Stasis before the State: Nine Theses on Agonistic Democracy

Stasis before the State: Nine Theses on Agonistic Democracy

Stasis before the State: Nine Theses on Agonistic Democracy

Stasis before the State: Nine Theses on Agonistic Democracy

Synopsis

This book critiques the relation between sovereignty and democracy. Across nine theses, Vardoulakis argues that sovereignty asserts its power by establishing exclusions: the sovereign excluding other citizens from power and excludes refugees and immigrants from citizenship. Within this structure, to resist sovereignty is to reproduce the logic of exclusion characteristic of sovereignty.

In contrast to this "ruse of sovereignty," Vardoulakis proposes an alternative model for political change. He argues that democracy can be understood as the structure of power that does not rely on exclusions and whose relation to sovereignty is marked not by exclusion but of incessant agonism.

The term stasis, which refers both to the state and to revolution against it, offers a tension that helps to show how the democratic imperative is presupposed by the logic of sovereignty, and how agonism is more primary than exclusion. In elaborating this ancient but only recently recovered concept of stasis, Vardoulakis illustrates the radical potential of democracy to move beyond the logic of exclusion and the ruse of sovereignty.

Excerpt

There is a commonly held narrative about constitutional forms in the Western political and philosophical tradition. the story is schematically as follows: Initially Aristotle and other ancient philosophers, including, influentially, Polybius, propounded the theory of the three constitutional forms—monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. This model assumes a revolution or circularity between the three forms. Later, around the seventeenth century, a radical transformation occurs, and political representation assumes center stage. in the contractarian tradition, the constitution is defined by how constituted power represents the people. This story, further, unfolds as a kind of narrative of progress or Bildungsroman. Representation ultimately—and this may be understood genetically or historically—leads to forms of representative democracy characterized by a strong link between constitutional and state forms. Thus, famously, Hegel . . .

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