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Living under Post-Democracy: Political Subjectivity in Fleetingly Democratic Times


This dissertation addresses the theoretical implications of contemporary obstacles to democratic practice for the political self-conceptions of ordinary citizens. It does so by adopting a post-democratic perspective, one which, while sympathetic to the values of popular sovereignty and political equality, recognizes the practical ways in which contemporary democracies depart from them. In it, I argue that other theorists of post-democracy (including Jacques Ranciere, Colin Crouch, Richard Rorty, and Jurgen Habermas) haven’t sufficiently appreciated the radical consequences that follow from a post-democratic diagnosis, which include serious challenges to the conceptual categories (e.g., legitimacy, membership, responsibility, and culpability) that democratic theory tends to take for granted. In order to develop an approach to these categories that better comports with a less-than-democratic present, I build upon Thomas Hobbes’s conception of servitude to develop a new model of post-democratic subjectivity, one largely predicated on the experience of political domination. This model opens up the possibility for a therapeutic approach to political theory and (pseudo-)political activity that prioritizes a ‘care for the self’ over the question of political judgment, one which allows individuals to work through the feelings of frustration, anxiety, and alienation that stem from post-democratic life.

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