Tribunals, public inquiries and similar institutions, increasingly common in the political culture of the United Kingdom, the European Union, and in America, can be seen as exemplifying the auto-correcting, self-reflexive capacity of political institutions in information-rich and communicatively fluent societies. They represent the modernization of political culture guided by communicative rationality, paralleling the accelerated modernization of globalization. This view is elaborated and modified by an interpretation based on a philosophy of history as recurrence or “metempsychosis” (Nietzsche, Vico, Joyce) and the mythic figure of Trickster as formulated in anthropology and psychoanalysis (Radin, Hyde, Jung). Specifically, the political culture of globalization is cast in terms of the reconfiguration of the archaic and an intensification of myth (Benjamin). An examination of the ongoing Tribunal of Inquiry into Payments to Politicians in Ireland shows how tribunals are theaters in which the politician appears as a recurrence of a Trickster archetype adept at negotiating and playing this liminal and changing context. Tribunals struggle not so much to eradicate and replace Trickster by systems of formal rationality, but to redeem his vital energy and creativity.

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