The Limits of Place: Thinking a Politics without Beginnings1

in Architecture and Control
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What does it mean to be placed, to be positioned, to be contained by the boundaries of social places? Is it possible to think of autonomy from limitations alongside the autonomy of that which is always already in place, always already limited, an autonomy without end or beginning?

This text explores these questions through a philosophical critique of the concept of the limit, drawing upon major philosophical works from Hannah Arendt (The Human Condition, On Revolution), Martin Heidegger (Being and Time, Nietzsche Lectures), and Karl Jaspers (Philosophy of Existence). Limits, so the argument goes, are not just negative, external constraints. A limit is at once a place of closure and opening, a place in which the opening appears as a possibility of action. A limit, moreover, moves with the thing that it limits: It is something like its margin of possibility, a horizon that can be pressured, pushed in different directions by different forces, torn until the point of contradiction, broken and then recomposed. This means that the limit is a place of containment but also the locus of an ongoing struggle. It means that limits fix and order modes of being as well as express their growth, their orientation, their capacity to move. At the limit, causes and effects become manifest, and interventions acquire a visibility, a potentiality, a temporality of their own. The limit, in other words, can be thought of as the very place in which autonomy is constantly at stake: an idea of autonomy as a work on the limit, on the boundaries of what is visible, sayable, and doable, a dislocation in the order of things, the direction of which is always as yet undecided.

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