Democracy
in Unstable universalities
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This chapter explores the crisis of democracy today — the way that, in the conditions of the ‘war on terror’ and with the ideological consensus that has emerged around the ‘free market’ and ‘security’, the term ‘democracy’ has become largely meaningless. However, rather than simply abandoning democracy, it suggests that democracy contains a radical and emancipative potential that can be reactivated today. It considers a number of different attempts to revive democracy: William Connolly's democratic ethos of pluralism; Jürgen Habermas' and Seyla Benhabib's notions of ‘deliberative democracy’; Claude Lefort's concept of the democratic revolution; and Chantal Mouffe's pluralistic approach to radical democracy. In pointing out the benefits and limitations of these different approaches, the chapter concludes that for democracy to be taken seriously today — for its principle of liberty and equality to be realised — then it must be detached from the concept of state sovereignty. It also discusses postmodernity, the desirability of the democratic consensus, democracy without foundations, and the link between democracy and globalisation.

Unstable universalities

Poststructuralism and radical politics

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