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Resistance and PsychoanalysisImpossible Divisions$
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Simon Morgan Wortham

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474429603

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474429603.001.0001

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Fear of the Open: Resistances of the Public Sphere

Fear of the Open: Resistances of the Public Sphere

(p.215) 8 Fear of the Open: Resistances of the Public Sphere
Resistance and Psychoanalysis

Simon Morgan Wortham

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter explores the theme of the ‘outside’, and the fears, desires, drives and indeed drift it seems to inspire, in order to raise the question of agoraphobia in a number of contexts. In particular, agoraphobia is not only about recoil or retreat from public spaces: surprisingly enough, an abiding fear of the ‘open’ may in fact generate the conditions of possibility for a democratically-oriented public sphere, however fragile and contradictory they may be. Agoraphobic fear of the space of the public square, whether crowded or comparatively empty, can produce inconsistent effects, provoking reactionary paranoia as well as inspiring political dissent. But if the appeal to the ‘rational ground’ of a public sphere is at least in part based upon agoraphobic, crowd-fearing impulses, its evocation of reason and duty is exceeded and resisted by a notion of Levinasian responsibility that has been described in terms of an ‘ethical agoraphobia’. If the ‘ethical agoraphobia’ of Levinasian responsibility entails a step into the ‘open’ that cannot simply be faced fearlessly, then this surely prompts critique of recent speculative materialism as in want of an object to be scared of.

Keywords:   Agoraphobia, public sphere, Levinas, Meillassoux, speculative realism

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