While conventional politics played a part in Georg Brandes's critical practice that has received ample scholarly attention, his appropriation of the political as an ontological concern with "the very way society is instituted" (to cite Chantal Mouffe) has gone quite unheeded in studies of his writings. Yet I consider this dimension to be indispensable for Brandes's ability to articulate his most antagonistic leanings within democratic forms of discourse. Thus he reconciled an acceptance of concensus with the need for dissent. My essay interrogates three areas that were strongly on Brandes's mind during successive phases of his mature life: the Danish constitutional struggle of the 1880s, the so-called Dreyfus affair around 1900, and later the repression of minorities, foreign lands, and anti-war movements in Europe. In each area he makes an uncompromising stand within the boundary of civil, intellectual discourse. Such antagonism channeled into democratic expresssion is what Mouffe calls agonism, and as Brandes expresses antagonism at its most agonizing, I argue that he displays the political in a nutshell for a post-political era to behold.
- The political