This book critically investigates the notion of democracy without demos by unravelling the link that modern history has established between the concepts of democracy and the sovereignty of the people. This task is imposed on us by globalization. The individualization of the subject of rights is the result of the destruction of regimes of special rights of ancient societies by the centralizing action of a territorial power. This individualization, because it implies equality, has created a new form of political subjectivity that has been the driving force of the democratization of democracies during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Democracy and subjective rights discusses how asserting itself as the only guarantor of rights, the modern state has also nationalized citizenship. However, the author argues, the legal and judicial monopoly of the nation-state is weakened today by the multiplication and heterogeneity of the powers on which the rights of individuals depend. This situation forces us to denationalize citizenship without sacrificing, however, the specific form of political subjectivity that the individualization of rights has made possible.
Introduction / 1. Subjective Rights / 2. Democracy / 3. The Democratisation of Democracies / 4. Democracy without Demos / 5. The Future of The Political Subject in the Context of Globalisation / Conclusion
In this translation of her French classic, Colliot-Théllene gives us a deeply original account of who is doing the democratic work in societies where self-legislation has only ever been a cunning myth. We are introduced to the democratic citizen with her multi-layered identity which combines to make her part of many different collectives, yet as her very own subject of rights, thus escaping ascription as part of a given demos. But what should happen to her democratic citizenship as the modern state changes radically with the contours of modernity? How are we to reinvent a non-national citizenship in a world where governance is both increasingly globalised and fragmented? What is the democratic promise on offer from innovative new practices aimed at controlling all the forms of power exercised upon us, beyond that of the state and its elected representatives? To answer these questions, the reader is taken on a whirlwind tour across historical time and conceptual space to glimpse anew our forever receding democratic horizon.
In this engaging book, Colliot-Thélène argues for the centrality of subjective rights in the democratic theory of modern societies. This is accomplished through reconstruction of the historical and theoretical basis for democratic rights and the very notion of subjectivity in modern times. The book is commendable for its transdisciplinarity and will be of great interest for scholars of democracy from subjects such as philosophy, sociology and political science.
Catherine Colliot-Thélène is Professor Emeritus at the University Rennes 1.