Politics, Civil Society and Participation: Media and Communications in a Transforming Environment

Title chapter: What is a decision? A post-structuralist exploration of the trinity of decidedness, undecidedness and undecidability
Author: Nico Carpentier
Keywords: decision, indecision, decidedness, undecidedness, undecidability, post-structuralist theory, discourse theory, leadership
Abstract: Decidedness has been celebrated in many societal spheres as the unquestioned, fetishized and ultimate moment of the exercise of political agency, where political or business leaders wield their powers and authorities. Conversely, the failure to decide, undecidedness, is seen as the failure of political agency, of leadership, and of politics or business itself. This chapter offers a more nuanced perspective on decidedness and undecidedness, by exploring their interdependent relationship, grounded in a deconstructive strategy. The relationship between these binary opposites will be enriched and deepened by introducing a third notion, undecidability, which is a broader concept that describes the ontological impossibility of a discursive order to ultimately fixate reality. In the first parts of the chapter, the usages of decision and indecision, decidedness and undecidedness, are discussed in combination with an explanation of the notion of undecidability as it has been developed in post-structuralist theory (in particular, in Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse-theoretical framework). These reflections provide support for the definition of the decision as a temporary fixation, which does not escape from the context of undecidability. It is this context that produces undecidedness. Decidedness should not be discredited either, as –despite its limitations– it remains a requirement for the political to function and a significant driving force. The importance of decidedness, and the coping strategies developed to deal with its failures, is theorized in the last part of the chapter, by reverting to the psychoanalytical concept of the fantasy. The conclusion then invokes the idea that in order to understand the social and the political, we need the conceptual strength of the trinity of decidedness, undecidedness and undecidability.
>Click here to download full chapter [pdf]

Media and
Summer School