Главная Democracy in What State? (New Directions in Critical Theory)
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D E M O C R A C Y IN W H A T STATE? NEW DIRECTIONS IN CRITICAL THEORY AMY ALLEN, GENERAL EDITOR NEW DIRECTIONS IN CRITICAL THEORY Amy Allen, General Editor New Directions in Critical Theory presents outstanding classic and contemporary texts in the tradition of critical social theory, broadly construed The series aims to renew and advance the program of critical social theory, with a particular focus on theorizing contemporary struggles around gender, race, sexuality, class, and globalization and their complex interconnections Narrating Evil. A Postmetaphysical Theory ofReflective Judgment, Maria Pia Lara The Politics ofOur Selves Power, Autonomy, and Gender in Contemporary Critical Theory, Amy Allen Democracy and the Political Unconscious, Noelle McAfee The Force ofthe Example. Explorations in the Paradigm of Judgment, Alessandro Ferrara Horrorism. Naming Contemporary Violence, Adriana Cavarero Scales of Justice. Reimagining Political Space in a Globalizing World, Nancy Fraser Pathologies ofReason. On the Legacy ofCritical Theory, Axel Honneth States Without Nations. Citizenshipfor Mortals, Jacqueline Stevens The Racial Discourses ofLife Philosophy Negritude, Vitalism, and Modernity, Donna V Jones DEMOCRACY IN W H A T STATE? Giorgio Agamben Alain Badiou Daniel Bensaid Wendy Brown Jean-Luc Nancy Jacques Ranciere Kristin Ross Slavoj Zizek Translationsfrom the French by William McCuaig COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS NEW YORK COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS Publishers Since 1893 New York Chichester, West Sussex Democratic dans quel exax> copyright © 2009 La Fabrique English translation copyright © 2011 Columbia University Press All rights reserved Library of Congress Cataloging-in- Publication Data Democratic, dans quel etat> English Democracy in what state> / Giorgio Agamben [et al ] , translations from the French by William McCuaig p cm — (New directions in critical theory) Includes bibliographical references ISBN 978-0-231-15298-3 (cloth alk paper) —ISBN 978-0-231-52708-8 (e-book) 1 Democrac; y—Philosophy I Agamben, Giorgio, 1942- II McCuaig, William, 1949- JC423 D46313 III Title IV Series 2010 321 8—dc22 2010023553 e Columbia University Press books are printed on permanent and durable acid-free paper This book was printed on paper with recycled content Printed in the United States of America c 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 References to Internet Web sites (URLs) were accurate at the time of writing Neither the author nor Columbia University Press is responsible for URLs that may have expired or changed since the manuscript was prepared CONTENTS FOREWORD BY THE FRENCH PUBLISHER TRANSLATOR'S NOTE vii ix Introductory Note on the Concept of Democracy G I O R G I O AGAMBEN I The Democratic Emblem ALAIN BADIOU 6 Permanent Scandal DANIEL BENSAID l6 "We Are All Democrats N o w . . . " WENDY BROWN 44 Finite and Infinite Democracy JEAN-LUC NANCY 58 Democracies Against Democracy JACQUES RANCIERE j6 Democracy for Sale K R I S T I N ROSS 82 From Democracy to Divine Violence SLAVOJ ZIZEK NOTES 121 AUTHORS 129 v IOO F O R E W O R D BY THE FRENCH PUBLISHER Contributors to a number of editions of La Revolution surrealiste in the 1920s were requested to find something new to say about topics on which it seemed at the time that everything sayable had been s a i d love, suicide, the devil's bargain, things like that. Nevertheless, by casting intersecting beams, the answers they received from Artaud, Crevel, de Naville, Ernst, and Bufiuel did succeed in throwing the chosen topics into high relief. This quality of illumination can still surprise us, close to a century later. The present collection was conceived in homage to that model. The question put to our contributors was this: The word democracy appears to generate universal consensus these days. Of course, debates, sometimes fierce debates, do take place about its meaning or meanings. But in the "world" we inhabit, democracy is almost always accorded a positive valence. So we ask our contributors: is it meaningful, as far as you are concerned, to call oneself Vll a democrat > If not, why not? And if so, in line with what interpretation of the word? Some of the philosophers to whom this question was put were already our collaborators. With others we were acquainted only through writings of theirs, which suggested that their ideas about democracy diverged from the mainstream consensus. The answers you are about to read also diverge from, and sometimes contradict, one another—something we foresaw and counted on. So this book supplies no textbook definition of democracy, nor a user's manual for democrats, and least of all a verdict pro or con. But it does attest that the word democracy need not be scrapped just yet, because it still functions as a pivot around which core controversies of politics and political philosophy turn. viii FOREWORD TRANSLATOR'S N O T E I assume responsibility for the English versions of the contributions by Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, Daniel Bensaid, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Jacques Ranciere. The essays by Wendy Brown, Kristin Ross, and Slavoj Zizek were originally composed in English. Political thought and everyday language in the Anglophone world sometimes ignore the analytical distinction between state and government. The European languages conceptualize the former notion more strongly and capitalize the word Q'Etat, lo Stato, elEstado, derStaai). I deliberately follow this advantageous practice and write "the State" in my translations. D E M O C R A C Y IN W H A T STATE? I N T R O D U C T O R Y NOTE O N THE C O N C E P T OF D E M O C R A C Y GIORGIO AGAMBEN The term democracy sounds a false note whenever it crops up in debate these days because of a preliminary ambiguity that condemns anyone who uses it to miscommunication. Of what do we speak when we speak of democracy? What is the underlying rationale? An alert observer will soon realize that, whenever she hears the word, it might mean one of two different things: a way of constituting the body politic (in which case we are talking about public law) or a technique of governing (in which case our horizon is that of administrative practice). To put it another way, democracy designates both the form through which power is legitimated and the manner in which it is exercised. Since it is perfectly plain to everyone that the latter meaning prevails in contemporary political discourse, that the word democracy is used in most cases to refer to a technique of governing (something not, in itself, particularly reassuring), it is easy to see why those who continue, in good faith, to use it in the former sense may i be experiencing a certain malaise. These two areas of conceptuality (the juridico-political and the economic-managerial) have overlapped with one another since the birth of politics, political thought, and democracy in the Greek polis or city-state, which makes it hard to tease them apart. An example will show what I mean. The basic term politeia may not be familiar to readers without Greek, but they have seen it translated as The Republic, the title of Plato's most famous dialogue. "Republic" does not, however, exhaust its range of meanings. When the word politeia occurs in the classical writers, it is usually followed by a discussion of three different forms of politeia: monarchy, oligarchy, democracy, or six if you count the three corresponding parekbaseis, or deviant forms. But translators sometimes render politeia with "constitution," sometimes with "government." In The Constitution of Athens (chapter 27), Aristotle characterizes the "demagogy" of Pericles this way: "demotikoteran synebe genesthai ten politeian," and a standard English translation runs "the constitution became still more democratic." Aristotle continues with the statement that "apasan ten politeian mallon agein eis hautous," which the same translator renders as "brought all the government more into their hands." To make his translation coherent, he ought to have written "brought all the constitution more into their hands," but that would obviously have created a difficulty. When the same fundamental political concept can be translated to mean either "constitution" or "government," then we have ventured out beyond ambiguity onto the featureless terrain of amphibology (a term from grammar and rhetoric ^signifying indeterminacy of meaning). Let us train our gaze on two further passages from two classics of Western political thought, Aristotle's Politics and Rousseau's The Social Contract, in which this unclarity manifests itself with particular force. In the Politics, Aristole states his intention to itemize and analyze the different "constitutions" or "forms of constitution" (politeiai): "Since politeia and politeuma signify the same thing, and since the politeuma is the supreme (kyrion) power in a city, it nec2 GIORGIO AGAMBEN essarily follows that the supreme power resides either with an individual, with a few, or with the many' (Politics 1279a 25 ff). Current translations run more or less like this: "Since constitution and government signify the same thing, and since government is the supreme power in the state . . . " A more faithful translation would retain the closeness of the terms politeia (political activity) and politeuma (the resulting political outcome), but, apart from that, it is clear that the essential problem with this passage lies in Aristotle's attempt to get rid of the amphibology by using the term kyrion. With a bit of wrenching, the passage can be paraphrased in modern terms as follows: the constituent power (politeia) and the constituted power (politeuma) bind themselves together into a sovereign (kyrion) power, which appears to be that which holds together the two sides of politics. But why is politics riven by this fissure, which the word kyrion both dramatizes and heals over? As for the Social Contract, Michel Foucault gave a course in 19771978 at the College de France showing that Rousseau's aim was precisely to reconcile juridical and constitutional terms like contract the general will, and sovereignty with an art of government. For our purposes, the important thing is the distinction—basic to Rousseau's political thought—between sovereignty and government and their modes of interaction. In the article on "Political Economy" which the editors of the Encyclopedic commissioned from him, Rousseau wrote: "I beg my readers to distinguish clearly between the topic of this article, which is public economy, or what I call government, and supreme authority, or what I call sovereignty. The distinction lies in this: sovereignty has the right to legislate (le droit legislatif) . . . whereas government has purely executive power." In The Social Contract the distinction between the general will and legislative capacity, on one hand, and government and executive power, on the other, is restated, but Rousseau now faces the challenge of portraying these two elements as distinct—and yet articulated, knit together, interwoven. This is what compels him, at the INTRODUCTORY NOTE ON THE CONCEPT OF DEMOCRACY 3 very moment he posits the distinction, to deny forcefully that there could exist any division within the sovereign. As with Aristotle, sovereignty that which is kyrion or supreme, is at the same time one of the two terms being distinguished, and the indissoluble link between constitution and government. Today we behold the overwhelming preponderance of the government and the economy over anything you could call popular sovereignty—an expression by now drained of all meaning. Western democracies are perhaps paying the price for a philosophical heritage they haven't bothered to take a close look at in a long time. To think of government as simple executive power is a mistake and one of the most consequential errors ever made in the history of Western politics. It explains why modern political thought wanders off into empty abstractions like law, the general will, and popular sovereignty while entirely failing to address the central question of government and its articulation, as Rousseau would say, to the sovereign or locus of sovereignty In a recent book I tried to show that the central mystery of politics is not sovereignty but government; not God but his angels; not the king but his minister; not the law but the police—or rather, the double governmental machine they form and propel. Our Western political system results from the coupling of two heterogeneous elements, a politico-juridical rationality and an economic-governmental rationality, a "form of constitution" and a "form of government." Incommensurable^jthey may be, but they legitimate and confer mutual consistency on each other Why does the politeia get trapped in this ambiguity? What is it that gives the sovereign, the kyrion, the power to ensure and guarantee the legitimacy of their union? What if it were just a fiction, a screen set up to hide the fact that there is a void at the center, that no articulation is possible between these two elements, these two rationalities? What if the task at hand were to disarticulate them and force into the open this "ungovernable" that is simultaneously the source and the vanishing point of any and all politics? 4 GIORGIO AGAMBEN As long as thought balks at tackling this knotty problem and its amphibology, any debate about democracy, either as a form of constitution or as a technique of government, is likely to collapse back into mere chatter. INTRODUCTORY NOTE ON THE CONCEPT OF DEMOCRACY 5 THE D E M O C R A T I C ALAIN EMBLEM BADIOU Despite all that is devaluing the word democracy day after day and in front of our eyes, there is no <i<5utl: that this word remains the dominant emblem of contemporary political society An emblem is the "untouchable" in a symbolic system, a third rail. You can say what you like about political society display unprecedented "critical" zeal, denounce the "economic horror," you'll always earn pardon as long as you do so in the name of democracy. The correct tone is something like: "How can a society that claims to be democratic be guilty of this or that?" Ultimately you will be seen to have judged society in the name of its emblem and therefore itself You haven't gone beyond the pale, you still deserve the appellation of citizen rather than barbarian, you're standing by at your democratically assigned place. Be seeing you at the next election. Well, I say this: before one can even begin to apprehend the reality of our societies, it's necessary, as a preliminary exercise, to dislodge 6 their emblem. The only way to make truth out of the world we're living in is to dispel the aura of the word democracy and assume the burden of not being a democrat and so being heartily disapproved of by "everyone" (tout le monde). In the world we're living in, tout le tnonde doesn't make any sense without the emblem, so "everyone" is democratic. It's what you could call the axiom of the emblem. But our concern is le tnonde, the world that evidently exists, not tout le monde, where the democrats (Western folk, folk of the emblem) hold sway and everyone else is from another world—which, being other, is not a world properly speaking, just a remnant of life, a zone of war, hunger, walls, and delusions. In that "world" or zone, they spend their time packing their bags to get away from the horror or to leave altogether and be with—whom? With the democrats of course, who claim to run the world and have jobs that need doing. What they then find out the hard way is that, warm and cosy in the shelter of their emblem, the democrats don't really want them and have little love for them. Basically, political endogamy obtains: a democrat loves only another democrat. For the others, incomers from zones of famine and killing, the first order of business is papers, borders, detention camps, police surveillance, denial of family reunion. One must be "integrated." Into what? Into democracy, clearly. To be admitted, and perhaps on some distant day greeted, one requires training in democracy at home, long hours of arduous toil before the notion of coming to the real world can even be entertained. Study your integration manual, the good little democrat's handbook, in the intervals between bursts of lead, landings by humanitarian paratroopers, famine, and disease! You've got a stiff exam ahead of you and still no guarantee that you won't find the passage from the false world to the "real" one blocked. Democracy? Sure. But reserved for democrats, you understand. Globalization of the world? Certainly, but only when those outside finally prove they deserve to come inside. In sum, if the world of the democrats is not the world of everyone, if tout le monde isn't really the whole world after all, then deTHE DEMOCRATIC EMBLEM 7 mocracy the emblem and custodian of the walls behind which the democrats seek their petty pleasures, is just a word for a conservative oligarchy whose main (and often bellicose) business is to guard its own territory as animals do, under the usurped name world. With the emblem dislodged, and the territory seen plainly for what it is—a landscape filled with democrats bustling and reproducing—we can turn to important matters: what conditions must a territory meet before it can present itself speciously as part of tout le monde under the democratic emblem? Or to twist the thought a bit: of what objective space, of what settled collectivity, is democracy the democracy^ At this point we may turn (back) to the moment in philosophy when the democratic emblem was first dislodged: book 8 of Plato's Republic. Plato applies the term demokratia to a way of organizing the business of the polis, a certain type of constitution. Lenin said the same thing long after: democracy is no more than a particular form of State. But both Ptattf and Lenin are more interested in the subjective impact of this State form than they are in its objective status. Thought must shift the focus from the legal framework to the emblem or from democracy to the democrat. The capacity of the democratic emblem to do harm lies in the subjective type it molds; and, not to mince words, the crucial traits of the democratic type are egoism and desire for petty enjoyments. Lin Piao, by the way, was being perfectly Platonic when he said, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, that the essence of false communism (the kind prevailing in Russia) was egoism and that the true motive of the reactionary "democrat" was quite simply fear of death. Of course, Plato's approach entails a purely reactive part, for he was convinced that democracy would not save the Greek polis, and in fact it didn't. Dare one assert that democracy will not save our beloved West either? Indeed; I daresay it won't, and I would add that this brings us right back to the ancient dilemma: either we reinvent communism or we undergo some reinvented form of fascist 8 ALAIN BADIOU barbarity The Greeks for their part had the Macedonians and then the Romans, and either way it was servitude, not emancipation. Plato, an aristocrat oriented to the past, reaches for configurations like a philosophically trained military aristocracy, which he imagines to have existed once. In fact, he invents them, aristocratic reactionism generating political myth. There are plenty of contemporary variants of reaction dressed as nostalgia on display. The one most striking to anyone who follows developments here in La Republique Franchise is the idolatrous "republicanism" we see pervading our intellectual petite bourgeoisie, where any invocation of "our republican values" is greeted with loud applause. Just remind me again, will you—which republic was it you were referring to> The one created out of the massacre of the communards in 1870? The one that flexed its muscles in colonial conquest^ The republic of Clemenceau the strikebreaker^ The republic that did such a splendid job of organizing the shambles of 1914-1918? The one that handed plenary power over to Petain> The hallowed and virtuous "republic" of which you prate has been concocted for the express purpose of safeguarding the democratic emblem, which hasn't been looking too healthy of late. Plato thought he was flying the banner of aristocracy with his philosopherguardians, but it was tattered and moth-eaten. It's the old story; nostalgia is always nostalgia for something that never existed. Still, quite apart from its aristocratic reactionism, Plato's critique of democracy retains independent and, indeed, bivalent force. O n one hand, it is aimed at the essence, the reality, of the democratic form of State, on the other, at the constitution of the subject—homo democraticus—in a world thus formalized. Plato's two theses, which I regard as entirely well-founded and wish to extend a bit beyond the world of the polis, are 1. the democratic world isn't really a world; 2. the only thing that constitutes the democratic subject is pleasure or, more precisely, pleasure-seeking behavior. THE DEMOCRATIC EMBLEM 9 In what respect does democracy authorize a pleasure-seeking subject to the exclusion of all else? Plato describes two forms of the relation to pleasure constituted in the democratic nonworld. The first is youthful Dionysiac enthusiasm. The second is elderly indifference to the varieties of pleasure. At bottom, the socialization of the democratic subject begins with the illusion that everything is available. "Untrammeled pleasure1" says the anarchist of '68. "My clothes, my Nikes, and my hash," says the would-be (or perhaps "wannabe") rebel from France's problem suburbs. Yet democratic life comes full circle with the crepuscular awareness of the equivalency and thus the nullity, of everything except the universal standard of value: money (and the whole apparatus needed to protect it: the police, \the justice system, the prisons). From prodigious avidity fancying itselrfreedom to budgetary avarice with a strong security presence—-there you have it in a nutshell. What has this to do with the world> Any world, for Plato and for me, only becomes visible, is only thrown into relief, by the differences constructed within it, first by the difference between truth and opinion and then by the difference between truths of more than one type (love and politics, for example, or art and science). But within a horizon in which everything is equivalent to everything else, no such thing as a world is discernible, only surfaces, supports, apparitions without number. This is what Plato has in mind when he says that democracy is a form of government "diverting, anarchic, and bizarre, which dispenses an equality of sorts indiscriminately among the equal and the unequal." Diversion is what the young seek, the satisfaction, potential at least, of their wants. What Plato calls the imposition of an artificial equality on things unequal translates seamlessly, for me, into the monetary principle, the universal equivalency or fungibility that bars any possibility of real difference, of the heterogeneous as such (in the way that truth methodically reached is heterogeneous to freedom of opinion). This abased, abstract equality is IO ALAIN BADIOU really no more than a demeaning subjection to quantifiability that interdicts the con-sistence of a world and imposes the rule of what Plato calls "anarchy" Anarchy obtains when value is mechanically attributed to what is without value. A world of universal substitutability is a world without any proper logic of its own, in other words not a world at all, only an "anarchic" whirl of eidola. What defines the homo democraticus trained into this anarchy is that he or she as subject reflects the substitutability of everything for everything else. So we have the overt circulation of desires, of the objects on which these desires fix, and of the cheap thrills they deliver, and it's within this circulation that the subject is constituted. And as I said, in senescence our subject, blase by now, comes to accept a certain interexchangeability of those objects, as a boost to circulation (or "modernization"). All he or she can really make out any more are the numbers, the quantities of money in circulation. The pump driving the whole system, though, is the youthful urge to seek pleasure in the satisfaction of desire—from which it follows that, while the wisdom of circulation may reside with the old who have come to see that the essence of everything is monetary nullity, its animated existence, its incessant self-perpetuation demand that youth occupy the foreground. Homo democraticus is an avaricious old fellow grafted onto a craving adolescent. The adolescent makes the wheels turn, and the old fellow reaps the profits. Plato lucidly observes the false democratic world in action, compelled to idolize youthfulness while mistrusting youthful enthusiasm. There is something essentially juvenile about the democratic ethos, something that feels like universal puerilization. As Plato puts it, in a false world of that sort "the elderly abase themselves to youthful modes, for fear of seeming tiresome and overbearing." Likewise, in order to collect the dividends of his cynical skepticism, the elderly democrat must pretend to be fighting a youthful battle for more "modernity," more "change," more "rapidity," more "fluidity." It puts THE DEMOCRATIC EMBLEM II one in mind of an aging millionaire rock star, creaking and creased but doggedly bawling into the microphone and thrusting his pelvis this way and that nevertheless. What becomes of collective life, of the collectivity, when its emblem is eternal youth, when the sense of age has vanished? The answer depends on whether one is observing the state of things in zones where monetary circulation has not yet really shifted into high gear (capitalist gear) or in our zone. Possible outcomes in the former include a sort of terroristic exaltation of the brutality and heedless ness of adolescence. We saw the dreadful consequences of the revolutionary version of this kind of indigent "juvenilism" with the Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution and the Khmer Rouge and the equally dreadful consequences of the deideologized version of the same thing with the terror sown in numerous regions of Africa by armed gangs of adolescents manipulated by outside powers or warlords. Those are limit cases, extreme (but thereby definitive) examples of adolescent democratism unplugged from all the myriad forms of monetary circulation but one, the circulation of lethal firearms in abundance But what about us> In our zone, the supremacy of youth gives the search for pleasure the force of a social imperative. "Have fun" is the universal maxim. Even those least able to do so are obliged to try to comply. Hence the profound stupidity of contemporary democratic societies. Plato is a sure and perceptive guide to the panorama of modern society, which is a weave of three main motifs: the absence of world, the democratic emblem as subjectivity enslaved to circulation, and the imperative of universal adolescent pleasure seeking. His thesis is that any society matching that description is on a road to ineluctable disaster, because it is incapable of organizing a discipline of time. Plato puts a famous ironic tribute to the existential anarchy of contented democrats and their "beautiful, youthful, mode of government" in the mouth of Socrates. Here it is, rendered with a certain liberty: 12 ALAIN BADIOU Democratic man lives only for the pure present, transient desire is his only law Today he regales himself with a fourcourse dinner and vintage wine, tomorrow he is all about Buddha, ascetic fasting, streams of crystal-clear water, and sustainable development. Monday he tries to get back in shape by pedalling for hours on a stationary bicycle; Tuesday he sleeps all day, then smokes and gorges again in the evening. Wednesday he declares that he is going to read some philosophy, but prefers doing nothing in the end. At Thursdays dinner party he crackles with zeal for politics, fumes indignantly at the next persons opinion, and heatedly denounces the society of consumption and spectacle. That evening he goes to see a Ridley Scott blockbuster about medieval warriors. Back home, he falls to sleep and dreams of liberating oppressed peoples by force of arms. Next morning he goes to work, feeling distinctly seedy, and tries without success to seduce the secretary from the office next door. He's been turning things over and has made up his mind to get into real estate and go for the big money But now the weekend has arrived, and this economic crisis isn't going away, so next week will be soon enough for all that. There you have a life, or lifestyle, or lifeworld, or whatever you want to call it: no order, no ideas, but nothing too disagreeable or distressing either. It is as free as it is unsignifying, and insignificance isn't too high a price to pay for freedom.1 Plato's thesis is that sooner or later this manner of existence, grounded in the indiscipline of time, and its correlative form of State, representative democracy, will bring about a visible manifestation of their despotic essence. Because that is what it comes down to: the real content of all that youth and beauty is the despotism of the death wish. That is why, for Plato, the trajectory that begins with the delights of democracy ends with the nightmare of tyranny. He is proposing that, from a perspective embracing the world and time, there THE DEMOCRATIC EMBLEM 13 exists a link between democracy and nihilism. For the democratic nonworld is a leakage of time. Consumption is consuming it. So there it is: the emblem of the modern world is democracy, and youth is the emblem of the emblem, symbolizing as it does the absence of restraint on time. Evidently this youth-emblem has no substantial existence. It's an iconic construct generated by democracy, but some constructs are constructive, and this one constructs the bodies it needs out of immediacy (only pleasure-seeking exists), fashion (each present moment substitutable for any other), and stationary movement (on se bouge, to use a French idiom). So not being democratic is the same as getting old or being old? That misses the point entirely. As I said, the old see a lot and absorb a lot. The point is this: if democracy equals monetary abstraction equals an organized death wish, then its opposite is hardly despotism or "totalitarianism." Real opposition is the desire to set collective existence free of the grip of this organization. Negatively, that means the order of circulation must no longer be that of money, nor the order of accumulation that of capital. Private property simply cannot be allowed to dictate how things are going to be. Positively, it means that politics, in the sense of subjective mastery (the mastery of thought and praxis) over the future of humanity will have independent value, obeying its own atemporal norms like science and art. Politics will not be subordinated to power, to the State. It is, it will be, the force in the breast of the assembled and active people driving the State and its laws to extinction. Plato contemplated these prospects clearly, even if the bounds of his own worldview made him restrict them to the lives of what he called the "guardians" of the city, with everyone else assigned fixed productive tasks. The guardians possess nothing, among them all is communal and shared, and their only power is that of the Idea, for their city has no laws. So let the maxims Plato reserves for his aristocracy of wisdom become the maxims of everyone, of all of us. Antoine Vitez used to say that the theater and art were meant to be 14 ALAIN BADIOU "elitist fo everybody/' Well then, let there be an "aristocratism for everybody/" But aristocracy for everybody is just a way of formulating the highest aspiration of communism, and we know that the worker revolutionaries of the nineteenth century saw Plato as the first philosophical spokesman for communism. You can take any doctrine and label the caricatural reversal of it its opposite, but if you think of its opposite as the moment of its creative fulfillment, when all the excess trappings fall away, then the opposite of the kind of democracy we have had served up to us during the "long good-bye" of capitalist parliamentarism is not totalitarianism or dictatorship. It is communism, which, as Hegel said at the time, absorbs and surmounts the formalism of the age of restricted democracy. What I have aimed to do here is to set brackets around the authority the word democracy is likely to enjoy, or have enjoyed, in the mind of the reader and make the Platonic critique of democracy comprehensible. But, as a coda, we can go right back to the literal meaning of democracy if we like: the power of peoples over their own existence. Politics immanent in the people and the withering away, in open process, of the State. From that perspective, we will only ever be true democrats, integral to the historic life of peoples, when we become communists again. Roads to that future are gradually becoming visible even now. THE DEMOCRATIC EMBLEM 15 PERMANENT DANIEL SCANDAL BENSAID Theater of Shadows The end of the longwave of post-World War II expansion, the revelations about the extent of the Soviet Gulag, the horror of Cambodia, then the Iranian Revolution and the onset of the neoliberal reaction: there was a shift in world affairs starting around the middle of the 1970s. The protagonists of the cold war—capitalism versus communism, imperialism versus national liberation—faded from the billboards, and a new titanic struggle between democracy and totalitarianism was proclaimed to a drumbeat of publicity. Actually it was more like the restoration of the French monarchy, with the straightforward term democracy conferring a threadbare mantle of soft legitimacy on the unfolding of an interminable Thermidor. Yet, then as now, the victorious liberals clung to their secret mistrust of the specter of popular sovereignty lurking beneath the calm surface of 16 democratic formalism. Or not so secret. "I accept the intellectual rationale for democratic institutions/' wrote Tocqueville in 1853, "but I am instinctively an aristocrat, in the sense that I contemn and fear the crowd. I dearly love liberty and respect for rights, but not democracy"1 Fear of the masses and a passion for law and order are the real foundations of liberal ideology. Market despotism and its level playing field manipulate "democratic" discourse the way a ventriloquist manipulates his dummy, making it speak the lines he chooses. So, in the waning century's theater of shadows, two abstractions, democracy and totalitarianism, were supposed to be slugging it out, while the contradictions at work below the surface of each were repressed.2 Hannah Arendt, more circumspect, pointed out that "whatever the similarities, the differences are essential." Trotsky may have qualified Hitler and Stalin as "twin stars," and he may have conceived the "statization" (I'etatisation) of society as a form of bureaucratic totalitarianism with the motto "La societe, c est moi."3 But he never lost sight of the social and historical differences without which no concrete politics is possible. By one of those ironies with which history is so prodigal, democracy appeared to triumph over its evil twin at the very moment when the conditions that had made it appear that there was an organic link between constitutional freedoms and free enterprise were beginning to unravel. Over three decades of postwar prosperity, the wedding of parliamentary democracy and the "social market economy" under the liberal aegis appeared to promise a future of unlimited progress and prosperity and so to have exorcized at last the specter that had . haunted the world persistently since 1848. But, after the crisis of 1973-1974, the postwar tide stopped advancing and began to recede, and that sapped the bases of what was sometimes called the Fordist (or Keynesian) compromise and the social (or "welfare") state. With the debacle of bureaucratic despotism and "real" (i.e., unreal) socialism, the floating signifier democracy became a synonym for the victorious West, the triumphant United States of America, the PERMANENT SCANDAL YJ free market, and the level playing field. Simultaneously a full-scale onslaught against social solidarity and social rights and an unprecedented campaign to privatize everything were causing the public space to shrivel. Hannah Arendt's erstwhile fear of seeing politics itself, meaning conflictual plurality, disappear from the face of the earth, to be replaced by the routine administration of things and beings, was apparently coming about. The Return of the Good Shepherds The widely trumpeted victory of democracy soon yielded a crop of new Tocquevilles voicing their ill-concealed dislike of it, reminding their readers that democracy meant more than just unfettered exchange and the free circulation of capital: it was also the expression of a disturbing egalitarian principle. Once again, from the likes of Alain Finkielkraut and Jean- Claude Milner, we heard the elitist discourse of a restricted group worried by the intemperance, excess, and exuberance of the common herd. Once again we heard vaunting praise of hierarchies of genealogy and the nobility of divine right, as against full citizen equality prevailing over the common space. Once again we heard praise of the measured wisdom of pastoral government, as opposed to the disorder and the "criminal penchant" of democracy We saw all the upholders of family values, moral values, educational values taking a stand in the name not of democracy but of the positivist Republic and "Progress through Order." Quickly they formed ranks to "dispel their dread that unnameable democracy might be, not a type of society that likes bad government better than good, but the very principle of politics, the principle that gave birth to politics by grounding good government on its own absence of ground."4 This holy league of "republican democrats" (sic) published an astonishing declaration under the fearful title "Have No Fear!" in Le l8 DANIEL BENSAID Monde for September 4,1998. Good lord, fear of what> Of "action by organized blocs" and "social groups . . . eager to proclaim themselves enraged" so as to prevent the law from being applied. (One wonders: which law exactly*) To exorcize their fear of the social specter, these republican democrats apealed in chorus for "old-fashioned respect/' They invoked "deference to breeding, competence, leadership/' They expressed nostalgia for the tutelary figures of the "father" and the "lieutenant" (which to French ears connotes stern old-fashioned law enforcement). Their hatred of democracy betrayed giddy fear at the fragile legitimacy of all power and the anguished realization that a challenge to established rights may always be mounted by emergent ones. Malaise in Market Democracy The next to voice disquiet after the virtuous republicans were the champions of market democracy. Pierre Rosanvallon diagnosed a democratic malaise, the symptoms of which included "the growing irrelevance of elections . . . the declining centrality of administrative power... lack of respect for public officials." The triumph of democracy was just a prelude to its undoing: "Never has there been such a thin line between a positive outlook for democracy and the chance that it might go off the rails."5 "Menacing swerves" toward antipolitics or depoliticization could only be countered by "an affirmation of the properly political dimension of democracy." Observing how "society is composed more and more of communities bonded by adversity, kinship, situation, and converging historical trajectories," Rosanvallon insists on the growing importance of compassion and victimhood. From these enumerations social class practically evaporates, as though its dissipation were an irreversible sociological fatality and not the result of political pressure (the ideological and legislative promotion of competitive individualism) on PERMANENT SCANDAL 19 the social realm. Hence the enigma, insoluble in the terms posed by Rosanvallon, of a democracy without quality for humans without qualities: how could a politics without classes be anything but a politics without politics? The narrowed temporal horizon of a present huddled over itself entails the annihilation of politics as strategic rationality, to the sole profit of instrumental and managerial rationality No surprise, then, that Rosanvallon looks to an enlarged role for appointive as opposed to elective office and a proliferation of "independent authorities" as crutches for the tottering legitimacy of the vote. The Specter of "Real Democracy" The indeterminacy of the signifier democracy leads to divergent, often opposed, definitions. Raymond Aron's was minimal and pragmatic: democracy is "the organization of peaceful competition to hold the reins of power," in which "political freedom" is a given, for otherwise "the playing field is tilted."6 There we have it, long before the defunct European constitutional treaty made it famous: the notion of the "level playing field" common to the working of parliamentary democracy and the free market. Who would deny, Claude Lefort chimes in, "that democracy is linked to capitalism while yet distinct from it?" Nobody, of course, the whole problem being to determine in what respects they are historically linked (the advent of territorial citizenship, the secularization of power and law, the shift from divine sovereignty over subjects to the popular sovereignty of the people over the people) and in what respects the former stands apart from, critiques, and surpasses the latter. The problem was tackled by Marx as early as 1843 in his often misconstrued critique of Hegel's philosophy of law and the State. In his Kreuznach manuscript, "his thought about politics and his thought about democracy appear closely tied."7 Whereas Tocqueville binds 20 DANIEL BENSAID democracy to the State (the "democratic State") the better to detach it from revolution, the young Marx declares that "in real democracy, the political State would disappear/' Precociously there emerges the theme of the abolition or withering away of the State. But to claim that in "real democracy" the political State would disappear signifies neither a dissolution of the political into the social nor the hypostasis of the political moment as a form containing the universal: "In democracy none of the moments takes on a meaning that does not belong to it: each is really no more than a moment of the total demos" Politics in this perspective is the strategic art of mediation. Marx s youthful intuitions were more than just caprices, soon to be dropped in favor of a starker vision of the conflictual relation between domination and servitude. "True democracy" is never entirely forgotten. It persists, says Miguel Abensour, as a "latent dimension," the thread linking the youthful texts to the ones on the Paris Commune and the Critique ofthe Gotha Program. Politics a Rarity, Democracy Intermittent^ The self-contradiction and ambivalence of the democratic pretension have been thrown into strong relief by the pressure of liberal globalization. It's no surprise that the critique of the democratic illusion, and Carl Schmitt's critique of parliamentary impotence, have gained adherents and begun to take revenge on the humanitarian moralism triumphant only yesterday8 These radical critiques have a lot in common and may appear to overlap at times. But they aim at different, indeed diametrically opposed, goals. Alain Badiou's Platonizing critique of "the tyranny of number" and the majoritarian principle leads him to draw a contrast between politics and "the clash without truth of a plurality of opinions." Jacques Ranciere draws the contrast differently, between democracy as a permanently expansive movement and democracy the way it is PERMANENT SCANDAL 21 taught in political science departments as an institution or regime. Both appear to share the view that politics is rare and intermittent, belonging to the order of the exceptional event, not that of history and the administration of society. "There is not a lot of it," says Ranciere about politics, and it is "always local and occasional." Both offer the same critique of elections as a reduction of the people to statistics. We live in an age of universal assessment, where everything demands to be quantified and measured, where only number has the force of law, where majority is supposed to equal truth, hence these critiques are necessary. But are they sufficient? Philosopher King "I have to tell you that I absolutely do not respect universal suffrage for itself alone, it depends on what it does. Why should universal suffrage be the one thing in the world that merits respect independently of its outcomes?"9 Alain Badious challenge to the supremacy of numbers and voting is a salutary reminder that a numerical majority is never proof of truth or justice. But he says nothing about social convention and juridical formalism, without which the law is never more than pure force and pluralism is at the arbitrary mercy of every individual. Badiou's radical critique relies on identifying democracy with capitalism pure and simple, with the fungibility that makes everything on the market equal in value to everything else. If democracy is representation, it is representation first and foremost of the general system that bears its forms. In other words, electoral democracy is not representative except to the extent that it is the consensual representation of capitalism, today rebranded "the market economy" Such is its corruption in principle, and one comprehends why Marx thought that, 22 DANIEL BENSAID faced with a democracy like that, the only remedy was a transitory dictatorship, which he called the dictatorship of the proletariat. "Dictatorship" is a loaded word, but it does shed light on the chicanery of the dialectic between representation and corruption.10 For Marx, though, dictatorship was not in the least the opposite of democracy, and when Lenin spoke of "democratic dictatorship" he didnt mean it as an oxymoron. Badiou appears to contemplate a chain of discrete historical sequences, each unfolding and reaching its termination independently of the orientations and decisions of the actors, sustained by fidelity to an inaugural event. The enemy of democracy was not the despotism of a single party (miscalled totalitarianism) except insofar as this despotism brought the first sequence of the communist Idea to an end. The only real question is how to begin a second sequence of this Idea, in which it prevails over the clash of interests by means other than bureaucratic terrorism. A new definition and a new practice, in short, of what was called the "dictatorship" of the proletariat. In the absence of critical reflection, historical and social, on past sequences, this indeterminate novelty goes nowhere. All it does is refer us to a future experiment. It remains the case, though, that "nothing gets done without discipline," but "the military model of discipline must be surpassed."11 In the article just quoted, Badiou invokes a third stage of communism, "centered on the end of socialist separations, the repudiation of vindictive egoism, a critique of the motif of identity, and a proposal for nonmilitary discipline." Upon what might this nonmilitary discipline rest> Unknown. Absent agreement democratically arrived at in view of a common project, it can only be PERMANENT SCANDAL 23 the authority of a religious faith or a philosophical doctrine and their word of truth. Unlike Marx, Badiou does not take a stand at the heart of the effectual contradiction of the democratic theme so as to blow it apart from within. He discards it, pure and simple: This point is essential: from the outset, the communist hypothesis coincides not at all with the democratic hypothesis and the modern parliamentarism to which it leads. It subsumes another history, other events. That which appears important and creative in light of the communist hypothesis is different in nature to that which democratic bourgeois historiography chooses to highlight. That is why Marx . . . stands apart from democratic politicking in maintaining, in the school of the Paris Commune, that the bourgeois State, no matter how democratic it might be, deserved destruction.12 Yes, but after the destruction? The tabula rasa, the blank page, absolute commencement in the purity of the event? As though the revolution did not weave together event and history, act and process, the continuous and the discontinuous. As though we were not always beginning again in the middle. The question left unanswered by Badiou is that of Stalinism and—though he doesn't confuse them— Maoism. "In Stalin's time," he writes in his anti-Sarkozy pamphlet, "it has to be said that political organizations of workers and people had an infinitely better time of it [in the West], and capitalism was less arrogant. There is no comparison." He meant to be provocative, clearly If it is indisputable that workers' parties and unions were stronger "in Stalin's time," this bare observation supplies no basis for deciding whether that was thanks to or in spite of him or, above all, for stating what his policies cost movements of emancipation, then and now. Badiou is more prudent in an interview he gave to Liberation: "My only tip of the hat to Stalin: he threw a scare into the capitalists." 24 DANIEL BENSAID That's still a tip of the hat too many. Was it Stalin who scared the capitalists, or something else, like the great workers' struggles of the 1930s, the worker militias of Asturias and Catalofia, and demonstrations by the Popular Front—in sum, fear of the masses> In a number of cases, not only did Stalin not frighten the capitalists, he aided them: one thinks of the days of May 1937 in Barcelona, the HitlerStalin pact, the big carve-up at Yalta, or the disarming of the Greek resistance.13 The critique of Stalinism in Badiou boils down to a question of method: "It is not possible to direct agriculture or industry with military methods, nor to pacify a collective society by State violence. What ought to be indicted is the choice to organize as a party, what one could call the party form." Thus he winds up rehearsing the superficial critique of the disillusioned eurocommunists, who quailed at taking the full measure of the historic transformation that was occurring and chose instead to blame a partisan form and particular method of organization for the disasters of the twentieth century So it would be sufficient to renounce the "party form"? As though an event as important as a bureaucratic counterrevolution costing millions of dead and deported did not raise questions of a quite different order, questions regarding the social forces at work, worldwide market relations, the effects of the social division of labor, the economic forms of transition, and political institutions. What if the party were not the problem but an element of the solution? The Irreducible "Democratic Excess" Ignorant and/or lazy journalists have committed the utter nonsense of likening Jacques Ranciere's preference for "democratic excess" to the kind of restricted "participatory democracy" associated in France with Segolene Royal. The furthest possible thing from a "just order," democracy for him is not a form of State at all. It is "above all this paraPERMANENT SCANDAL 25 doxical condition of politics, the point where all legitimacy confronts its own absence of ultimate legitimacy confronts the egalitarian contingency that undergirds the inegalitarian contingency itself." It is "action that unceasingly robs oligarchic government of the monopoly of public life, that robs wealth of its omnipotence over lives."14 It is "neither a form of government nor a mode of social life," but rather "the mode of subjectivation through which political subjects exist" that "aims to dissociate political thought and thought about power."15 It is not "a political regime," but "the very institution of politics." During a colloquy at Cerisy it was put to Ranciere that he supplies no practical guidance on strategic questions of organization and party; his reply was that he had "never taken an interest in the organizational forms of political collectives."16 Distancing himself from speculative leftism, he stresses the importance "of thinking politics primarily as the production of a certain effect," as the "affirmation of a capacity" and the "reconfiguration of the territory of the visible, the thinkable, the possible." In a subsequent interview, though, he adds some nuance: "It is not a question of discrediting the principle of organization and valorizing nothing but explosive scenes. My views stand apart from any polemic or opposition between organization and spontaneity"17 He aims principally to rethink what politics signifies: "Politics is, in the strict sense, anarchic," by which he means: without primordial foundation. Withering Away of the State and/or Politics Agnes Heller and Ferenc Feher experienced the Hungarian revolt of 1956 and bureaucratic despotism in eastern Europe at first hand, so they have solid grounds for their opposition to State fetishism. But they reject "the Utopian vision of the total abolition of the State and its institutions." This they regard "not just as an impossible undertaking," but as a Utopian one that would hinder the thinking through 26 DANIEL BENSAID of "alternative models of the State and institutions, in which alienation would progressively decline/' "If the State engrosses society/' democratic liberties are condemned to disappear. And "since a society expressing a homogeneous will is inconceivable, we must envisage a system of contracts ensuring that the will and the interests of all are taken into consideration. Hence we must envisage the concrete form that the exercise of democracy will take/'18 This critique of bureaucratic totalitarianism, as we know, gave the "eurocommunist" parties of the 1980s theoretical justification for surrendering unconditionally to the dictates of ventriloquist capitalism. It does nonetheless highlight the obscurities and perils surrounding Marx's hesitant proposition that the State would or must "wither away." Six weeks of communal liberty in the spring of 1871 were enough to make Marx write that State power was "henceforth abolished." Abolished? That's a bit drastic. It would seem to contradict what Marx had to say in his polemics against Proudhon and Bakunin, in which he opposes the idea that an abolition, of the wageearning class or the State, could simply be decreed. He sees it as more of a process, the preconditions of which were to be attained through the reduction of hours worked, the transformation of property relations, and the radical modification of the organization of work. Such expressions as the extinction or withering away (of the State) imply a process; like "permanent revolution," they place the emphasis on the link between act and duration. The withering away of the State should not be interpreted as the absorption of all its functions by social self-management or the simple "administration of things." Certain "central functions" must continue to exist, but as public functions under popular control. Thus the withering away of the State does not signify the withering away of politics or the extinction of it through the simple rational management of society. It can just as well signify the extension of the domain of political struggle through the debureaucratization of institutions and permanent deliberation on public matters. Such an PERMANENT SCANDAL 27 interpretation is confirmed by Engels in 1891: the proletariat, he wrote, cannot keep itself from "gnawing" at the most harmful facets of the State, until "a generation that has grown up in new and free social conditions gains the capacity to do away entirely with the brica-brac of the State " It is not a question of abstractly proclaiming the abolition of the State by decree, but of assembling the preconditions allowing it to dispense with its bureaucratic bric-a-brac. The seizure of power is no more than a first step, a beginning, the onset of a process and not its completion. Rousseau's Faults The effective contradictions of democracy (not its "paradoxes/as Norberto Bobbio once wrote) are inherently present in the aporias (the formal contradictions) of the social contract. From the moment one accepts Rousseau's premise that "might does not make right," and that "one owes obedience only to legitimate powers," the question of the ground of legitimacy arises and with it the insurmountable tension between legality and legitimacy. To appeal to the latter against the former is always an option, and we see the juridical impossibility this leads to in the right to insurrection written into the constitution of Year 11 of the French Revolution. If liberty is "obedience to self-prescribed law," it entails its own negation, to wit "the total alienation" of each individual member and all his rights to the community, for "in giving oneself over to all, one gives oneself over to no one." Each voluntary associate puts his person "under the supreme direction of the general will," and each becomes "an indivisible part of the whole." Together they constitute a public person or "political body" called the State when it is passive and the Sovereign when it is active. Voluntary submission to impersonal law applying to all replaces the personal dependency and arbi- 28 DANIEL BENSA'ID trariness of the ancien regime. But the cost is an exacerbated holism in direct contradiction with the liberal presuppositions of contract and possessive individualism. This contradiction emerges in the conception of "public possessions" to be set against the unlimited right of private appropriation. If the State is master of all the goods of its members by virtue of the social contract, it follows that every man "naturally has a right to what he requires" and that "the right of each individual to his or her own private property is subordinated to the right the community has over everything." Or, as Hegel puts it, "the right of distress overrides property rights." Hence the social pact institutes moral and legitimate equality between citizens "equal by convention and by right." Rousseau was one of the first with the theoretical intelligence to bind the democratic question to the question of property. The act of association is "a reciprocal engagement" between the public entity and individuals. It presupposes that each contracting member contracts with himself as a member of the State, a sovereign member, binding himself to a whole of which he is a part. But then the nature of the "political body" entails an impossibility: that the Sovereign could impose on itself a law that it could not itself break. "There cannot be any species of fundamental, obligatory law for the body of the people, not even the social contract." In other words, the contract is always subject to revision, and the constituent power inalienable. From which there logically follows the codification in law of the right to insurrection. The result is the impossibility of representation, since "the Sovereign, by the fact that he is, is always all that he must be." If sovereignty is simply "the exercise of the general will," it cannot indeed be alienated. Power may be delegated, but not the will. The Sovereign can will "from present moment to present moment" (actuellemeni), but not for the future, for it is absurd that "the will could shackle itself into the future." Here we have the ground of "immediate democ- PERMANENT SCANDAL 29 racy/' where the Sovereign "can never be represented except by himself/' which Rosanvallon today rejects. Improbable Miracle The general will is of course "always right" and always aims at public utility but it does not follow that "the deliberations of the people always have the same rectitude": "One never corrupts the people, but one often deceives it." Hence there is no contradiction within the people, but there is deceit, manipulation, propaganda. It's the original version of modern "conspiracy theory," though the modern sort is missing the crucial notion of ideology19 It logically follows that, if "the general will can err," it must be because of "prevarication" and "faction," the intrigues of enemies of the people or "partial associations at the expense of the all-embracing association." So, for the general will to manifest itself aright, it is necessary to ban any "partial association" (any party!) in the State, so as to allow "each citizen to speak for himself alone " The formula, emblematic of confidence in the supposedly free and rational subject, converts easily into confidence in the fact that this sum of reasons culminates in Reason. From that to "Reason of State" is but a step. In Rousseau, however, this confidence is immediately tempered by the idea that while "the general will is always right. . the judgement that guides it is not always enlightened." He looks for an answer to this troubling observation in pedagogy and education rather than within conflictual experience: when "the public wills the good but does not discern it," it "has need of guides" capable of "showing it the right path" (!). Hence the general will runs into a democratic deadlock. To set out the best guidelines for social life, "a superior intelligence would be necessary, perceiving all the passions of mankind and feeling none of them," a sort of juridico-moral twin of Laplace's demon. This inac30 DANIEL BENSAID cessible vantage point on totality would make the legislator "in all respects an extraordinary man in the State," for he who commands the laws must not exert command over men. This legislator must resort to a different kind of authority, capable of "inducing without violence and persuading without convincing/' To escape from what Hannah Arendt called "the vicious constitutional circle," Rousseau is thus driven to invoke a conventional transcendence—civic religion, which is supposed to bridge the gap between the homogeneity of the ideal people and the divisions among the real people, which he is unable to formulate as a class struggle. And, since "not everyone can make the gods speak," Rousseau plays the joker in the deck, enlightened despotism: "The great soul of the legislator is the real miracle which must prove his mission."20 To Think the Institution Where Rousseau's thought halts, Saint-Just takes over, with his interrogation, on the eve of Thermidor, of the necessity of republican institutions: "The institutions are the guarantee of public liberty, they moralize the government and the civil state" and "ground the reign of justice." For "without institutions, the strength of a republic rests either on the qualities of fragile mortals, or on precarious means."21 With the guillotine only a few days away, Saint-Just evokes all those who were vanquished in the struggle for emancipation; they "had the unhappiness to be born in countries without institutions; in vain they relied on all the force of heroism; factions, triumphant for a day, cast them down into eternal night, notwithstanding years of virtue." For him, as later for Che Guevara, the "force of heroism" and the virtue of example were not enough to bridge the tragic gap between the constituent power and instituted democracy The experience of the "sad truths" of the revolution, wrote SaintJust in this testamentary document, "made me conceive the idea of PERMANENT SCANDAL 31 shackling crime through institutions." "Institutions have as their object the concrete establishment of all social and individual guarantees so as to avoid dissension and violence, and substitute for the ascendancy of men the ascendancy of morals/'22 It is needful, he insists, as though sending one last message before sinking into the silence of eternal night, "to substitute, through institutions, the strength and inflexible justice of law for personal influence: then the revolution is consummated " Neither he, nor Che Guevara, nor Patrice Lumumba, nor so many others had time to resolve this mysterious democratic equation, the puzzle of which they have handed on to us. "The social-historical [k social historique] is the union of and tension between instituting society and instituted society, between history made and history in the making."23 To what extent can society be endlessly instituting itself and thus escape the self-perpetuation of the instituted? Such "questions, the question of revolution, do not overleap the boundaries of the theorizable, but instantly locate themselves on another terrain, that of the creativity of history"24 And I would add: on the terrain of political practice where this creativity is exercised, in a profane history open to the uncertainty of struggle. The Stress of Uncertainty Claude Lefort terms democracy a "form of society in which men consent to live under the stress of uncertainty" and "where political activity runs up against its limit." By definition, it is exposed to the paradox of the skeptical relativist who doubts everything except his own doubt, to the point of becoming a dogmatic doubter, a doctrinaire of doubt. Conscious of this danger, Lefort admits that "relativism attains its highest degree when the point is reached where the value of democracy is queried."25 How to escape this uncertainty, inscribed as it is in the very principle of democratic equality? 32 DANIEL BENSAID The answer would be to "laicize democracy" to pursue the transformation of theological questions into profane ones and so cease trying to reduce the political to the social, searching for a mythical lost unity Such a pretension that the social might absorb the political completely that a mythical "great society" a primordial Gemeinschaji, might be regained, presupposes a homogeneous society that contrasts with the irreducible heterogeneity of the social. The experience of totalitarian regimes, Lefort states, teaches us the impossibility of imagining "a point of fulfillment of the social, where all relations would be seeable and sayable." From a stance almost diametrically opposed, Ranciere also considers "the ideal reduction of the political by the social" as the sociological termination of the political, as a reduction of democracy to "the political self-regulation of the social." In the 1970s "pure politics" and its ideologues returned in force, though this was presented as a revival of "political philosophy." For Ranciere this was a way of hiding the fact that "the social is not a proper sphere of existence, but a litigious object of the political." There is a political (and imaginary or symbolic) institution of the social. And "the debate between the philosophers of the return of the political and the sociologists of its termination" was no more than a phoney debate "about the order in which the presuppositions of political philosophy should be taken so as to interpret the consensual practice of the annihilation of the political." Secularizing Democracy? Not to personify society, not to believe that it might act as a "body"— these were the pragmatic concerns of Walter Lippmann in the interwar years, when he saw the political space being destroyed by the negation of class conflict in the interests of a popular State or "State PERMANENT SCANDAL 33 of the entire people." "Society does not exist" he was finally provoked to say For him, as for John Dewey to laicize democracy was to reject any notion of the beyond, any transcendence, any next world, any ultimate foundation, and to accept the insurmountable uncertainty of political judgment. Dewey addressed himself to Trotsky on this point. For Trotsky, utilitarian morality the justification of the means by the ends, was anathema; his focus was on the justification of the ends themselves, but ultimately the criterion he invoked was the class struggle. Dewey accused Trotsky of thus surreptitiously resorting to a factitious transcendence. There is no escape from the circle of interaction between ends and means, and political decisions always contain an irreducible element of uncertainty. We cannot not be involved, we have to place our bets. Lippmann opposed mystical conceptions of society that would "prevent democracy from attaining a clear idea of its own limits and the goals it might actually reach."26 Its business is to resolve, prosaically and without a universal moral code, simple conflicts of interest. Lippmann cherished no illusion that some sort of correct popular will might be expressed through the ballot box, since voters have no time to "examine problems from all sides." Some had hazarded the notion that, since politics is not a profession, the sum of individual incompetences could still make democracy collectively competent. Lippmann answered with skeptical lucidity that "there is not the slightest reason to think, as mystical democrats do, that the sum of individual ignorances could produce a continuous force capable of directing public affairs." Since nobody can take an interest in all the issues, the ideal outcome would be for those directly involved in a dispute to reach agreement, the experience of "one who is party to a cause" being fundamentally different to the experience of someone who is not. For Lippmann the inevitable conclusion was that the democratic ideal could never, on account of excessive ambition, lead to anything but disappointment and a drift toward forms of invasive tyranny So 34 DANIEL BENSAID it was necessary to "put the public in its place" in both senses: remind it of its obligation to behave modestly and give it a seat in the grandstand, as a spectator.27 Discordant Space and Time For Ranciere, representation is "fully and overtly an oligarchic form." Right from the start it is "the exact opposite of democracy"28 For Cornelius Castoriadis, as for Lefort, "the disincorporation of power" implies, on the contrary, a "scene of representation." Representative democracy is more than just the system in which the representatives participate in political authority in the stead of the citizens who have chosen them, imparting "relative visibility" to society at the price of sometimes quite severe distorsions. Above all, it provides a designated space for controversy so that the common interest can prevail over corporatism. He sees its dynamic principle as "full recognition of social conflict, and of the differentiation of the political, economic, juridical, and aesthetic spheres, of the heterogeneity of morals and behavior."29 Hence representation is seen as the consequence not just of society's irreducible heterogeneity but also the unharmonized plurality of social spaces and times that grounds plurality and the necessary autonomy of social movements vis-a-vis both the parties and the State. Functioning like a gearbox, coupling discordant temporalities, or a mobile ladder connecting unarticulated spaces, the political struggle determines their always provisional unity, from the vantage point of totality. Hence the extension of individual liberties becomes indissociable from the advent of a public space. When this public space withers, political representation becomes farce and buffoonery. During the interwar years it turned into what Hannah Arendt called an "operetta." Or a tragic comedy PERMANENT SCANDAL 35 Direct or Corporatist Democracy? Short of imagining the temporal and spatial conditions for direct democracy in the strict sense (without mediation) in which the people themselves are permanently assembled, or a system of drawing lots in which the designated individual performs a function without having any mandate conferred on him or representing anyone, delegation and representation are inevitable. It is true in a city, true during a strike, true in a party Rather than try to deny the problem, it would be better to tackle it head on and search for the modes of representation guaranteeing the closest control of their mandatories by the mandators and limiting the professionalization of the exercise of power. The 1921 debate between Lenin and the worker opposition is informative in this respect. Aleksandra Kollontay accused the party leadership of adapting to "heterogeneous aspirations," of seeking input from specialists, of professionalizing power, of resorting to "peremptory control, the incarnation of an individualistic conception characteristic of the bourgeoisie." She was perceptive enough to see, before others, the professional dangers of power and discern the nascent bureaucratic reaction taking shape. But her criticism, which was that these deviations were the result of concessions to the heterogeneity of society, presupposes the phantasm of a homogeneous society: with the privileges of property and birth abolished, the proletariat would be one body. Who is meant to ensure the creativity of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the economic domain, Kollontay asked: "The essentially proletarian organs which are the unions" or "on the contrary, the State administration, which lacks a living relationship with productive activity and, moreover, is of mixed social background?" "The core of the problem lies there," she added.30 There the core does indeed lie. The upshot of doing away with territorially based representation (the Soviets were originally territorial bodies)31 was a tendency to transform the unions into adminis36 DANIEL BENSAID trative or statist organs and to hamper the emergence of a general will by maintaining corporatist fragmentation. From the pen of Kollontay as from that of her partner Chliapnikov, there flowed denunciations of "variegation" and "mixed social composition." They were denouncing concessions made to the petite bourgeoisie and the managerial class of the old regime ("these heterogeneous categories among which our party is obliged to tack and trim"). This phobia about mixture and motleyness is revealing of a dream of a sociologically pure workers' revolution without hegemonic intent. Its paradoxical outcome was the single party, the incarnation of a single, unified class. What Lenin was combating back then, in the guise of the worker opposition, was in reality a corporatist conception of socialist democracy, juxtaposing without melding the particular interests of localities, enterprises, and trade, while failing to isolate a general interest. It thus became inevitable that this network of decentralized powers and local economic democracy, which was incapable of proposing a hegemonic project for the whole of society, should be crowned by bureaucratic Bonapartism. The controversy bore not on the validity of the partial experiences inscribed in the real movement aiming to abolish the existing order but on their limitations. O n the Relativity of Number Number has nothing to do with truth. It never has the force of proof. Majority rule can, by convention, bring debate to an end, but the avenue of appeal always remains open: against today s majority from today's minority from the present to the future, from legality to legitimacy, from law to morality. The radical alternative to the majoritarian principle, the drawing of lots, is no more than a "least-bad" option. It is not surprising that the idea should be bruited about once again, if only in mythical form, PERMANENT SCANDAL 37 as a symptom of the crisis of our current democratic institutions.32 Ranciere supplies the most serious argument for it "The deepest trouble conveyed by the word democracy" he writes, is the absence of any title to govern. Democracy "is at the mercy of the god of chance," it is the scandal of a superiority grounded in no other principle than the absence of superiority Hence the drawing of lots is the logical conclusion. It has its drawbacks, no doubt, but all in all it is less detrimental than government by competence, collusion, and intrigue: "Good government is the government of equals who do not wish to govern." As for democracy, it is "neither a society for governing, nor a government of society, it is properly this ungovernable thing upon which all government must, in the last analysis, discover that it is grounded."33 The straightforward substitution of sortition for representation would thus signify not only the abolition of the State, but of politics in the sense of deliberation out of which may arise proposals and projects to be accomplished. Contrary to a tradition that preferred to see majorities as immanent manifestations of divine wisdom, Lippmann for his part defends a desacralized and minimalist conception of the vote Casting a vote is not even the expression of an opinion, just a simple promise to support a given candidate. In line with the idea that the voter is competent only regarding that which concerns him personally, Lippman radicalizes the principle of delegation to the point of theoretically accepting the extreme professionalization—and monopolization—of political power. In other words, a de facto return to an oligarchic conception. Partisan Mediation Ranciere sees fatigue as the force "compelling people to accept being represented by a party"34 The blanket rejection of representation entails the categorical rejection of the very notion of party: political 38 DANIEL BENSAID parties are manifestations of a refusal to exist on one's own. In 1975 Claude Lefort saw parties as the very embodiment of corporatism. Unlike Castoriadis, at that time he rejected, out of principle, any manifesto or program tending toward an all-embracing vision. In 1993, having demonstrated, through unwavering support for NATO's war in the Balkans and Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories, his commitment to the scenario of frontal opposition between totalitarianism and democracy, he opined that, however pertinent it might be, criticism of political parties should not "cause us to forget the constitutive need of liberal democracy for a representative system." While attributing an indispensable role to civil society's network of associations, he was now prepared to posit that "only competition among political parties brings out the general aspects of the aspirations of various social groups."35 By an irony of history, he thus found his tortuous way back to the Leninist idea that, the political being irreducible to the social, it is determined in the last analysis by class relations operating through the party struggle. As for Pierre Bourdieu, in his late years his rejection of democratic faith in the correctness of the mathematical sum of individual opinions lead him to logically reemphasize the importance of collective action, no matter what name was given to this collectivity. But a party is not a class, and class is never containable within parties that claim to represent it. So there is "an antinomy inherent in politics": the risk of plunging into alienation through delegation and representation, under the pretext of escaping alienation in the workplace. Because the dominated do not exist as a group (except statistically) prior to the operation of representation, they require representation somehow or other. This leads to an almost perfect vicious circle of domination and "the fundamental, virtually metaphysical, question of what it means to speak for people who would have no voice at all if one did not speak for them."36 A metaphysical question, indeed, or a false problem. It follows ineluctably from the tenacious prejudice to the effect that the domiPERMANENT SCANDAL 39 nated are incapable of breaking out of the vicious circle of representation and speaking for themselves. Yet the dominated do speak up—and dream—in any number of ways. Contrary to what Bourdieu asserts, they exist in many modes, including the group mode, prior to the "operation of representation," and the countless words of workers, women, and slaves bear witness to this existence. The specific problem is that of their political speech. As Lenin demonstrated, political speech is not a faithful reflection of the social, nor a code into which corporatist interests are translated. It has its own displacements and symbolic condensations, its specific sites and speakers. The Theological Annihilation of Political Parties Today rejection of the "party form" generally goes along with a strong preference for ad hoc coalitions and fluid, networklike, intermittent and affinity-based forms. Such discourse is not all that new, being isomorphic to liberal rhetoric about free circulation and the liquid society In her Note on the General Suppression of Political Parties,37 Simone Weil was not content to adopt a pose of self-sufficient "partylessness." She was prepared to suggest "starting to get rid of political parties." This notion flowed logically from her diagnosis that "the structure of every political party" entails "a prohibitive anomaly": "a political party is a machine for fabricating collective passion, for exerting collective pressure on everyone's thinking." Hence every party is "totalitarian in origin and inspiration."38 She was expressing, from the standpoint of a revolutionary syndicalist, the same criticism of political parties we hear today After the lived experience of the Spanish Civil War, the Hitler-Stalin pact, and the Stalinist "big lie," she had her reasons: the horror she felt at the evolution of the great party machines of the interwar years and the stifling of political pluralism. Along with that went a strongly 40 DANIEL BENSAID expressed preference for "not joining up" (naively seen as a token of individual freedom) and "an unconditional desire for truth." The latter is self-evidently linked to a religious conception of truth revealed by grace: "Truth is one." "Only the good is an end." But who proclaims this absolute truth and who decides on this sovereign good> Abandon politics and one is left with theology: "The inner light always gives a manifest answer to whoever consults it." But "how to desire truth without knowing anything about it>" That, admits Simone Weil; is "the mystery of mysteries," the elucidation of which is purely tautological. Truth arises from the desire for truth: "Truth is the thoughts that rise up in the mind of the thinking creature uniquely, totally exclusively desirous of truth. It is in desiring truth without preconceptions, and without attempting in advance to guess its content, that one receives the light." Such a revelation through grace, such a quest for purity lead inevitably to the paradox of authoritarian individualism: & chacun sa verite. Rejecting any collective authority, it ends by arbitrarily imposing its own authority So for Weil "the suppression of political parties would be a virtually unalloyed good."39 Indeed? What would take their place? Weil imagines an electoral system in which the candidates, rather than proposing a program, would limit themselves to proferring a purely subjective opinion: "I think this or that about this major issue or that one." So no more parties, no more left or right, just a dust cloud of shifting opinions: those elected would associate and disassociate in accordance with "the way things naturally played out, and the movement of affinities." To keep these fluid and intermittent affinities from crystallizing or coagulating, it would be necessary to go to the extreme of forbidding occasional readers of a magazine from organizing themselves into a society or group of friends: "Every time a milieu attempted to harden into a group by establishing definite criteria for membership, criminal charges would be laid once the fact PERMANENT SCANDAL 41 was established" (!).4° Which leads to the question of who promulgates the law and in whose name such criminal proceedings would be launched. The refusal of profane politics, with its impurities, uncertainties, and wobbly conventions, leads ineluctably back to theology and its jumble of graces, miracles, revelations, repentances, and pardons. Illusory flights from the sordidness of politics actually perpetuate impotence. Instead of pretending to wriggle out of the contradiction between unconditional principles and the conditionality of practical living, politics means taking a stand there and working to surmount it without ever suppressing it. Get rid of mediation by political parties and you will have the single party—even the single State—of the "partyless " There is simply no way out. Mistrust of the partisan mindset is legitimate. But it is an overreach to impute to a form, the "party form," exclusive responsibility for the threat of bureaucracy and the ills of the century The strong tilt toward bureaucratization is inherent in the complexity of modern societies and the logic of the social division of labor. It haunts all forms of organization. The suppression of political parties that Simone Weil calls for amounts to reverse fetishism, a flat organizational determinism that naturalizes the organization instead of historicizing it, instead of thinking through its evolutions and variations as a function of changes in social relations and the media of communication. Permanent Democratic Revolution Contrary to what is widely believed, Marx was not voicing contempt for democratic freedoms when he characterized them as "formal." A jurist by training, he knew well enough that forms are not vacuous and have an efncacity of their own. But he did lay emphasis on their historic limits: "Political emancipation [recognition of civil 42 DANIEL BENSAID rights] is a great advance; it is certainly not the ultimate form of human emancipation in general, but it is the last form of human emancipation in the order of the world as we have known it to date/'41 For him the task was to replace "the question of the relation between political emancipation and religion" with that of "the relation of political emancipation to human emancipation," of political democracy to social democracy The task of revolutionizing democracy which became practical with the revolution of 1848, remains to be accomplished, if criticism of parliamentary democracy as it really exists is not to slide toward authoritarian solutions and mythic communities. Ranciere speaks of the "democratic scandal." Why does he choose to call democracy scandalous* Precisely because, to survive, it must keep pushing further, permanently transgress its instituted forms, unsettle the horizon of the universal, test equality against liberty Because democracy incessantly smudges the uncertain divide between the political and the social and stoutly challenges the assaults of private property and the infringements of the State on the public space and public goods. It must ultimately attempt to extend, permanently and in every domain, access to equality and citizenship. So democracy is not itself unless it is scandalous right to the end. PERMANENT SCANDAL 43 "WE ARE A L L D E M O C R A T S WENDY NOW BROWN "Welcome Back, Democracy'" —Headline, article on Obama election, The Beaver (London School of Economics newspaper), November 6, 2008 Democracy as Empty Signifier Democracy has historically unparalleled global popularity today yet has never been more conceptually footloose or substantively hollow Perhaps democracy's current popularity depends on the openness and even vacuity of its meaning and practice—like Barack Obama, it is an empty signifier to which any and all can attach their dreams and hopes Or perhaps capitalism, modern democracy's nonidentical birth twin and always the more robust and wily of the two, has finally reduced democracy to a "brand," a late modern twist on commodity fetishism that wholly severs a product's salable image from its content.1 Or perhaps, in the joke on Whiggish history wherein the twenty-first century features godheads warring with an intensity that ought to have been vanquished by modernity, democracy has emerged as a new world religion—not a specific form of political 44 power and culture but an altar before which the West and its admirers worship and through which divine purpose Western imperial crusades are shaped and legitimated. Democracy is exalted not only across the globe today but across the political spectrum. Along with post-cold war regime changers, former Soviet subjects still reveling in entrepreneurial bliss, avatars of neoliberalism, and never-say-die liberals, the Euro-Atlantic Left is also mesmerized by the brand. We hail democracy to redress Marx's abandonment of the political after his turn from Hegelian thematics (or we say that radical democracy was what was meant by communism all along), we seek to capture democracy for yet-untried purposes and ethoi, we write of "democracy to come," "democracy of the uncounted," "democratizing sovereignty" "democracy workshops/' "pluralizing democracy," and more. Berlusconi and Bush, Derrida and Balibar, Italian communists and Hamas—we are all democrats now But what is left of democracy* Rule by the Demos It cannot be said often enough: liberal democracy, Euro-Atlantic modernity's dominant form, is only one variant of the sharing of political power connoted by the venerable Greek term. Demos + cracy = rule of the people and contrasts with aristocracy, oligarchy, tyranny, and also with a condition of being colonized or occupied. But no compelling argument can be made that democracy inherently entails representation, constitutions, deliberation, participation, free markets, rights, universality, or even equality The term carries a simple and purely political claim that the people rule themselves, that the whole rather than a part or an Other is politically sovereign. In this regard, democracy is an unfinished principle—it specifies neither what powers must be shared among us for the people's rule to be practiced, how this rule is to be organized, nor by which institutions or "WE ARE ALL D E M O C R A T S N O W . . . " 45 supplemental conditions it is enabled or secured, features of democracy Western political thought has been haggling over since the beginning. Put another way, even as theorists from Aristotle, Rousseau, Tocqueville, and Marx through Rawls and Wolin argue (differently) that democracy requires the maintenance of precise conditions, rich supplements, and artful balances, the term itself does not stipulate them. Perhaps this is another reason why contemporary enthusiasm for democracy can so easily eschew the extent to which its object has been voided of content. De-democratization If it is hard to know with certainty why democracy is so popular today, it is easier to adumbrate the processes reducing even liberal democracy (parliamentary, bourgeois, or constitutional democracy) to a shell of its former self. How has it come to pass that the people are not, in any sense, ruling in common for the common in parts of the globe that have long traveled under the sign of democracy> What constellation of late modern forces and phenomena have eviscerated the substance of even democracy's limited modern form> First, if corporate power has long abraded the promise and practices of popular political rule, that process has now reached an unprecedented pitch.2 It is not simply a matter of corporate wealth buying (or being) politicians and overtly contouring domestic and foreign policy, nor of a corporatized media that makes a mockery of informed publics or accountable power. More than intersecting, major democracies today feature a merging of corporate and state power: extensively outsourced state functions ranging from schools to prisons to militaries; investment bankers and corporate CEOs as ministers and cabinet secretaries; states as nongoverning owners of incomprehensibly large portions of finance capital; and, above all, state power unapologetically harnessed to the project of capital ac46 WENDY BROWN cumulation via tax, environmental, energy, labor, social, fiscal, and monetary policy as well as an endless stream of direct supports and bailouts for all sectors of capital. The populace, the demos, cannot fathom or follow most of these developments let alone contest them or counter them with other aims. Powerless to say no to capital's needs, they mostly watch passively as their own are abandoned. Second, even democracy's most important if superficial icon, "free" elections, have become circuses of marketing and management, from spectacles of fund-raising to spectacles of targeted voter "mobilization/' As citizens are wooed by sophisticated campaign marketing strategies that place voting on a par with choosing brands of electronics, political life is increasingly reduced to media and marketing success. It is not only candidates who are packaged by public relations experts more familiar with brand promulgation and handling the corporate media than democratic principles; so also are political policies and agendas sold as consumer rather than public goods. Little wonder that the growing ranks of CEOs in government is paralleled by the swelling of academic political science departments with faculty recruits from business schools and economics. Third, neoliberalism as a political rationality has launched a frontal assault on the fundaments of liberal democracy, displacing its basic principles of constitutionalism, legal equality, political and civil liberty, political autonomy, and universal inclusion with market criteria of cost/benefit ratios, efficiency, profitability, and efficacy.3 It is through a neoliberal rationality that rights, information access, and other constitutional protections as well as governmental openness, accountability, and proceduralism are easily circumvented or set aside and, above all, that the state is forthrightly reconfigured from an embodiment of popular rule to an operation of business management. 4 Neoliberal rationality renders every human being and institution, including the constitutional state, on the model of the firm and hence supplants democratic principles with entrepreneurial ones in the political sphere. In addition to dethroning the demos in "WE ARE ALL DEMOCRATS NOW . . . " 47 democracy, this transformation permits expanded executive state powers at the very moment of declining state sovereignty about which more in a moment. Having reduced the political substance of democracy to rubble, neoliberalism then snatches the term for its own purposes, with the consequence that "market democracy"— once a term of derision for right-wing governance by unregulated capital—is now an ordinary descriptor for a form that has precisely nothing to do with the people ruling themselves. But capital and neoliberal rationality are not the only forces responsible for gutting liberal democratic institutions, principles, and practices. Rather, fourth, along with expanded executive power, recent decades have witnessed the expanded power and reach of courts—domestic as well as international.5 A variety of political struggles and issues, including those emerging from domestic social movements and international human rights campaigns, are increasingly conferred to courts, where legal experts juggle and finesse political decisions in a language so complex and arcane as to be incomprehensible to any but lawyers specializing in the field. At the same time, courts themselves have shifted from deciding what is prohibited to saying what must be done—in short, from a limiting function to a legislative one that effectively usurps the classic task of democratic politics.6 If living by the rule of law is an important pillar of most genres of democracy, governance by courts constitutes democracy's subversion. Such governance inverts the crucial subordination of adjudication to legislation on which popular sovereignty depends and overtly empowers and politicizes a nonrepresentative institution. Fifth, along with the domination of politics by capital, the overtaking of democratic rationality with neoliberal rationality, and the juridification of politics, globalization s erosion of nation-state sovereignty as well as the detachment of sovereign power from nationstates is also crucial to the de-democratization in the West today7 If nation-state sovereignty was always something of a fiction in its aspiration to absolute supremacy completeness, settled jurisdiction, mo48 WENDY BROWN nopolies of violence, and perpetuity over time, the fiction was a potent one and has suffused the internal and external relations of nation-states since its consecration by the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. However, over the past half century, the monopoly of these combined attributes by nation-states has been severely compromised by ever-growing transnational flows of capital, people, ideas, resources, commodities, violence, and political and religious fealty These flows both tear at the borders they cross and crystalize as powers within, thus compromising nation-state sovereignty from its edges and its interior. When states remain fiercely agentic amidst their eroding sovereignty when they detach from the unique double meaning of sovereignty in democracies—popular and supervenient—there are two especially important consequences. On the one hand, democracy loses a necessary political form and container and, on the other, states abandon all pretense of embodying popular sovereignty and hence carrying out the will of the people, a process already inaugurated by the neoliberal governmentalization of the state already mentioned. With regard to the first, democracy, rule by the people, is only meaningful and exercisable in a discreet and bounded entity— this is what sovereignty signals in the equation of popular sovereignty with democracy Democracy detached from a bounded sovereign jurisdiction (whether virtual or literal) is politically meaningless: for the people to rule themselves, there must be an identifiable collective entity within which their power sharing is organized and upon which it is exercised. Of course, the vastness of the nationstate already limits the kinds of power sharing that makes democracy meaningful, but when even this venue gives way to postnational and transnational fields of political, economic, and social power, democracy becomes incoherent. JWith regard to the second, states detached from sovereignty become rogue states in both their internal and external dealings. The reference point for ordinary exercises of state power is neither rep" W E ARE ALL D E M O C R A T S N O W . . " 49 resentation nor protection of the people (the latter being the classic liberal justification for state prerogative power). Rather, faintly echoing the raison d'etat of the old realists, contemporary states substitute for pursuit of the prestige of power a complex double role as actors within, facilitators of, and stabilizers for economic globalization. In this context, the people are reduced to passive stockholders in governmentalized states operating as firms within and as weak managers of a global order of capital without, an order that has partly taken over the mantle of sovereignty from states. Nothing made this more glaringly apparent than state responses to the finance capital meltdown in the fall of 2008. Finally, securitization constitutes another important quarter of de-democratizing state action by Western states in a late modern and globalized world. The ensemble of state actions aimed at preventing and deflecting terrorism in Israel and India, Britain and the United States are often mischaracterized as resurgent state sovereignty, but, like state bailouts of capital, are actually signs of the detachment of state from sovereign power and have everything to do with this loss of sovereignty Facilitated by neoliberal displacements of liberal political principles (liberty equality, the rule of law) for an emphasis on costs, benefits, and efficacy the security state reacts to eroding and contested state sovereignty with a range of inadvertently de-democratizing policies, from suspended rights of movement and information access to racial profiling to increased zones of state secrecy and permanent undeclared wars. In sum, for the people to rule themselves, they must be a people and they must have access to the powers they would democratize. Globalization's erosion of nation-state sovereignty undermines the former and neoliberalism's unleashing of the power of capital as an unchecked world power eliminates the latter. But, if "actually existing democracy" is in a woeful state, let us consider what, if anything, remains of democracy s raison d'etre. $0 WENDY BROWN Democratic Paradoxes As is well known, ancient Athenian democracy excluded 8 0 - 9 0 percent of the adult Attican population from its ranks—women, slaves, free foreign residents, and others who did not meet the strict lineage requirements for citizens. These exclusions of Western democracy in its cradle were extreme, but not the exception. Democracy as concept and practice has always been limned by a nondemocratic periphery and unincorporated substrate that at once materially sustains the democracy and against which it defines itself Historically, all democracies have featured an occluded inside-— whether slaves, natives, women, the poor, particular races, ethnicities, or religions, or (today) illegals and foreign residents. And there is also always a constitutive outside defining democracies—the "barbarians" first so named by the ancients and iterated in other ways ever after, from communism to democracies3 own colonies. In our time, the figure of "Islamicism" comforts democrats that they are such, even and perhaps especially in the face of de-democratization in the West. Thus has an overt antiuniversalism always rested at the heart of democracy, suggesting that if the imperial dream of universalizing democracy materialized, it would not take the shape of democracy. If premodern, republican democracy was premised on the value of ruling in common—rule by the common for the common—and hence