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Beyond (and Before) the Transnational Turn

Recovering Civil Disobedience as Decolonizing Praxis

Erin Pineda

Can civil disobedience be transnationalized? This question presumes civil disobedience to be a fundamentally domestic concept—one constitutively tied to both the nation-state and the normative underpinnings of liberal, constitutional democracies. This article shows how this assumption mistakes one version of civil disobedience’s twentieth-century intellectual history for the whole of it, and risks reproducing binaries (domestic vs. international, democracies vs. non-democracies) that trouble attempts to theorize the transnational. Turning to an alternative intellectual history—a network of civil rights and anticolonial activists—reveals a novel theory of civil disobedience as decolonizing praxis, as well the stakes of these binaries: the disavowal of white supremacy as pervasive and durable global structure of governance, linking the domestic to the international, and democratic rule to domination.

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Karuna Mantena, Adom Getachew, Sofia Näsström, and Jason Frank

Theorizing the Democratic Crowd: From the Who to the How of Popular Assembly

From the Boundaries of the People to their Enactment: A New Terrain for Democratic Theory

Popular Sovereignty, Aesthetics, and Emancipation

Beyond the Age of Democratic Revolution

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The Duties to Protest and to Listen to Protest

Communicative Resistance, Enabler’s Responsibility, and Echoing

José Medina

This article argues that the duties to protest and to listen to protest are central democratic obligations required for active citizenship. Section 1 sketches protest as communicative resistance. Section 2 argues that we always have a duty to listen to felicitous protests against injustice and that, under conditions of social uprising, we also have a duty to protest. Section 3 defends a view of protest participation that takes into account subjects’ positionality with respect to the injustice being protested, arguing for the special prerogatives of victims and the duties to defer and yield of non-victims within protest movements. Finally, Section 4 elucidates the notion of giving proper uptake to protest and what I call echoing a protest, that is, expressing communicative solidarity with that protest.

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Protest and the Democratic Order

A Research Perspective

Danniel Gobbi, Laura Gorriahn, Daniel Staemmler, and Christian Volk

The introduction of this special issue elaborates a research perspective on the meaning and function of political protest in the context of democratic orders. Starting from the consideration that protest and democratic orders form a close interrelationship, we ask how and to what extent democracy is imagined, negotiated, and problematized within protest, and how democratic orders and politics shape the formation of protest. To this end, we argue for a combination of Democratic Theory and Social Movement Studies. Interweaving these two traditions allows for empirically saturated and theoretically sound interpretations of recent episodes of contention. With this research perspective, we not only gain a deeper understanding of protest dynamics, but also of contemporary social and political transformations within modern democratic societies.

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Reconceptualizing Democratic Innovation

“Democratic Innovation Repertoires” and Their Impact Within and Beyond Social Movements

Cristina Flesher Fominaya

Democratic innovation is one way the multiple crises of democracy can be addressed. The literature on democratic innovation has yet to adequately interrogate the role of social movements, and more specifically the movement of democratic imaginaries, in innovation, nor has it considered the specific mechanisms through which movements translate democratic imaginaries and practices into innovation. This article provides a preliminary roadmap for methodological and conceptual innovation in our understanding of the role of social movements in democratic innovation. It introduces the concept of democratic innovation repertoires and argues that: a) we need to broaden our conceptualization and analysis of democratic innovation to encompass the role of social movements; and b) we need to understand how the relationship between democratic movement imaginaries and the praxis that movements develop in their quest to “save” or strengthen democracy can shape democratic innovation beyond movement arenas after mobilizing “events” have passed.

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Reform, Transformation, Emancipation

Conceptualizing Political Protest in Modern Democracies

Christian Volk

This article outlines a theoretical framework for interpreting the meaning and function of political protest in modern democracies and develops normative criteria for assessing its democratic quality. To allow for a better understanding of how social structures, legal institutions, and political engagement interact in protest, I combine analytical perspectives from social theory and democratic theory. A useful first distinction, I argue, is between reformist and transformative forms of protest. While reformist protest does not challenge the given framework of the modern democratic order, transformative protest politicizes the basic principles of that order. Finally, I develop four criteria to identify emancipatory traits within protest movements: 1) expanding the circle of those who benefit from the fulfillment of democracy’s promises; 2) the establishment of discursive democratic spaces; 3) a balance between dramatization and exchange; and 4) a willingness to become someone else.

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The Sovereign Awakened

A Radical Democratic View on Protest

Oliver Marchart

This article contrasts the liberal idea of a “sleeping sovereign” with the democratic one of a “sovereign awakened.” The right to protest is defended as an expression of popular sovereignty, envisaged as a right to popular “self-awakening” instigated by an imperative call of duty not reducible to a set of liberal individual rights. In contrast to some approaches of agonistic democracy, it is argued that democratically breaking the rules of the game of liberal democracy is an indispensable dimension of democratic protest. Taking into account Étienne Balibar’s thoughts about a rule-breaking right to have rights, it is suggested we revisit the French Constitution of 1793, in which a popular duty to insurrection is enshrined. The article ends with the proposal to supplement insurrectionary accounts of sovereignty with a Gramscian view that would insist on the necessity of hegemonically constructing a democratic “collective will.”

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Theorizing Reactive Democracy

The Social Media Public Sphere, Online Crowds, and the Plebiscitary Logic of Online Reactions

Paolo Gerbaudo

The diffusion of social media has profoundly transformed the nature and form of the contemporary public sphere, facilitating the rise of new political tactics and movements. In this article, I develop a theory of the social media public sphere as a “plebeian public sphere” whose functioning is markedly different from the traditional public sphere, described by Jürgen Habermas. Differently from Habermas’ critical-rational publics, this social media public sphere is dominated by online crowds that come together in virtual gatherings made visible by a variety of social media reactions and metrics that measure their presence. It can be best described as a “reactive democracy,” a plebiscitary form of democracy in which reactions are understood as an implicit vote indicating the mood of public opinion on a variety of issues.

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Anthony Chinaemerem Ajah, S. J. Cooper-Knock, Josette Daemen, Douglas L. Berger, and Hayden Weaver

Uchenna Okeja, Deliberative Agency: A Study in Modern African Political Philosophy. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2022, 214 pp.

Gideon van Riet, Hegemony, Security Infrastructures and the Politics of Crime: Everyday Experiences in South Africa. London: Routledge, 2021, 224 pp.

Richard Grusin (ed), Insecurity. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2022, 272 pp.

Tao Jiang, Origins of Moral-Political Philosophy in Early China. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021, xiii–xvi+556 pp.

Judith Butler, The Force of Nonviolence: An Ethico-Political Bind. London: Verso, 2020, 209 pp.

Open access

Gregory Maxaulane

Following the footsteps of scholars who have made contributions to the debate about the question of method and analysis in Fanon’s work, this article explores the implications of his concerns with the link between madness and struggle on our understanding of the transformative role of radical political strategies in the colonial context and the contemporary world. The main argument it pursues is that Fanon regarded madness and revolutionary violence in the colonial context as effects of colonial alienation. Most importantly, this argument sets the article apart from the works which focus on how Fanon’s proto-structuralist analysis of the process of madness and the question of cure reveals his concerns with the conditions for the possibility of a politico-philosophical paradigm or a universal morality in postcolonial time or national liberation time.