Democracy without the Demos : Rosanvallon’s Decentering of Democratic Theory
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This paper explores the core of Pierre Rosanvallon’s revision of democratic theory. In his view, today’s democratic institutions cannot make good on their 200 year-old promise of representation because their very nature has fundamentally transformed from merely representing to also governing. Moreover, due to the shift from an industrial to post-industrial society, homogeneous collective categories of representation such as class, nation or people have broken down. This process has undermined the mainstream assumption that democratic legitimacy stems mainly from “the people” as a unified collective subject that projects itself “positively” into the future with the help of universal suffrage and parliamentary legislation. Democratic theory has to adjust to these changes. It should stop insisting that the centre of democratic systems is the electoral expression of the people’s will. Other, less direct forms of legitimacy have to be theorized and promoted while purely “negative” or “counter-democratic” civic practices of oversight, limitation and judging of established governments should be considered.
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