1.Radical Passivity: Rethinking Ethical Agency in Levinas (editor & contributor of two chapters, Springer, 2009)

This volume is the first in its kind to focus exclusively on the topic of ‘radical passivity’ in Levinas’s work. The question concerning the radically passive ethical agent as opposed to the active autonomous agent with the freedom to act independently without an inner volution steering its actions is the decisive issue separating Levinas’s supporters from his critics. While Levinas stresses our overriding responsibility towards the Other, and insists that freedom is unimportant in ethical decisions because it is self-serving, this volume confronts him with the following – as of yet underexposed – critique: how can we continue to care for others if we don’t take care of ourselves? And what is the moral significance of responsible action if it is not freely chosen but passively imposed? Reviewers have acknowledged that I succeeded in pinpointing the central problem facing Levinas readership and in providing a much needed critical revaluation of key issues in Levinas’s thought.


2.‘From Activity to Radical Passivity: Rethinking Ethical Agency in Levinas’ (journal article, Monokl, 2010)

This article explores the problem of freedom underlying radical passivity. Is freedom a necessary condition for the possibility of ethical action or is freedom, as an expression of self-concern, a hindrance thereto? Levinas’s own position is ambiguous: while his early works stress the fact that we cannot care for others if we do not first take care of ourselves (i.e. the ethical necessity of individual freedom), his later works focus exclusively on the Other as locus of our ethical responsibility (i.e. the ethical necessity of the sacrifice of individual freedom). Hence, a false opposition has emerged between an absolutized egoism and a crushing altruism that threatens to undermine the recent resurgence of ethical concerns. This article addresses this hitherto unaddressed problem without succumbing to a biased account by opting for either egoism or altruism. I succeed in showing that a mediation between these two oppositions is not only necessary but indeed possible – contrary to the prevailing reading in favour of Other-concern, which ultimately amounts to an untenable ethical position.


3.‘Levinas and the Possibility of Dialogue with “Strangers”’ (British Journal of Phenomenology, 2016)

Is a productive encounter between Levinas’s thought and non-Western and postcolonial ethical frameworks possible? This article lays the groundwork upon which such an encounter could be explored by critically assessing some of the hindrances hampering dialogue. Levinas and his thought are beset by racist and Eurocentric biases that threaten to derail his ethical project. Another significant challenge is the fact that ‘the Other’ is of a completely different order than the alterity of Strangers – those others of non-Western cultures that belong to the mundane historical world. Finally, there is the seemingly insurmountable gap between ethics – a relation between two – and politics, the realm where the countless appeals of other Others impinge upon the face-to-face relation. The entire postcolonial “oeuvre” as such is expressly ethico-political with a decisive emphasis on the politics of difference. Levinas’s philosophy, on the other hand, is to a great extent a-political. In addressing these challenges this article makes an important contribution to leveling the playing field by inverting the gaze from North to South.


1.‘The Culture and Subjectivity of Neo-liberal Governmentality'; (journal article, Phronimon, 2011)

This article forms part of an ongoing investigation into neo-liberal power and how it conditions our possibilities for thought and action. As a form of ‘governmentality’, neo-liberalism emerges as a political programme intent on subjecting every dimension of contemporary existence to an economic rationality. The focus is on the impact on conditions of work and subjectivity of an economic rationality that has become the dominant political programme. It is shown in what precise way Foucault’s analyses of neo-liberalism of the late 70s remain instructive and relevant to understand the present. It offers a much needed corrective of those who have interpreted Foucault as a proponent of neo-liberalism.


2.‘Ethics and Politics of Self-formation in Foucault’ in Imafidon, E. Ed. The Ethics of Subjectivity. (book chapter, Palgrave, 2015)

* Reprinted upon request and with permission of the journal editor

Foucault’s later works on ethics arguably opens a way to go beyond some of the problems generated by his earlier work on power. It has been argued that power so conceived leaves little room for resistance. I consider the “politics” of self-creation and attempt to establish if Foucault’s later notion of self-formation does in fact succeed in countering an over-determination by power. In the end, though, it would appear as if Foucault’s turn to ethics amounts to a substitution of ethics, understood as an individualized task, for the political task of collective social transformation. What is at stake is whether or not Foucault’s insistence on individual acts of resistance amounts to more than an empty claim that ethics still somehow has political implications whilst having in fact effectively given up on politics.

Download > Texts