical Theory and Thinking from the Underside of History: Enrique Dussel’s Philosophy of Liberation (co-edited with Linda Martín Alcoff).

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword: The Liberation of Politics: Alterity, Solidarity, Liberation / Eduardo Mendieta vii

Preliminary Words xv

Introduction 1

Thesis 1. Corruption and the Political Field: The Public and the Private 3

Part One: The Prevailing Political Order

Thesis 2. The Political Power of the Community as Potentia 13

Thesis 3. Institutional Power as Potestas 18

Thesis 4. Obediential Power 24

Thesis 5. The Fetishization of Power: Power as Domination 30

Thesis 6. Strategic Political Action 36

Thesis 7. The Need for Political Institutions: The Material Sphere (Ecological, Economic, Cultural): Fraternity 43

Thesis 8. Institutions in the Spheres of Democratic Legitimacy and Feasibility: Equality and Liberty: Governability 50

Thesis 9. Ethics and the Implicit Normative Principles of Politics: The Material Principle 56

Thesis 10. The Formal-Democratic and Feasibility Principles of Politics 62

Part Two: The Critical Transformation of the Political: Toward the New Political Order

Thesis 11. The People: The Popular Sector and "Populism" 71

Thesis 12. Liberatory Power as Hyperpotentia and the "State of Rebellion" 78

Thesis 13. The Political Principles of Liberation: The Critical Material Principle 83

Thesis 14. The Critical-Democratic and Strategic Transformation Principles 88

Thesis 15. Liberation Praxis of Social and Political Movements 94

Thesis 16. Anti-Hegemonic Praxis and the Construction of a New Hegemony 103

Thesis 17. Transformation of Political Institutions: Reform, Transformation, Revolution: Political Postulates 108

Thesis 18. Transformation of Institutions in the Material Sphere: "Perpetual Life" and Solidarity 114

Thesis 19. Transformation of Institutions in the Sphere of Democratic Legitimacy: Irruption of New Rights: "Perpetual Peace" and Alterity 122

Thesis 20. Transformation of Institutions in the Sphere of Feasibility: The "Dissolution of the State"? Liberation 131

Notes 139

Bibliography 151

Index 155
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4328-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4345-5
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