In this article, I introduce and argue in favour of Laclau and Mouffe's ontological dimension in their post-structuralist discourse theory. Their ontological thinking is contrasted to Luhmann's claim of remaining within epistemology to show how the notion of radical negativity brings Laclau and Mouffe beyond an ‘old European metaphysics of substance’. Ontological negativity is then contrasted to Foucault's ‘modest positivism’. The problem with such a positivism is not that it overlooks ‘deeper’ layers, but rather the absence of the dimension of negativity is needed in order to grasp a discursive logic of articulation. Having established the necessity of including an ontological dimension of negativity, however, I question the claim that negativity equals antagonism and that the political may therefore be granted a primary ontological status. This claim is ‘one step too far', and the theory must be rethought accordingly. I point out some of the theoretical implications of a ‘de-ontologization’ of antagonism and the political, and show that they can take place within the general framework of Laclau and Mouffe's discourse theory.
- the political