Outdated map, 2016  © china | Flickr
EssaysFeatureIn DepthLiberal Democracy in Question

The Promise and Logic of Federations, and The Problem of Their Stability

Historians are right to describe the 19th century as the age of nationalism. While many also depict the 20th as the triumph of the nation-state, with more justice it could be called the century of its failure, despite the vast proliferation of the form. If collapsing empires brought us the first World War, the new problems of the nation state prepared the ground for the second. In our own century, looking around the world, we encounter countless examples of nation-state failure to solve the problem that brought it into being: the management of plurality and the self-determination of different political identities.

Throughout the crises of empires and of nation-states, the option of federal union was ever-present, promising to solve what neither other political form could ultimately deal with. …

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The embattled President Rousseff © Senado Federal | Flickr
EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Friends of Brazil, Foes of Democracy

A response to Heloisa Pait

With her piece “Real Friends of Brazil,” Heloisa Pait seems to suggest a Schmittian reading of contemporary Brazilian politics. In a nutshell, she divides the world in two antagonistic groups. On one side, there are the “real friends of Brazil,” people like her who support the calls for impeachment of democratically-elected president Dilma Rousseff. Following the author’s logic, on the other side there are the “real enemies of Brazil,” people like us, who …

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Donald Trump speaks at CPAC, Washington, DC, 2011 © Gage Skidmore | Flickr
EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionMedia & Publics

Diagnosing American Politics

What the rise of Trump says about American democracy

I have a morbid fascination with Carl Schmitt. Morbid, because he manages to condense, in his political theory and philosophy of law, pretty much everything I find repulsive about the radical right. His pessimism about “human nature” is raw and simplistic and, unlike Hobbes, whom he superficially resembles, he is uninterested in clamping down on sin-infected humanity by way of a social contract that invests all sovereignty in an …

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Euromaidan in Kiev. Hrushevsky street riots, January 23, 2014 © Аимаина хикари | Wikimedia Commons
EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

EuroMaidan Politics

Friends and Enemies in Ukraine

“The following video contains graphic content, which may be disturbing for some viewers,” says NYTimes.com about a video of the protests in Ukraine. Yes, politics — if by “politics” we do not mean debates of “experts” and TV celebrities who represent political parties — is disturbing, and not only in Ukraine.

Yet, in Ukraine, politics has come back. Hundreds of thousands of people have been on the streets for two months already protesting the government. What started in November 2013 as a protest against President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision not to sign the Association Agreement with the EU has very quickly turned into a protest against the entire regime, the whole system of power from the President to a local police officer.

The first violence used against the protesters on November 30 showed that the government hates to see the faces of those who do not like it. After two months of mass protests, …

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The "Rebel Penguin," symbol of Turkish resistance. © Unknown | http://postvirtual.wordpress.com
EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Gezi Resistance: Re-claiming Democracy

A prominent political theorist, Judith Shklar, once said that the rule of law has become “a self-congratulatory rhetorical device” [1] used by the politicians, who try to legitimize whatever they do just by uttering the word “the rule of law.” I think we can say the same thing for democracy as well. In Turkey, every political party aims for democracy. Even the military suspended democratic politics with the claim of saving it. The Gezi protests are accepted as an instance of democratic politics, and Erdogan sees himself as the gatekeeper of democratic politics allowing no one in. What I am trying to do here is to provide a perspective from which we can analyze the AKP (the Justice and Development Party) and its relation to democracy on the one hand, and the impact of the Gezi, on the other. In doing this, I will draw on three thinkers and their ideas of democracy, namely Carl Schmitt, Claude Lefort and Jacques Ranciere.

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