Democracy in what State?

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Columbia University Press, 2011 - 130 pages
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"Is it meaningful to call oneself a democrat? And if so, how do you interpret the word?"

In responding to this question, eight iconoclastic thinkers prove the rich potential of democracy, along with its critical weaknesses, and reconceive the practice to accommodate new political and cultural realities. Giorgio Agamben traces the tense history of constitutions and their coexistence with various governments. Alain Badiou contrasts current democratic practice with democratic communism. Daniel Bensaid ponders the institutionalization of democracy, while Wendy Brown discusses the democratization of society under neoliberalism. Jean-Luc Nancy measures the difference between democracy as a form of rule and as a human end, and Jacques Rancière highlights its egalitarian nature. Kristin Ross identifies hierarchical relationships within democratic practice, and Slavoj Zizek complicates the distinction between those who desire to own the state and those who wish to do without it.

Concentrating on the classical roots of democracy and its changing meaning over time and within different contexts, these essays uniquely defend what is left of the left-wing tradition after the fall of Soviet communism. They confront disincentives to active democratic participation that have caused voter turnout to decline in western countries, and they address electoral indifference by invoking and reviving the tradition of citizen involvement. Passionately written and theoretically rich, this collection speaks to all facets of modern political and democratic debate.


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About the author (2011)

Giorgio Agamben teaches at the Università IUAV di Venezia, the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris, and the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.

Alain Badiou is the René Descartes Chair at the European Graduate School and teaches at the Ecole Normale Superieure and the College International de Philosophie.

Daniel Bensaid is a philosopher and leader of the Trotskyist movement in France. He is the author of Marx for Our Times.

Wendy Brown is the Heller Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Her books include Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in an Age of Identity and Empire and Edgework: Critical Essays in Knowledge and Politics.

Jean-Luc Nancy is professor of philosophy emeritus at the University of Strasbourg and a student of Lyotard and Derrida.

Jacques Rancière is professor of philosophy emeritus at the University of Paris. A collaborator of Althusser, his major works include The Future of the Image and The Politics of Aesthetics.

Kristin Ross is professor of comparative literature at New York University and the author of the award-winning Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture.

Slavoj Zizek is a professor at the Institute for Sociology, Univeristy of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and at the European Graduate School. His books include Living in the End Times and Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism.

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