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The Democratic Promise

The Individual Within the Community


Constance Goh

The Democratic Promise engages Slavoj Žižek’s psychoanalytic and cultural reading of politics and terror, Jacques Rancière’s concept of the partition of the sensible, Alain Badiou’s ethics and politics, and Jacques Derrida’s thoughts on philosophy in a time of terror in order to radically rethink politics in and through aesthetics as analogies of political subjectivity. This book interrogates the a priori rights of an individual as universally declared and what these mean in terms of human agency. By revisiting the philosophical writings of the Western continental tradition through the eyes of contemporary political thinkers, it not only delves into the current debate on democracy but also investigates the connection between exceptionality and democracy. Constance Goh asserts here that inter-national or intra-national conflicts persist despite the global emphasis on cultural diversity and consideration because of the politics of recognition. The Democratic Promise also examines the media politics of China and Tibet’s fraught relations so as to argue that Derrida’s democracy-to-come necessitates an-other principle, an extra-normative tolerance he calls «hostipitality,» a host (un)intentionally transporting a singular other via the vehicle of aesthetics.


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Chapter One. Mission Impossible 1


• C H A P T E R O N E • Mission Impossible A title occasionally resonates like a citation of another title. But as soon as it names something else, it no longer simply cites, it diverts the other title under cover of a homonym. All of this could never occur without some degree of prejudice or usurpation. I shall try to do justice to these possibilities by beginning to read—and reading here amounts to citing—Kafka’s story entitled Vor dem Gezetz or, in English, Before the Law. While the translation of the title may appear problematic, in three words it sums up in advance and formalizes what is at stake. —Jacques Derrida, “Before the Law” iorgio Agamben starts State of Exception with the question that preoccupied thinkers of Western politics: “…what does it mean to act politically?”, asserted here as an onto-theological question predicated upon an examination of the hegemonic ideology of both Western liberal democracy and its Eastern counterpart, socialist democracy. Whereas socialist democracy openly articulates its hegemonic underpinnings, those insisting on the “liberal third way” ignore the hegemonic violence inherent in the activities that occurred under its aegis. Can one say that the “liberal third way” manifests the inescapable fact of the state of exception in a globalized arena? What other options do we have besides the liberal third way or the socialist- democratic way? Can the conventions of human rights be read in another manner, a way that one calls messianic democracy, something akin to...

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