Visiting the Gap between the "Actually Existing" Subject of Democratic Politics and the Moral Subject of Democratic Theory

By:
Dunya Deniz Cakir
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In this paper, the “subject” of democratic theory shall be put under scrutiny and its assumption of a tamed difference of essentially malleable and contestable identities vis-à-vis each other, that excludes partisanships of identity and fundamentalism based on a refusal to acknowledge the contestability of one’s own fundaments or to resist violence in the exclusionary logics of identity in which one is implicated. In other words, my question is: what conceptions of subject and difference as modes of otherness are taken for granted in democratic theory and its pluralist celebration of diversity, particularly considering the fundamentalization of identities through pluralization of public spheres in contemporary societies? More specifically, I shall ask; to what extent does the partisan, hardliner, fundamentalist constitute the excluded, non-identical “other” of democratic theory remaining ignored while in fact they “are”? Western democratic theory –presented here in the works of Benhabib, Young, Habermas, Connolly, Laclau & Mouffe- incorporates, despite different schemes of interpretation or theoretical conceptions of democracy within itself, a discernibly similar ontopolitical pattern in its normative theorizing about democratic citizen –that I shall call idealized democratic citizenship- which is the very condition of existence of a radical, deliberative, communicative or discursive democracy, that I contend, does not correspond to the real, actually existing citizen of contemporary democracies, in non-western contexts especially. My aim in this paper is to detect the theoretical evidence to argue that western democratic theory re-presents democratic politics through an ascetic norm of dispassionateness and political moderation and thus operates as a discourse relying upon a particular representation of the political subject, which may not exist in actuality. In other words, the political subject of democratic theory operates as a civic myth within each construct, consequently jeopardizing the contextual scope of contemporary democratic theory in helping to understand and further democratic practice outside western liberal democracies.


Keywords: Political Subject, Democratic Theory, Antagonism, Fundamentalized Identities
Stream: Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies, Humanities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dunya Deniz Cakir

Graduate student, Political Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Amherst, MA, USA

I am currently a second-year Ph.D student in the political science department at the University of Massachusetts, working on comparative politics with a particular focus on the Middle East (civil society, democratic development, state-building, social movements) and contemporary political theory. I received my BA from the political science and international relations department at the Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey in 2005.

Ref: I07P0749