From Schmitt to Foucault

Inquiring the Relationship between Exception and Democracy

in Democratic Theory
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This article examines the debated relationship between liberal- democratic politics and states of exception in conditions of emergency. After Walter Benjamin and Giorgio Agamben, it is often maintained that today we live in a situation of perennial exceptionalism, where emergency measures have become a regular practice even by governments we name ‘democratic’. In these circumstances, exception is deemed to threaten democracy and hinder individual and collective political agency. Yet, such interpretation remains rigidly focused on the expanded governmental powers ushered by the exception. The article first unpacks how the relationship between exception and democracy has been differently addressed by juridical and biopolitical approaches. Then, it attempts an alternative heuristic: it discusses possibilities of democratic associative practices in emergency by looking at the notion of resistance that Michel Foucault links with power. This route remains unexplored in the literature on the concept of the exception.

Democratic Theory

An Interdisciplinary Journal