Wolin and Democracy’s Debasement
One would expect critical resistance to be facilitated by inclusive democratic practices and responsive democratic institutions. Just how open is contemporary democratic practice to facilitating and encouraging resistance to transnational legality? For political theorist Sheldon Wolin, democracy today as practised in ‘advanced’ democracies is significantly dampened by the institutionalization of barriers to imagining both old and new commonalities. The privatization of public authority, the reduction of citizenship to consumer citizenship and democracy to shareholder democracy are just some of the features that have contributed to the debasement of democratic practice. The potential for ordinary people to become ‘political beings through the self-discovery of common concerns’, Wolin writes, is sublimated in contemporary democratic practice (1994, p. 11; 2008, p. 260). As a consequence of these features, contemporary democracy works to suppress the emergence of new forms to mediate common concerns. If it is correct to claim that there is a correlation between economic inequality and politics (Bartels, 2008, p. 3), then democracy’s shrinking space signals a chastened ability to disturb wealth and power distribution beyond the prevailing status quo.
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