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?

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Pub Date: January 2011

ISBN: 9780231152990

144 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $22.00£16.00

Pub Date: January 2011

ISBN: 9780231152983

144 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $70.00£52.00

Pub Date: January 2011

ISBN: 9780231527088

144 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $21.99£16.00

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
Authors
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.

About the Author

Alain Badiou is emeritus professor of philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris.

Barbara Cassin is a French linguist and philosopher and director of research at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris.

Kenneth Reinhard is associate professor of English and comparative literature at the University of California, Los Angeles.

About the Author

Rainer Forst is Professor of Political Theory and Philosophy and Co-Director of the "Normative Orders" Research Cluster at Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main. His recent books include The Right to Justification, Toleration in Conflict and Justification and Critique.

Wendy Brown is Class of 1936 First Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is also affiliated with the graduate program in Critical Theory. Her recent books include Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Empire and Identity, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty and Is Critique Secular? co-authored with T. Asad, J. Butler and S. Mahmood.

Christoph F. E. Holzhey is the founding director of the ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry and led the core project Tension/Spannung with its recent foci on Multistable Figures and Complementarity. He has edited several volumes in the series Cultural Inquiry with Turia + Kant in Vienna: Tension/Spannung, The Scandal of Self-Contradiction: Pasolini's Multistable Subjectivities, Traditions, Geographies (with L. Di Blasi and M. Gragnolati), Situiertes Wissen und regionale Epistemologie: Zur Aktualität Georges Canguilhems und Donna J. Haraways (with A. Deuber-Mankowsky), and Multistable Figures: On the Critical Potentials of Ir/Reversible Aspect-seeing.

Luca Di Blasi is University Lecturer in Philosophy at the Universität Bern. Until the end of 2013, he was Academic Assistant to the Director at the ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry. He has published widely on the topic of philosophy of religion, including Der Geist in der Revolte: Der Gnostizismus und seine Wiederkehr in der Postmoderne.

About the Author

Slavoj Žižek is a professor at the Institute for Sociology, University of Ljubljana, and at the European Graduate School. Among his most recent books are Demanding the Impossible, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, and The Sublime Object of Ideology. He is a coeditor of Hegel and the Infinite: Religion, Politics, and Dialectic and a contributor to Democracy in What State?, What Does a Jew Want? On Binationalism and Other Specters, and Reimagining the Sacred: Debating God with Richard Kearney.

Srecko Horvat is a Croatian philosopher and the author of nine books. He is also a highly respected political theorist and activist, and a columnist for The Guardian. His latest book is After the End of History: From the Arab Spring to the Occupy Movement.