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