Contemporary Political Theory

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 501–531 | Cite as

Democracy, critique and the ontological turn

  • Mihaela MihaiEmail author
  • Lois McNay
  • Oliver Marchart
  • Aletta Norval
  • Vassilios Paipais
  • Sergei Prozorov
  • Mathias Thaler
Critical Exchange

Hardt and Negri (2001, p. 354) once remarked that ‘political philosophy forces us to enter the terrain of ontology’. At a time when democracy’s very future seems to be at stake, this statement assumes a renewed urgency. For, if the democratic project is once more under existential threat, rethinking the foundations of political thought and action is perhaps no longer the exclusive preoccupation of radical political thinkers but becomes the central task of contemporary democratic theory more broadly. Political ontologists have persuasively argued that our fundamental assumptions about the meaning and nature of our being in the world, about politics as a collective activity, and about the purpose of political philosophy are deeply interwoven; thinking and acting politically, as Hannah Arendt taught us, are inseparable. Philosophy is not simply an external discourse of knowledge that produces a scientific or ‘objective’ account of political life, separate from the actual practices,...


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mihaela Mihai
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lois McNay
    • 2
  • Oliver Marchart
    • 3
  • Aletta Norval
    • 4
  • Vassilios Paipais
    • 5
  • Sergei Prozorov
    • 6
  • Mathias Thaler
    • 7
  1. 1.University of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  2. 2.University of OxfordOxfordUK
  3. 3.University of ViennaViennaAustria
  4. 4.University of EssexColchesterUK
  5. 5.University of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK
  6. 6.University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  7. 7.University of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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