04 July 2010

Journal "Theory & Event" special issue questioning democracy

The journal "Theory & Event" just published a special issue carrying a symposium of papers, first presented at a roundtable at last year's annual meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA), under the heading "We Are All Democrats Now" (13 [2], 2010):


The journal's editors, Jodi Dean (Hobart and William Smith Colleges) and Davide Panagia (Trent University), write in their introduction to this issue: "Wendy Brown guest edits our symposium, 'We are All Democrats Now.' From ancient Greece to contemporary Israel, from a deep aspiration worth saving to a barrier demanding its own overcoming, democracy appears in these discussions not only as being in question but also as a concept in need of being questioned."

The following articles are included:

Wendy Brown (Berkeley), "Editor's Introduction We are all democrats now ..." (page numbers not given).

Excerpt: "Democracy today experiences historically unparalleled global popularity, including among political theorists. Yet, in practice, democracy has never been more conceptually footloose, substantively thin or semiotically manipulated for undemocratic domestic and foreign exploits. What accounts for this schism? And what are the specific difficulties for democracy in a world contoured by civilizational conflict, eroding nation-state sovereignty, settler colonialism by 'democracies,' unprecedentedly large mergers of state and capital, ascending neoliberal rationality, and invasions and occupations conducted in the name of democratization? [...] [G]iven the disrepair and misuse into which it has fallen, ought democracy to be abandoned for other visions and practices of popular justice and shared power? The contributors to this symposium [...] approach democracy cautiously, curiously, even skeptically, [...] and query the cultural, social, economic, political and even intellectual conditions that would nurture or erode it."

Wendy Brown (Berkeley), "We Are All Democrats Now ..." (page numbers not given).

Excerpt: "Perhaps democracy's current popularity depends on the openness and even vacuity of its meaning and practice – an empty signifier to which any and all can attach their dreams and hopes. Or perhaps capitalism, modern democracy's non-identical birth twin and always the more robust and wily of the two, has finally reduced democracy to a 'brand,' that late modern twist on commodity fetishism which wholly severs a product's saleable image from its content. Or perhaps, in the joke on Whiggish history wherein the twenty-first century features godheads warring with an intensity presumed vanquished by modernity, democracy has emerged as a new world religion – not a specific form of political power and culture but an alter before which the West and its admirers worship and the divine purpose through which Western imperial crusades are shaped and legitimated. Democracy is not only exalted across the globe today but across the political spectrum. Along with post-Cold War regime changers, former Soviet subjects still reveling in entrepreneurial bliss, apostles of neoliberalism, and never-say-die liberals, we of the EuroAtlantic Left are also mesmerized [...]."

John R. Wallach (Hunter College/CUNY), "None of Us is a Democrat Now" (page numbers not given).

Excerpt: "The title of the panel, 'We are all democrats now ...,' is self-subverting: it notes a common political belief, and it subjects it to questioning. 'People may say it's so, but that can't be the case: so what’s going on?' It's both curious and provocative. It is curious, because one of the sources of the panel is Sheldon Wolin's most recent book, [...] in which he argues that democracy has been hollowed out by the forces of capitalism, bureaucracy, and state-power to become a one-dimensional political form that is connivingly, ultimately, anti-democratic. Wolin would say that there are strikingly few democrats now. [...] Dutifully provoked, I have chosen to signal my remarks by negating the panel's title, affirming that 'none of us is a democrat now.'"

Neve Gordon (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev), "Democracy and Colonialism" (page numbers not given).

Excerpt: "I contend that colonialism has served as a crucial component in the historical processes through which modern democracies were created and sustained. Focusing on the production of 'the people' – namely, those who are acknowledged as citizens and consequently have been granted the right to participate in political decisions – I maintain that colonialism has been deployed by democracy as a force that unifies, limits, and stabilizes the people within the metropole by employing violent forms of exclusion."

Antonio Y. Vázquez-Arroyo (University of Minnesota), "Democracy Today: Four Maxims" (page numbers not given).

Excerpt: "Worldwide, the summer of 2009 was a throwback. The world witnessed Manuel Zelaya getting ousted in Honduras – in what seemed an anachronism in the post-cold war era – by a coup d'état, with a mild reproach by the United States. [...] Coeval with this, an election, the minimal marker of democracy, was blatantly stolen in Iran, with Ayatollahs in tow, to the temporary outrage of the west; of course, the same west that scolded the Afghan elites was silent about the fact that [...] US drones killed 60 people in Pakistan, including women and children. [...] And this is without dwelling on the collusion of western democracies with on-going anti-democratic practices that their very ordinariness and dreariness render invisible, such as the apartheid occupation in Israel that effectively keeps the Palestinian population at the threshold of a humanitarian catastrophe [...]."

Anne Norton (University of Pennsylvania), "Democracy and the Divine" (page numbers not given).

Excerpt: "There are few democrats now, fewer still, I suspect, in the academy. Philosophers we might have trusted have fled from the defense of democracy. Derrida's late work exiled democracy to an uncertain, always deferred future. Democracy could be found only in the company of the rioting shebab of the banlieux, who were, those rogues, that canaille, too 'close to democracy.' Their society was suspect. Democracy had to be saved from these, the poor and disenfranchised, who were closest to it. Derrida's project should be familiar to us, since it has been seen often enough. His advice followed the example set by the Turkish, Argentine Chilean and Pakistani militaries: to save democracy from itself by taking up arms against the democrats. Derrida was hardly alone in this. The democratic politics of Muslims in Europe and the Middle East have been opposed by philosophers from Rawls to Zizek; few questions have so united this intellectually diverse assembly."

I wasn't able to access the full text of any of the longer articles. The full text of Brown's short introduction can be read free of charge.

No comments:

Post a Comment