Democracy in What State?

Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, Daniel Bensaid, Wendy Brown, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Ranciere, Kristin Ross, and Slavoj Zizek. Translated by William McCuaig

Columbia University Press

Democracy in What State?

Google Preview

Pub Date: June 2012

ISBN: 9780231152990

144 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $22.00£19.00

Pub Date: January 2011

ISBN: 9780231152983

144 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $70.00£59.00

Pub Date: January 2011

ISBN: 9780231527088

144 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $21.99£19.00

Democracy in What State?

Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, Daniel Bensaid, Wendy Brown, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Ranciere, Kristin Ross, and Slavoj Zizek. Translated by William McCuaig

Columbia University Press

"Is it meaningful to call oneself a democrat? And if so, how do you interpret the word?"

In responding to this question, eight iconoclastic thinkers prove the rich potential of democracy, along with its critical weaknesses, and reconceive the practice to accommodate new political and cultural realities. Giorgio Agamben traces the tense history of constitutions and their coexistence with various governments. Alain Badiou contrasts current democratic practice with democratic communism. Daniel Bensaid ponders the institutionalization of democracy, while Wendy Brown discusses the democratization of society under neoliberalism. Jean-Luc Nancy measures the difference between democracy as a form of rule and as a human end, and Jacques Rancière highlights its egalitarian nature. Kristin Ross identifies hierarchical relationships within democratic practice, and Slavoj Zizek complicates the distinction between those who desire to own the state and those who wish to do without it.

Concentrating on the classical roots of democracy and its changing meaning over time and within different contexts, these essays uniquely defend what is left of the left-wing tradition after the fall of Soviet communism. They confront disincentives to active democratic participation that have caused voter turnout to decline in western countries, and they address electoral indifference by invoking and reviving the tradition of citizen involvement. Passionately written and theoretically rich, this collection speaks to all facets of modern political and democratic debate.

Democracy in What State? is an extremely significant contribution to the critical debate on the current state of world politics and, more specifically, on the role of the term democracy in political theory and practice. It includes invited contributions and interviews with a battery of intellectuals of a rare conceptual pedigree, including some of the most well-known living European philosophers, as well as the welcome contribution of two renowned American intellectuals.

Gabriel Rockhill, Villanova University

Democracy in What State? is timely, represents a wide variety of thinkers, and displays the political themes that are of concern to these thinkers. This allows the reader not only to have access to a general progressive critique of current political practice but also to compare different approaches to progressive thought and action, particularly (although not exclusively) in the contemporary French scene. If I saw it on a bookstore shelf, I would undoubtedly reach for it with one hand while reaching for my wallet with the other.

Todd May, Class of 1941 Memorial Professor of the Humanities, Clemson University

A timely and thought-provoking collection that shows that radical thinking and the politics of dissent are more than ever necessary in order to create a different kind of politics. Perhaps what most makes this book admirable is its attempt to start the dialogue that will rattle the sacrosanct cage of liberal democratic thinking.

Marx and Philosophy Review of Books

The slim but hugely incisive volume, Democracy in What State?, in which well-known intellectuals articulate their radical critique of the democratic theory, its philosophical impasse and its logical conundrums, provides a convenient access to the current debate on democratic theory and its discontents.

Muslim World Book Review
Foreword by the French Publisher
Translator's Note
Introductory Note on the Concept of Democracy, by Giorgio Agamben
The Democratic Emblem, by Alain Badiou
Permanent Scandal, by Daniel Bensaïd
"We Are All Democrats Now. . . ", by Wendy Brown
Finite and Infinite Democracy, by Jean-Luc Nancy
Democracies Against Democracy, by Jacques Rancière
Democracy for Sale, by Kristin Ross
From Democracy to Divine Violence, by Slavoj Zizek
Web Features:
  • Read an excerpt from Giorgio Agamben’s essay, "Introductory Note on the Concept of Democracy".

About the Author

Giorgio Agamben teaches at the Università IUAV di Venezia, the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris, and the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.

Alain Badiou is the René Descartes Chair at the European Graduate School and teaches at the Ecole Normale Superieure and the College International de Philosophie.

Daniel Bensaid is a philosopher and leader of the Trotskyist movement in France. He is the author of Marx for Our Times.

Wendy Brown is the Heller Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Her books include Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in an Age of Identity and Empire and Edgework: Critical Essays in Knowledge and Politics.

Jean-Luc Nancy is professor of philosophy emeritus at the University of Strasbourg and a student of Lyotard and Derrida.

Jacques Rancière is professor of philosophy emeritus at the University of Paris. A collaborator of Althusser, his major works include The Future of the Image and The Politics of Aesthetics.

Kristin Ross is professor of comparative literature at New York University and the author of the award-winning Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture.

Slavoj Žižek is a professor at the Institute for Sociology, Univeristy of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and at the European Graduate School. His books include Living in the End Times and Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism.