This seminar focuses on what political theorists call "democratic theory," which addresses the defining institutions, cultural meaning, inherent difficulties, and contemporary crisis of specifically "democratic" forms of political life. We begin by reviewing classical and contemporary formulations of what democracy is, for what can be called liberal, deliberative, communitarian, and agonistic approaches entail very definitions of democracy, contrasting senses of its dangers and possibilities, as well as divergent visions of citizenship and public life, political culture and modernity. Then we consider these approaches in relation to the issue of difference: how do they explain and address the persistence of racialized and gendered forms of inequality in regimes committed to formal and legal equality? Why are formally democratic societies typically characterized by intense struggle over issues of identity and difference, not only race, gender, and sexuality, but also immigration? Our seminar concludes by exploring the relation between democratic regimes and empire, state violence, and national security: how does "democracy" become the name for a regime engaged in permanent war, torture, surveillance of citizens, and suspension of civil liberties?
Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)