Democratic Theory at a Crossroads: Re-Thinking Democracy from Institutionalization to Dissensus and with Foucault and Havel
22 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2012 Last revised: 5 Sep 2012
Date Written: 2012
As a concept and ideal, democracy enjoys an unparalleled global popularity and legitimacy. At the same time, the word has never been more substantively hollow. It has come to mean almost anything and everything. A recognition of this crisis in meaning has motivated a diverse group of political theorists and philosophers who have all coalesced to call for a re-thinking of the concept. This paper situates itself within this movement, arguing for a radical re-thinking of democracy that is incompatible with its institutionalization into a political form or system of government. In this sense, I argue for an understanding of democracy as a practice of freedom (Michel Foucault). In support of this re-negotiation I employ a case study concerning Czechoslovakia’s post-communist transition and the establishment of the Civic Forum in Prague. Here we can witness the de-creation of democracy rather than its formation. The democratic moment dissolves with the advent of formal organizations and political routine. Overall, I seek to articulate the beginnings of a theory of democracy that stands in opposition to the state and institutional embodiment. Democracy is not compatible with government (the conduct of conduct). At the very least, such a theory may help us recognize just how undemocratic our democracies really are.
Keywords: Democracy, Foucault, Czech, Czechoslovakia, Havel
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