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

See all articles by Michael Laurence

Michael Laurence

University of Western Ontario - Faculty of Social Science

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Laurence, Michael, Democratic Theory at a Crossroads: Re-Thinking Democracy from Institutionalization to Dissensus and with Foucault and Havel (2012). APSA 2012 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2104843

Michael Laurence (Contact Author)

University of Western Ontario - Faculty of Social Science ( email )

London, Ontario N6A 5B8
Canada

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
71
Abstract Views
425
rank
451,687
PlumX Metrics