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Democratic Theorizing from the Margins

Democratic Theorizing from the Margins

Marla Brettschneider
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Democratic Theorizing from the Margins
    Book Description:

    Democratic Theorizing from the Margins lays out the basic parameters of diversity-based politics as a still emerging form of democratic theory. Students, activists, and scholars engage in diversity politics on the ground, but generally remain unable to conceptualize a broad understanding of how "politics from the margins"-that is, political thinking and action that comes from groups often left on the outside of mainstream organizing and action-operates effectively in different contexts and environments. Brettschneider offers concrete lessons from many movements to see what they tell us about a new sort of democratic politics. She also addresses traditional democratic theories and draws on the myriad discerning practices employed by marginalized groups in their political activism to enhance the critical capacities of potential movements committed both to social change and democratic action.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0773-3
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    Tony Kushner opens part two of his epic play,Angels in America, with a warning to us, the “pygmy children of a gigantic race,” the historical inheritors of the West’s grand theories:

    Alesksii Antedilluvianovich Prelapsarianov (the World’s Oldest Living Bolshevik):

    The Great Question before us is: Are we doomed? The Great Question before us is: Will the Past release us? The Great Question before us is: Can we Change? In Time? And we all desire that Change will come.

    (Little pause) (With sudden, violent passion)

    AndTheory?How are we to proceed withoutTheory?What System of Thought have these...

  5. 2 When: History
    (pp. 21-52)

    Over time, the national project in the United States has included testing numerous approaches to dealing with the challenges that difference poses to democracies. Using violence and propaganda to wipe out diversity, promoting the values of assimilation, or sometimes glorifying images of multiplicity all have their intertwining genealogies in U.S. history. Another interesting way to analyze how popular currents have changed is to look at the politics of shifting the boundaries between what is an acceptable difference and what are unacceptable differences among the populace. The contention between those who seek to define the parameters of national variation narrowly and...

  6. 3 Who: Identity
    (pp. 53-81)

    In October 1997 theSan Francisco Chronicle’s business section reported that for every dollar that white male managers in the United States earned, the average amount earned by others was significantly lower. TheChroniclearticle tells us that in comparison to this one dollar, on average Asian men earned ninety-one cents and Asian women earned sixty-seven cents. Other groups fared even worse: African American and Hispanic men earned sixty-five cents, white women earned fifty-nine cents, African American women earned fifty-eight cents, and Hispanic women earned forty-eight cents.¹

    Why did someone research this information? Why did the newspaper see fit to...

  7. 4 What: Recognition
    (pp. 82-113)

    Thus Ralph Ellison opens his first novel and now legendary tale of theInvisible Man. Published in 1947, Ellison’s work seemed to express something central to the experiences of many African American men due to the historical development of racism in the United States. Men and women from various communities of color responded to the chilling rendition of their peculiar form of invisibility: to be somehow invisible at the same time one and one’s people are so explicitly and violentlyseenin order to both mock and mark one as abject.¹ Ellison’s invisible man was taken also by European-Americans as...

  8. 5 Why: Rethinking Universals and Particulars
    (pp. 114-135)

    As an emergent democratic theory attending to oppressed groups and pursuing a politics of recognition, diversity-based politics from the margins has also revived the discussion ofwhywe engage in politics, offering new ideas about the empirical and normative grounds that motivate political involvement. Why do people participate in democratic politics, and what grounds ought democratic theory to encourage as the basis of politics? Although apparently contradictory to one another, major democratic theories have posited two main answers to this question. Some thinkers answer thewhyquestion of politics by pointing to individual self-interest. Others have based their ideas on...

  9. 6 Where: Multiple Publics
    (pp. 136-172)

    We have now had an opportunity to look at some of the when, who, what, and why of diversity-based politics’ potential contributions to new democratic theory. It is time that we address the question concerning where. Where do we see these newer, alternative, and potentially radical forms of politics taking place? What are their locations? What spaces might we need to attend to, imagine, open up, and/or create in order to facilitate a deeper engagement with democracy? How could attention to the geography, imaginative and physical, of politics enable more democratic modes of political praxis? How might an inquiry into...

  10. 7 How: Minoritizing and Majoritizing
    (pp. 173-201)

    It is often difficult to engage in critical discussions of fundamental democratic principles. Basic questions of democratic praxis are often assumed to be easily answered, or thought to have been answered declaratively by the “founding fathers.” Sometimes merely suggesting that we reopen the discussion can lead to charges of disloyalty and evil doings. What I treat in this book as the “how” question of democracy suffers such a fate no less than any other. The question “howought we to go about enacting systems of governance by, for, and of the people?” now for the most part has a simple...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 202-232)
  12. References
    (pp. 233-252)
  13. Index
    (pp. 253-258)