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Creating the People as ‘One’?

On Democracy and Its Other

Marta Nunes da Costa

Abstract

It is common sense today to say that ‘democracy is in crisis’. This apparently obvious crisis of democracy has several aspects: it is a crisis of its representative dimensions; it is a crisis that exposes the tensions and intrinsic contradictions between the political and the economic and financial orders; but it is also a crisis that begins to question the actual future of democracy, announcing the possibility that democracy may be replaced by something else for which we don’t have a name yet. In this article I start by looking at the modern (re) invention of democracy, trying to grasp the ways in which ‘the people’ has been theorised. After, I look at the challenges Europe is facing today, mainly in what concerns the economic and financial crises on the one hand, and the refugees and humanitarian crises on the other. I conclude by showing how and why democracy can only be defined as ‘crisis’ and why ‘the people’ must remain simultaneously invisible and un-bodied, in order to fight current populist threats.

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Review Essay

Marta Nunes da Costa

Abstract

What does it mean to be free? How is freedom related to power? How does the concept of freedom shape our conceptions of democracy? Lawrence Hamilton’s book entitled Freedom Is Power: Liberty through Political Representation offers an alternative conceptualization of freedom to the republican and liberal traditions. Hamilton delineates his framework of analysis starting from a realpolitik approach, with Machiavellian and Foucaultian inspiration: first, by conceiving politics via the lens of conflict instead of consensus; second, by conceiving freedom in terms of power (relations). In this paper we offer an overview of Hamilton’s argument, exploring the steps that lead us to a reconceptualise freedom in terms of power, needs and interests and to rethink the significance, meanings and practices of political representation in a democratic context.