Utskrift från Malmö högskolas webbplats www.mah.se

Is Democracy rooted in a "people"? Guest talk by Assoc. Prof. Sofia Näsström

Tid: 2017-10-09 13:15 -- 2017-10-09 15:00
Plats: Main meeting room 9th floor Niagara Building.
Målgrupp: All interested

Is Democracy rooted in a “people”?

Associate Professor Sofia Näsström. Dept. of Government, Uppsala University.

Professor Näsström’s presentation will be followed by comments from a discussant panel, and questions from the audience. To ensure access to the 9th floor, persons without security access must congregate near the ‘C’ lifts on the ground floor of Niagara at 13:00.


The paper asks what allegiance to the sovereign people entails for how one addresses conflicts on “who” governs in a democracy. I argue that it yields a fundamental paradox, and that this paradox induces many political theorists to draw two general but faulty conclusions. The first conclusion is that disagreement on who properly makes up the people has an inherently destabilizing impact on democratic politics. It leads to a vicious circle of permanent revolutions: The people must be authorized by the people, who are undemocratic at the moment of foundation, and therefore must be authorized by a new people, and so on. The second conclusion is that who legitimately make up the people, and hence are entitled to govern themselves for this very reason falls beyond the scope of democratic theory. It is determined by factors extraneous to democracy; by a historically constituted people (historicism), a pre-political people (naturalism) or by the decision of the one who is sovereign (decisionism).

In the chapter, I demonstrate why this reasoning is a trap, and a particularly dangerous one at that. Not only does it invite us to embrace precisely the kind of extra-political authorities that the democratic revolution once was supposed to overcome; it leads to disenchantment with democracy as a political form able to deal democratically with conflicts on who “we, the people” are.


For further information, please contact Michael Strange

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