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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton July 31, 2018

Lotman’s semiotic theory of culture or Laclau’s political ontology?

Janar Mihkelsaar
From the journal Semiotica

Abstract

The present article concentrates on the main discrepancies that should arise in the discussion between Lotman’s semiotics of culture and Laclau’s discursive theory of hegemony. Some significant – but still abstract – commonalities conceal fundamental disagreements which I would group around four topics. Firstly, Lotman’s semiotic method is at odds with Laclau’s ontological way of thinking. Secondly, although both Lotman and Laclau subscribe to the openness of signification, it is impossible to incorporate their accounts of this openness without loose ends. In order to substantiate this claim, I examine Lotman’s concept of “boundary” and Laclau’s concept of the “limit.” Thirdly, we should avoid reading too much into Lotman and Laclau’s agreement on the similar – but still formal – model of a self-signification. And finally, Laclau’s valorization of social antagonism is in conflict with Lotman’s appraisal of dialogue. Confronted with these discrepancies, we are enforced to decide whether to endorse Lotman’s cultural semiotics or Laclau’s political ontology.

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the KONE Foundation.

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Published Online: 2018-07-31
Published in Print: 2018-09-25

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