Pluralizing the Demos

Michaele L. Ferguson

in Sharing Democracy

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199921584
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980413 | DOI:
Pluralizing the Demos

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This chapter critically examines the belief that commonality – and common agreement in particular – is necessary to produce collective agency. According to this belief, when citizens disagree and disidentify with decisions made in their name, democracies are illegitimate and exclusionary. Taylor serves as both an exemplar of this position, and as inspiration for an alternative view of agency. In his democratic writings, he draws on commonality to address the problem of exclusion: if democracies can correctly identify what citizens share, then exclusion can be avoided. This is to conceptualize the people as a “sovereign democratic agency” – as a singular actor located in democratic state institutions. Drawing from his philosophical works, this chapter develops a different understanding of collective agency – “democratic interagency” – that emerges wherever and whenever subjects interact to try to shape the world they inhabit together. This demos is multiple and not tied to any particular institutionalization of democracy. From the perspective of democratic interagency, the problem of exclusion arises when interlocutors disengage or fail to respond. Democratic inclusion, then, arises not through arriving at common agreement, but through proliferating and perpetuating interaction.

Keywords: collective agency; Charles Taylor; exclusion; inclusion; democratic agency; imaginary; commonality; agency; dialogical agency

Chapter.  11180 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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