This volume explores the political implications of violence and alterity (radical difference) for the practice of democracy, and reformulates the possibility of community that democracy is said to entail. Most significantly, contributors intervene in traditional democratic theory by boldly contesting the widely-held assumption that increased inclusion, tolerance and cultural recognition are democracy's sufficient conditions. Rather than simply inquiring how best to expand the 'demos', they investigate how claims to self-determination, identity and sovereignty are a problem for democracy and how, paradoxically, alterity may be its greatest strength. Drawing largely on the Left, continental tradition, contributions include an appeal to the tension between fear and love in the face of anti-Semitism in Poland, injunctions to rethink the identity-difference binary and the ideal of 'mutual recognition' that dominate liberal-democratic thought, critiques of the canonical 'we' that constitutes the democratic community, and a call for an ethics and a politics of 'dissensus' in democratic struggles against racist and sexist oppression. The authors mobilise some of the most powerful critical insights emerging across the social sciences and humanities – from anthropology, sociology, critical legal studies, Marxism, psychoanalysis and critical race theory and post-colonial studies – to reconsider the meaning and the possibility of 'democracy' in the face of its contemporary crisis. The book will be of direct interest to students and scholars interested in cutting-edge, critical reflection on the empirical phenomenon of increased violence in the West provoked by radical difference, and on theories of radical political change.
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