Chapter

“This is What Democracy Looks Like”

Michaele L. Ferguson

in Sharing Democracy

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199921584
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980413 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199921584.003.0006
“This is What Democracy Looks Like”

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This chapter argues that it would be insufficient for theorists to adopt the view that commonality is the product of human activity. Democratic theory requires shifting from an orientation to locating commonalities, to one of expressing and encouraging political freedom. Even where the commonality in question is one that actors understand as the product of their activity, a reading of the 2006 U.S. immigrant rights protests shows that the orientation towards commonality generates antidemocratic pressures to sacrifice political freedom for the sake of shared goals. While feminists and others have argued for coalition as an imaginary of democracy, coalition politics does not move theory beyond a preoccupation with commonality. In its place, this chapter offers protests as paradigmatic of a democratic action. Protests are cacophonous, multivocal, and unpredictable. They exemplify “democracy sense”: the awareness that people inhabit the world together with plural others who all possess the capacity for world-building. Protests, therefore, are self-authorizing expressions of political freedom that embrace the uncertainty, unpredictability, and risk of acting together with others to try to shape a common world.

Keywords: 2006 U.S. immigration rights protests; protest; democracy sense; coalition politics; feminist theory; political freedom; nonsovereignty; plurality; commonality; occupy movement

Chapter.  12456 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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