Tragic democracy

Authors: Mitch Rose*, Aberystwyth University
Topics: Political Geography, Middle East, Social Theory
Keywords: democracy, egypt, tragedy,
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Virginia A, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Drawing upon the American sceptic Stanley Cavell (1999) and the political theorist Chantal Mouffe (2000, 2013) this paper argues that the utter unknowability of others - the inability to understand another’s interest, desires and needs – makes democracy necessarily tragic. For Cavell (1999), other people resist, fundamentally our ability to bring them into the light of comprehension. For Mouffe (2000) the political implications of this are not that we should fight against it but that we should acknowledge and accept it as a limit. The tragedy of democracy is the tragedy of having to submit to this limit, that is, submit to and be responsible for other people’s otherness. The question of politics, therefore, is not a question about how to make democracy less tragic but how to manage its necessary tragedy: how do we come to terms with our submission to the otherness of others? How do we reckon with submitting to those who will misunderstand us, mis-know us and inevitably fail us? Politics, in essence, means acknowledging this fate and the forms of hope and tragedy that lie within it.

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