The Missing Politics of Restitution: Answering Esposito’s Triptych of Political Ontology

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This article discusses Roberto Esposito’s three paradigms of political ontology: destitution, constitution and institution, based respectively on (post-)Heideggerian, Deleuzian and neo-Machiavellian/Lefortian concepts. I argue that we need to enlarge this conception of political ontology to make room for other ontological theorizing. I therefore present a fourth paradigm – restitution – that conditions the other three paradigms. This alternative conception of ontological politics is derived from social anthropology with the aim to integrate environmental justice in the three-fold framework. Restitution here accounts for multiple worlds, composed of different modes of existence. In late capitalist ontology, there is no room for other ontologies. Esposito misses that there are at least a thousand political ontologies that cannot be subsumed into an overarching whole, whether it is constituting power or instituting power. Restituting is not about reifying or preserving existing ontologies as late capitalist ontology does (Povinelli). It is about reclaiming practices, techniques and local knowledges for new problems arising from extractivism, the climate emergency and technological disruptions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-142
Number of pages18
JournalCultural Critique
Early online date4 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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