Disorienting Democracy: Politics of emancipation, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Disorienting Democracy

Politics of emancipation, 1st Edition

By Clare Woodford


198 pages

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Hardback: 9780415634298
pub: 2016-09-19
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Drawing on recent developments in continental political thought ‘Disorienting Democracy’ rethinks democracy as a practice that can be used to counter the increasing poverty, inequality and insecurity that mark our contemporary era. In answer to concerns that the contemporary left is not strong enough for these so-called times of crisis this book argues that the left must urgently return to strongly redistributive policies but that this alone is not enough. To bring lasting change it must continually work to untangle its longstanding emancipatory ideals from the dominatory tendencies that have undermined and weakened it throughout the 20th century.

In response, this book argues that the work of Jacques Rancière is key. Countering domination with a resolute assertion of the capacities of all he gives us a radical politics of emancipation that emerges through subjects who refuse to know their place. In appropriating alternative ways of living they disidentify with everyday consensus, rupturing and subverting our unequal order to force alternatives onto the agenda. Juxtaposing Rancière with other thinkers from Judith Butler to Jacques Derrida, Woodford draws out the practical  implications of Rancière’s work for our current time. She develops dissensual practices that provoke us to not just assert that another world is possible, but to bring about that other world today. 

Challenging what it means to do political philosophy, rethinking the role of critical theory, ethics, education, literature and aesthetics for democracy, and rejecting the longstanding divide between theory and activism, this book will be of particular interest to graduates, scholars and activists.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Disorienting democracy

Disorienting the left and the limits of communism

Rejecting postdemocracy and rethinking the state of the left

Plotting our route

Dis-reconnaissance in preparation for voyage

Practicing dissensus

1. Equality: the twisted path of emancipation

‘Politics’ as appropriation, subjectivation and dis-identification

‘Politics’ can be willed

The ordinary in the extraordinary: how to decide between ‘politics’ or police

‘Politics’ and effectivity

Strategy: from police to ‘politics

2. Reflexivity: Untangling the revolution

The counter-revolutionary charge

Domination and emancipation in critical theory

Distinguishing domination via the aesthetics of knowledge

Christoph Menke and critical thinking as a practice of reflexivity

Reflexivity as dissensual practice

3. Aversivity: Thinking against conformity

Appropriating emancipation against conformity

Emancipation in Cavell’s aversive thinking

Dissensual community

Exemplars of dissent

Provoking the self through aversivity

4. Poeticity: from the glade of the cicadas to the island of the people

‘Literarity’ or ‘literariness’?

Rancière, writing and literarity

Re-tracing literarity against Derrida

Doubling democracy, doubling literature

Poeticity as play with meaning

5. Absurdity: aesthetics of subversion

Senses of absurdity

From theatre to the streets

Subversion as iteration in the work of Judith Butler

Reading Butler and Rancière together

Practicing absurdity, living the carnival

Reflections on revolutionising: a voyage without a compass

About the Author

Clare Woodford is Senior Lecturer in Political Philosophy at the School of Humanities, University of Brighton, UK

About the Series


The Series provides a forum for innovative and interdisciplinary work that engages with alternative critical, post-structural, feminist, postcolonial, psychoanalytic and cultural approaches to international relations and global politics. In our first 5 years we have published 60 volumes.

We aim to advance understanding of the key areas in which scholars working within broad critical post-structural traditions have chosen to make their interventions, and to present innovative analyses of important topics. Titles in the series engage with critical thinkers in philosophy, sociology, politics and other disciplines and provide situated historical, empirical and textual studies in international politics.


We are very happy to discuss your ideas at any stage of the project: just contact us for advice or proposal guidelines. Proposals should be submitted directly to the Series Editors:

  • Jenny Edkins (jennyedkins@hotmail.com) and
  • Nick Vaughan-Williams (N.Vaughan-Williams@Warwick.ac.uk).

‘As Michel Foucault has famously stated, "knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting" In this spirit The Edkins - Vaughan-Williams Interventions series solicits cutting edge, critical works that challenge mainstream understandings in international relations. It is the best place to contribute post disciplinary works that think rather than merely recognize and affirm the world recycled in IR's traditional geopolitical imaginary.’

Michael J. Shapiro, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, USA


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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Civics & Citizenship
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / Political Parties
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / General