Vassilios Paipais’s Political Ontology and International Political Thought: Voiding a Pluralist World is dense and ultimately unsatisfying, but conveys the spirit of an agreeable pluralist outlook. This book is heavy going theological metaphysics and pscychoanalytic philosophy. It revels in paradoxes and is loaded with excessively technical terminology. To over simplify, this book is about reconciling a tension between the plurality of worlds and pluralism in the world. It is about finding an ethics and political theory in a “post-foundational” context, where rival pluralisms attempt to resolve the question of plurality. This is an interesting question in a context with multiple responses to the pluralities of a globalizing world.
In Part I, Paipais makes a scholarly analysis of the pluralisms debated in political theory and international political theory. Paipais argues liberal pluralism is unsuccessful in establishing neutral principles, and that critical strains of pluralism and agonistic pluralism unduly depoliticize plurality, in various ways.
Part II attempts to overcome the limitations found in Part I. Paipais engages psychoanalytical literatures, Zizek, Badiou, etc., and moves into Christian inspired ethics, as a potential route to resolving the tensions of plurality and pluralism. The argument settles on a ‘participatory understanding of St. Paul’s messianic meontology and incarnational Chistology’… The esoteric language in which this is expressed is impenetrable, unfortunately. If I have read it correctly, Paipais explains that it,
‘authorises a kind of critique that eludes both the reification of oppressive and unjust structures of power as well as that of phenomenally radical forms of critique that idolize fluidity, contingency and mobility without necessarily uncoupling their own complicity in the perpetuation of those structures.’ (p.24).
This conclusion is ultimately unsatisfactory, in its Christian idiosyncrasy, which limits the practical possibility of its widespread use in practice. The audience of the book is perhaps overly scholarly, too caught up in the academic debate. A tell is that the argument lacks any concrete analysis of its implications for practice, even though the literatures its surveys offer variety of world order proposals. The attitude, however, the spirit, of avoiding both being a prop to the powers that be, whilst also avoiding overly radical pluralist politics, seems to get the balance of the pluralism question about right.