Agonism is most simply defined as the understanding that conflict is intrinsically involved in achieving positive outcomes. Agonism understands that we, as humans, are driven by a purpose, multifaceted in presentation and scope. One facet is our inherent “ability” (or need, as some would be inclined to say) to enjoin conflict to find resolution. To be an agonist then, in my reductionistic definition, is to enjoin conflict with purpose to gain resolution. In this submission, I discuss how agonism led to finding purpose in fighting (nee conflict) for the marginalized.
Reading Time in Minutes
- Purpose is often found WHILE in the middle of life
- Conflict, in its many forms, is necessary and inevitable. Embrace it.
- Being adversarial isn’t a negative. Rather, it’s purpose-driven.
- Fight for purpose and for those seeking it.
About Dave Graham
Dave Graham is a research technologist and the technology advocate lead for Dell Technologies’ Office of Research where he focuses on how technologies are integrated into organizations, society, and their potential for global transformation. He is currently working on his PhD at University College Dublin – SMARTLab looking at how data is used to increase social agency.
Contacting Dave Graham
By Dave Graham
Oftentimes we view purpose as being a wholesome character trait or expression. We marvel at those with purpose: we create seminars and events about “finding purpose,” we have books in self-help about finding purpose, we flock to those who we believe “have it.” And yet, when push comes to shove, we struggle to actualize purpose in our lives. We believe that employment is purpose, that family presumes purpose, that vacations are purpose. Yet, when pushed, we stammer and stutter, having to search much deeper into our souls and hearts to find that volitional pool where purpose is drawn from, if we can find it at all.
I am no different. I am many things: a student, a husband, an employee, a human being. I have roles and responsibilities, actions directed by needs and desires and yet, I can find myself aimless, directionless, unfulfilled even in this fantastically ornamented life. I struggle with the ephemeral pursuit of purpose because, like everyone else, I assume that it is tied to a role, a responsibility, a moment. Finding or discovering purpose, then, is hard-fought yet, once encountered, it becomes the softest down upon which to rest your head. For me, it took the accidental discovery of agonism to find a footing upon which to establish purpose’s foundation in my life.
Agonism is most simply defined as the understanding that conflict is intrinsically involved in achieving positive outcomes. Oftentimes it is wrapped around the understanding of sociopolitical foment (pluralistic agonism), but for wont of a cleaner understanding, I’ve generalized its approach. Agonism understands that we, as humans, are driven by a purpose, multifaceted in presentation and scope. One facet is our inherent “ability” (or need, as some would be inclined to say) to enjoin conflict to find resolution. To be an agonist then, in my reductionistic definition, is to enjoin conflict with purpose to gain resolution. Rather than belabour this point, I suggest we look at a cogent example from our current social gyre to understand agonistic purpose.
I’ve talked previously about how certain American state governments have enacted legislation to restrict or remove individual sovereignty. As an example, Texas Senate Bills 8 and 1646 (SB8, SB1646) sought to create a bounty system for those seeking reproductive services (SB8) and forced Child Protective Services (CPS) to investigate families whose children were body or gender dysphoric, amongst other things (SB1646). While both of these bills are odious in ontology, they had a causal effect on society; namely, the emergence of agonism to counter their application. For example, SB8 provided a mechanism for reporting violations using a simple online form which would, in turn, be used to establish jurisdiction and validity for pursuing legal action. To many of us, this form presented an opportunity for agonistic action.
Our conflict was with SB8 and our purpose became the action of “poisoning the well” of data that the webform sought to draw on. By introducing data that was false, wrong, or otherwise close enough to real as to invalidate the baseline requirements for litigation, we sought (and are still seeking) to cause a systemic “break” in the enforcement and power that this particular bill has on Texas society and those seeking a basic human right. This is agonistic purpose in plain view.
Finding purpose is a struggle. Finding purpose that satisfies the whole self, not just pieces and parts, is a rarity. But once found, it has a powerful assembling force for knitting together the various streams and pieces of who you are into something that is unstoppable.