Democratic Melancholy: On the Sacrosanct Place of Democracy in Radical Democratic Theory
Source TitlePolitical Studies
University of Melbourne Author/sLittle, Adrian
AffiliationOffice of The Vice-Chancellor
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsLittle, A. J. L. (2010). Democratic Melancholy: On the Sacrosanct Place of Democracy in Radical Democratic Theory. Political Studies, 58 (5), pp.971-987. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9248.2009.00807.x.
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In recent years radical democracy has become a prominent perspective in contemporary political theory. However, radical democracy involves numerous theoretical arguments and interpretations of democracy as can be witnessed in the work of some theorists who have been influential on radical democratic politics such as William Connolly, Judith Butler and Wendy Brown. Although all of these theorists agree that there are serious problems in the dominant liberal conceptions of democracy, some of them seem reluctant to criticise the workings of democracy in favour of analysis of the limitations of liberalism. While radical democrats need to recognise these limitations, the article contends that the main elements of modern democracy such as popular sovereignty, voting, representation and the rule of law also need to be subjected to critical scrutiny. Otherwise the work of theorists such as Connolly, Butler and Brown tends to produce a melancholic lament for democracy lost which draws attention away from the idea of the ‘constitutive failure’ of democracy that animates some of the radical democratic canon of contemporary European theorists. In short, the article contends that radical democratic theorists need to recognise that democracy is not sacrosanct.
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