477.3 Democratic revolution: Politicising the social or socialising the political

Friday, August 3, 2012: 11:25 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Craig BROWNE , Sociology and Social Policy, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
This paper compares the conceptions of democracy and democratisation that are associated with North American pragmatism and contemporary French theories of democratic creativity. I argue that Alexis de Tocqueville’s notion of the ‘democratic revolution’ constitutes a shared point of reference for these two perspectives and that they likewise have in common an interest in the relationship between social creativity and democracy. In the case of North American pragmatism, these considerations inform John Dewey’s suggestive, though incomplete, notion of creative democracy and George Herbert Mead’s related interpretation of the intersubjective character of democracy. Creative democracy aims to enable individuals to reconstitute the relationship that they have to social institutions and Dewey’s pragmatism subsequently influenced deliberative, associative and reflexive cooperative models of democracy. The contemporary French theories of democratic creativity, like those of Cornelius Castoriadis, Claude Lefort and Marcel Gauchet, were equally influenced by Tocqueville’s notion of the democratic revolution and his interpretation of the French Revolution. French theories of democratic creativity initially developed in response to the distorted institution of emancipatory ideals during the twentieth century and this results in the somewhat different conception of democracy as a regime. My analysis details how these contrasting and overlapping perspectives contribute to the project of democratisation and provide novel interpretations of the very notion of democracy and its preconditions. In particular, I suggest that pragmatism’s understanding of democracy as primarily a social and moral ideal leads to a notion of democratisation as resulting from the socialising of the political; whereas French theories of democratic creativity imply that democratisation involves the politicising of the social.