zondag 23 oktober 2016


Democracy as Empty Signifier

Democracy has historically unparalleled global popularity today yet has never been more conceptually footloose or substantively hollow Perhaps democracy's current popularity depends on the openness and even vacuity of its meaning and practice—like Barack Obama, it is an empty signifier to which any and all can attach their dreams and hopes Or perhaps capitalism, modern democracy's nonidentical birth twin and always the more robust and wily of the two, has finally reduced democracy to a "brand," a late modern twist on com- modity fetishism that wholly severs a product's salable image from its content. Or perhaps, in the joke on Whiggish history wherein the twenty-first century features godheads warring with an intensity that ought to have been vanquished by modernity, democracy has emerged as a new world religion—not a specific form of political power and culture but an altar before which the West and its admirers worship and through which divine purpose Western imperial crusades are shaped and legitimated.

Democracy is exalted not only across the globe today but across the political spectrum. Along with post-cold war regime changers, former Soviet subjects still reveling in entrepreneurial bliss, avatars of neoliberalism, and never-say-die liberals, the Euro-Atlantic Left is also mesmerized by the brand. We hail democracy to redress Marx's abandonment of the political after his turn from Hegelian thematics (or we say that radical democracy was what was meant by commu- nism all along), we seek to capture democracy for yet-untried purposes and ethoi, we write of "democracy to come," "democracy of the uncounted," "democratizing sovereignty" "democracy workshops/' "pluralizing democracy," and more. Berlusconi and Bush, Derrida and Balibar, Italian communists and Hamas—we are all democrats now. But what is left of democracy?

Further Reading: 

Femke Halsema Versus Miko Peled

Knesset’s New Nation State Law Codifies Israel as an Apartheid State  The passing of the Nation State law codifies what have been racis...