Politics without Politics

Jodi Dean
2009 Parallax  
In some left political theory, democracy is an aspiration that occupies a place once held by communism. One might think of Chantal Mouffe's and Ernesto Laclau's work on radical democracy, accounts of deliberative democracy influenced by Jürgen Habermas's theory of communicative action, or the pluralism espoused by William Connolly. These proper names, however, point to more than the specific proposals of specific theorists. They highlight a general underlying supposition that despite all our
more » ... despite all our problems with democracy, democracy is the solution to all our problems. Whether expressed as the idea of an empty place where things can be otherwise or in terms of a set of procedures that incorporate already the keys to revising and reforming political practice, democracy, it seems, is our only political option. As Margaret Thatcher said of capitalism, there is no alternative. For the left, democracy is our last, best hope. Democracy, though, is inadequate as a language and frame for left political aspiration. Here are two reasons why; there are others. First, the right speaks the language of democracy. It voices its goals and aspirations in democratic terms. One of the reasons given for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, for example, was the goal of bringing democracy to the Middle East. Similarly, leftists in the United States urge inclusion and participation, and so do those on the political right. The right complains about the exclusion of conservatives from the academy and God from politics. They, too, try to mobilize grass-root support and increase participation. There is nothing particularly left, then, about inclusion and participation. These are elements of democracy the right also supports. This rightwing adoption of democratic ideals prevents the left from
doi:10.1080/13534640902982579 fatcat:bs67ewwdmzfytesshdpuf25xu4