Democracy as a Tragic Regime: Democracy and its Cancellation

Critical Horizons 11 (1):35-49 (2010)
Abstract
To see "democracy as a tragic regime", as Cornelius Castoriadis did, is to recognize the ever-present risk of democracy’s cancellation, but it also means to emphasize the anti-democratic nature of such cancellation, thus its incompatibility with democracy. In the context of this understanding of democracy, the article takes the political to consist of those relations among people and among institutions within the polis, which aim at deciding about the polis’ fate. It takes the social to be those relations among people and among institutions within the polis, to whom such decisions about the polis’ fate apply and whom they create. If democracy is understood as tension between the two, then the relation between those who decide and those who are subject of the decision is never entirely pacified – hence, always contested and in need of specification. Using the examples of the state of exception and totalitarianism (temporary and permanent self-cancellation), the article argues that these situations are outside a linear continuation with the democratic phenomenon and are due to a displacement, which is akin to the hubristic displacement
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