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Dimensions of Radical Democracy: Pluralism, Citizenship, Community

What kinds of “citizen” and “community” might be required by a new, radical and plural democracy?

The themes of citizenship and community are today at the center of a fierce debate as both left and right try to mobilize them for their cause. For the left such notions are crucial in all the current attempts to redefine political struggle through extending and deepening democracy. But, argue the contributors to this volume, these concepts need to be made compatible with the pluralism that marks modern democracy. Rather than reject the liberal tradition, they argue, the aim should be to radicalize it.

These essays set out to examine what types of “citizen” and “community” might be required by such a radical and plural democracy. From a range of disciplines and a fruitful diversity of theoretical perspectives, the contributors help us to address the following challenge: how to defend the greatest possible pluralism without destroying the very framework of the democratic political community.

Despite their differences, a vision emerges from these essays which is sharply at odds both with the universalistic and rationalistic conception to be found in the work of Habermas, and with postmodern celebrations of absolute heterogeneity. For this book is an exploration of politics—of a politics where power, conflict and antagonism will always play a central role.


With contributions by Mary Dietz, Jean Leca, Louise Marcil-Lacoste, Kirstie McClure, Chantal Mouffe, Maurizio Passerin d’Entrèves, Quentin Skinner, Etienne Tassin, Bryan Turner, Michael Walzer, Sheldon Wolin, and Slavoj Žižek


  • Chantal Mouffe, the philosopher who inspires Jean-Luc Mélenchon

    Raphaëlle Besse Desmoulières' profile of Chantal Mouffe first appeared in Le Monde. Translated by David Broder.

    Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Chantal Mouffe. via YouTube

    Looking through Chantal Mouffe’s desk diary is like leafing through an atlas of Europe. Madrid, Athens, Lisbon, Barcelona, Paris: here the cities line up as her travels demand. In late October, upon the invitation of the Mémoire des luttes association, the Belgian philosopher was in the French capital for a "dialogue" with Jean-Luc Mélenchon, La France insoumise’s ["Rebellious France’s"] candidate for the 2017 presidential elections. "Mélenchon’s project is a left-populist one, even if I am not sure that he will present it like that," explains the political theory professor from London’s Westminster University. "But he constructs what we would call the 'populist' political boundary: the people against the establishment."

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  • Chantal Mouffe and the Crisis of Liberal Democracy

    This essay first appeared in Public Seminar

    Watching the American Presidential Primaries and now the "Brexit" vote in the UK on leaving the European Union, I am struck by how apt the political theory of Chantal Mouffe is to both situations. Both in the US and the UK, there was a contest as to whether liberal democracy would be liberal or "democratic." And if it is to be democratic, it was a contest as to what kind of demos — people — democracy is supposedly about. Or so it appeared to me, given that I was reading Chantal Mouffe at the time. Her two most recent books Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically (Verso, 2013) and The Democratic Paradox (Verso, 2005) provide a useful perspective, although perhaps a limited one.

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  • A salutary shock?: Chantal Mouffe on Brexit and the Spanish elections

    Joseph Confavreux's interview with Chantal Mouffe was first published in Mediapart. Translated by David Broder.

    Chantal Mouffe is a philosopher of Belgian origin who lives and teaches in London. She is very close to Podemos, and indeed the inspirer of its political strategy. In this piece published on Saturday 25 June she offered Mediapart her reactions to Brexit and its possible consequences for the Spanish elections. 

    Mediapart: what lessons would you draw from the Brexit vote?

    Chantal Mouffe: I hope that this will be a salutary shock for Europe, because we cannot go on like this. If I could have voted I would perhaps have voted for "Remain." That’s because I am one of those so-called "left-wing Europeanists" who are not sovereigntists but instead demand a democratic refoundation of Europe. But I expected this result, because during the campaign you only sensed real passion among the "Brexiteers." And I think emotions play a decisive role in politics.

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