Glossary

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Agamben, Giorgio: Agamben suggests the word democracy has at least two, distinct meanings that often get mistakenly conflated. First, democracy refers to the political agreements (such as a constitution, public law, social norms) through which the people organize and make collective decisions. Agamben calls this a “political-juridical” rationality—meaning this aspect of democracy refers to the creation of laws, and the constant revision of law, by the people of any given collective. Read more >>.


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Badiou, Alain: Building on Plato’s two theses about democracy, Badiou suggests democracy can be viewed as both a form of government (the state), and mode of subject-construction (the democrat). Read more >>


Brown, Wendy: The word democracy means only that “the people” rule themselves, that the whole rather than a part or an Other is politically sovereign. However, as Brown points out, this definition does not necessarily entail “representation, constitutions, deliberation, participation, free markets, rights, universality or even equality.” Read more >>


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Democracy:  The vigorous debate over the nature of democracy ranges from subaltern perspectives on state policies and practices to hotly contested Eurocentric presumptions about nation-states. In these debates there is little consensus, an absence that perhaps is one mark of an active democracy. Read more >>


Derrida, Jacques: Derrida's thesis is that enactment of a democratic political state must, in some fundamental ways, undermine the very principles of democracy upon which it is founded. Read more >>

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Lyotard, Jean-FrançoisIn contemporary politics, the word democracy most often connotes ideas like government, state, human rights, law, etc. It is often perceived as a system or meta-narrative designed to organize and order differences hierarchically according to the majority rule (aggregative democracy), or particular “(I)deas of reason,” such as freedom, patriotism, human rights, nationalism, justice, etc. Read more > >


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Mouffe, Chantal: Much of democratic thought, especially liberal and deliberative forms of democracy, are dependent upon and emphasize consensus and majority rules. Read more >>

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Nancy, Jean-Luc: Nancy points out that democracy now means (or signifies) a number of totally different things: politics, ethic, law, civilization—and therefore means nothing. Read more >>

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Ranciere: Rancière believes democracy is neither a governmental or societal structure. Rather, it is the underlying principle which makes both possible.  For Rancière, democracy is the equality at the heart of inequality. Democracy, equality, is the underlying condition of politics, and not a goal or structure to be attained. Read more »


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Spivak, Gyatri: An acceptance of radical vulnerability...Read more >>.

Subaltern:  The subaltern might be summarized as spaces cut off from the lines of social mobility, or as women and men outside the lines of socio-economic class mobility, particularly rural illiterate women and men of the global south. Those active in such spaces are illegible to those who occupy the space produced by complicity with the patriarchal state and the secular liberal European imaginary, so communication from and with the subaltern is troubled by foundational problems of the politics of knowledge and action.  Read more »


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