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In common usage, modern democracy falls back on a sovereign people. It refers to a form of government where the people has the ultimate authority to decide the
In common usage, modern democracy falls back on a sovereign people. It refers to a form of government where the people has the ultimate authority to decide the direction and substance of democratic law. In the book manuscript The Spirit of Democracy, I argue that this familiar interpretation fails to capture what is radical and promising about the political project set in motion by the revolutions in the late eighteenth century, and how it may be reinvigorated to counter the corruption of democratic practices and ideals. Modern democracy is not based on a sovereign people. It is a classless form of government animated and sustained by a principle of emancipation, and together these two features make up the unique spirit—in Montesquieu’s sense of the term—of modern democracy. The book argues that by paying attention to this spirit, it is not only possible to prevent the degeneration of democracy into other political forms; monarchical, republican and despotic. We enhance our understanding of what is distinctively democratic about such familiar political institutions as universal suffrage, human rights and the public sphere, and how the radical spirit that animates them may be revived to meet new political crises.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Sofia Näsström is Associate Professor at the Department of Government, Uppsala University. She works in the field of political theory, with particular focus on issues related to democracy, constituent power, the people, the right to have rights, representation, freedom and precarity. She is currently working on a monograph entitled The Spirit of Democracy: Thinking Democracy beyond the Nation-State.
IMAGE: Robespierre overthrown during a Session of the Convention nationale. Max Adamo (1870)
(Wednesday) 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
226 Seminar Room
Department of Media and Communications, John Woolley Building (A20) level 2, University of Sydney
Sydney Democracy Networksdn@sydney.edu.au