Democracy Against Representation: A Radical Realist View

by Paul Raekstad

Abstract: 

In recent years, radical movements from the Arab Spring to Occupy and beyond have been calling for “democracy.” These movements also claim to reject representation—a keystone of many contemporary liberal understandings of democracy. How can we make sense of this? There is ongoing debate about this in these movements and their descendants, part of which consists in figuring out what we should take “democracy” to mean. This article tries to contribute to this process of collective self-clarification by reconstructing one notion of what we could take “democracy” to mean. Thereafter, we will see how we can use this concept to make sense of the critique of representation in many contemporary radical movements and how useful it can be for helping to guide social change and the practices seeking to bring it about. I will thus argue that a coherent conception of democracy can be found, and that it can be a powerful tool both for understanding and critiquing the shortcomings of contemporary societies and for guiding our efforts to overcome them.

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