The Order of Discourse

  • Tomas Marttila


The premises of post-foundational ontology elucidated in Chapter 2 clarified that objects can be associated with a distinctive meaning only insofar as they have been articulated in a discourse (cf. Laclau and Mouffe, 2001[1985], p. 112; Marchart, 2007b, p. 14).1 The assumption of the absence of any objective pre-and exo-discursive determination of meanings as is typical of post-foundational ontology means that we need to accept that discourses are “the primary terrain of constitution of social objectivity” (Laclau, 2006, p. 672). However, it is not discourses as such, but relational arrangements of signifiers characterizing them that determine the meanings of objects denoted by them. In the absence of any natural and objectively necessary reason, relations of signifiers characteristic of a particular discourse cannot “obey any inner logic other than their factually being together” (ibid.). Considering that the social qua the totality of socially meaningful objects is organized in the form of and by means of discourses, particular social institutions, practices, artefacts and organizations signifying and motivating meanings are sustained only as long as social subjects’ practices of articulation reproduce discourses constituting their rationality. In other words, the presence of a particular social order is set into a relation of dependence with a discourse defining its social meaningfulness. Hence, the withering away of discourses’ symbolic power inevitably “amount[s] to the disintegration of the social fabric” (Laclau, 1990a, p. 33; Smith, 1998a, p. 172).


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Copyright information

© Tomas Marttila 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tomas Marttila
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BambergGermany

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