Democracy in what state? by Giorgio Agamben

By Giorgio Agamben

"Is it significant to name oneself a democrat? And if that is so, how do you interpret the word?"

In responding to this question, 8 iconoclastic thinkers end up the wealthy capability of democracy, besides its serious weaknesses, and reconceive the perform to house new political and cultural realities. Giorgio Agamben lines the annoying background of constitutions and their coexistence with a number of governments. Alain Badiou contrasts present democratic perform with democratic communism. Daniel Bensaid ponders the institutionalization of democracy, whereas Wendy Brown discusses the democratization of society below neoliberalism. Jean-Luc Nancy measures the variation among democracy as a sort of rule and as a human finish, and Jacques Rancière highlights its egalitarian nature. Kristin Ross identifies hierarchical relationships inside democratic perform, and Slavoj Zizek complicates the excellence among those that wish to personal the country and those that desire to do with no it.

Concentrating at the classical roots of democracy and its altering which means over the years and inside of various contexts, those essays uniquely guard what's left of the left-wing culture after the autumn of Soviet communism. They confront disincentives to energetic democratic participation that experience prompted voter turnout to say no in western international locations, they usually tackle electoral indifference by means of invoking and reviving the culture of citizen involvement. Passionately written and theoretically wealthy, this assortment speaks to all features of contemporary political and democratic debate.

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With regard to the first, democracy, rule by the people, is only meaningful and exercisable in a discreet and bounded entity— this is what sovereignty signals in the equation of popular sovereignty with democracy. Democracy detached from a bounded sovereign jurisdiction (whether virtual or literal) is politically meaningless: for the people to rule themselves, there must be an identifiable collective entity within which their power sharing is organized and upon which it is exercised. Of course, the vastness of the nationstate already limits the kinds of power sharing that makes democracy meaningful, but when even this venue gives way to postnational and transnational fields of political, economic, and social power, democracy becomes incoherent.

What would take their place? 40 Which leads to the question of who promulgates the law and in whose name such criminal proceedings would be launched. The refusal of profane politics, with its impurities, uncertainties, and wobbly conventions, leads ineluctably back to theology and its jumble of graces, miracles, revelations, repentances, and pardons. Illusory flights from the sordidness of politics actually perpetuate impotence. Instead of pretending to wriggle out of the contradiction between unconditional principles and the conditionality of practical living, politics means taking a stand there and working to surmount it without ever suppressing it.

For him, as for John Dewey, to laicize democracy was to reject any notion of the beyond, any transcendence, any next world, any ultimate foundation, and to accept the insurmountable uncertainty of political judgment. Dewey addressed himself to Trotsky on this point. For Trotsky, utilitarian morality, the justification of the means by the ends, was anathema; his focus was on the justification of the ends themselves, but ultimately the criterion he invoked was the class struggle. Dewey accused Trotsky of thus surreptitiously resorting to a factitious transcendence.

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