By John Keane
Quantum Democracy: Re-Imagining Space, Time and Territory in Contemporary Politics
Can democratic politics be re-imagined kaleidoscopically: understood in quantum terms of multiple interacting spatial frameworks in which peoples, with the help of their representatives, govern themselves and their ecosystems in differently-sized settings marked by different space-time rhythms? Prepared for a Spanish audience, the lecture supposes that democratic theory now urgently needs a quantum leap, a major breakthrough, a theoretical equivalent of a sudden jump of a particle from one energy level to another. It radically questions the dominant place-based, territorial imaginary of contemporary democratic politics. It sets its sights on explaining why questions of territory, place and space matter to democracy; why they need to be moved to the heart of democratic theory; and why the quantum concern with such matters as ‘extra dimensions’, quantum entanglement and ‘spacetime’ are so relevant for democratic politics. The lecture probes the conceptual and empirical weaknesses of ‘cosmopolitan democracy’ perspectives, ‘demoicracy’ theories and other present-day efforts to find a post-territorial language of democracy. It explores why, against considerable odds, the spirit, language and institutions of democracy today survive and thrive in cross-border settings; and why the 21st-century future of democracy now vitally depends on challenging the scholarly flatlands by developing a quantum poetics and practical politics of democratic space.