Democratic Piety

Democratic Piety: Complexity, Conflict and Violence

Adrian Little
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 208
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Democratic Piety
    Book Description:

    An analysis of the nature of contemporary democratic theory and the prevalence of pious discourses of democracy in contemporary politics.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3366-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Pious Discourses of Democracy
    (pp. 1-20)

    Religion has long been a target for the critical weaponry of modern political philosophy. Whether it is accused of anaesthetising an otherwise potentially revolutionary subject or generating war and political conflict, religion is often derided in secular political theory as the basis of unthinking faith, trust in traditional hierarchy, or mystical fanaticism. Against this irrationalism, the dominant forms of contemporary political theory attempt to make sense of the world by diagnosing social and political malignancies and advocating alternative paths to a better world free from the dangerous competition of political viewpoints or the fruitless pursuit of any number of religious...

  5. Chapter 1 Complexity Theory and Democratic Politics
    (pp. 21-47)

    In a complex world there is often a tendency to try to make politics as simple as possible. This tendency is evident, for example, in the cases of journalists seeking to explain events and situations to uninitiated recipients, intellectuals in the social sciences trying to identify grand theories that can make sense of a multiplicity of diverse phenomena, and politicians wanting to identify solutions to problems and events so that they will harness electoral support. In all these instances it is possible to identify efforts to explain issues by reducing them to a simplified calculus which then enables the process...

  6. Chapter 2 Complexity, Democratisation and Conflict
    (pp. 48-76)

    The idea of complexity outlined in the first chapter provides the theoretical backdrop to the rest of the argument in this book, in particular the position that ‘in a complex world there are no simple binaries’ (Mol and Law 2002: 20). This is a pivotal insight insofar as it unsettles and disrupts many prevalent ideas in democratic discourse, not the least of which is the assumption that democratisation and the inculcation of democratic practice around the world is the forerunner to a reduction in political conflict. Although binaries can help to reduce complexity and thus make it ‘readable’, the resulting...

  7. Chapter 3 Democracy, Consensus and Dissent
    (pp. 77-107)

    The challenges of complexity unsettle many of the prevailing assumptions in democratic theory. Most important among these is the consensual impetus that lies behind many contemporary articulations of liberal democracy and the rationalism and universalism that frequently underpin them. The notion of a rational consensus has become an increasingly controversial dimension of recent democratic theory, as radical democratic theorists have challenged the ways in which liberal democracies deal with political disagreement and contestation. Subsequently, several theorists within the liberal tradition have attempted to incorporate models of dissent in their democratic arguments or have reiterated the supposedly intrinsic place of disagreement...

  8. Chapter 4 Democracy and Violence
    (pp. 108-136)

    If conflict is an intrinsic feature of democratic politics, then the manifestations of this conflict should be subjected to critical analysis to assess the extent to which they lend themselves to violence. This is particularly important because modern politics – especially in pious democratic forms – tends to deal with these conflicts in ethical terms constructed on a juxtaposition between democracy and violence. For this reason, evaluation of the ethics of conflict is fundamental to the arguments for and against democracy in contemporary politics, in particular the relationship between violence and democracy. Rather than seeing democracy and violence as contrasting...

  9. Chapter 5 Terrorism, Violence and the Ethics of Democracy
    (pp. 137-162)

    One of the reasons why democratic piety has become so prevalent in contemporary politics is the changing social and political climate in this century. The fear of terrorism in Western societies was exacerbated by the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001, alongside subsequent attacks such as those in Bali, Madrid and London. This has created a new phase in the conception of terrorism in political theory and, in particular, its implications for democratic theory and practice. Hitherto terrorism had been mainly conceived as a problem for specific societies grappling with social and political contexts that...

  10. Conclusion: The Constitutive Failure of Democracy
    (pp. 163-178)

    The argument in this book has suggested that democratic theory and practice needs to be reconsidered in order to accommodate the shifting meanings of democracy in contemporary politics and the spaces that have opened up between democratic aspirations and the actual operation of democratic societies. In particular, the tendency to view democratic political organisation as a given whereby everyone understands and agrees upon the types of mechanisms that are required to enable democratic societies to function must be analysed. The first major contention here is that an approach powered by the insights of complexity theory acts to deepen understanding against...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 179-186)
  12. Index
    (pp. 187-191)