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Spaces of Depoliticisation, Spectres of Radical Politics Dezembro 28, 2016

Posted by paulo jorge vieira in academia, activismo, geografias, Uncategorized.
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The Post-Political and Its Discontents

Spaces of Depoliticisation, Spectres of Radical Politics

edited by Japhy Wilson and Erik Swyngedouw


Through a multi-dimensional and fiercely contested assessment of contemporary depoliticisation, The Post-Political and Its Discontents urges us to confront the closure of our political horizons and re-imagine the possibility of emancipatory change.

Our age is celebrated as the triumph of liberal democracy. Old ideological battles have been decisively resolved in favour of freedom and the market. We are told that we have moved ‘beyond left and right’; that we are ‘all in this together’. Any remaining differences are to be addressed through expert knowledge, consensual deliberation and participatory governance. Yet the ‘end of history’ has also been marked by widespread disillusion with mainstream politics and a rise in nationalist and religious fundamentalisms. And now an explosion of popular protests is challenging technocratic regulation and the power of markets in the name of democracy itself.

This collection makes sense of this situation by critically engaging with the influential theory of ‘the post-political’ developed by Chantal Mouffe, Jacques Rancière, Slavoj Zizek and others. Through a multi-dimensional and fiercely contested assessment of contemporary depoliticisation, The Post-Political and Its Discontents urges us to confront the closure of our political horizons and re-imagine the possibility of emancipatory change.


Western democracies are only the political facade of economic power. A facade with colours, banners, and endless debates about sacrosanct democracy. We live in an era where we can discuss everything. With one exception: Democracy. She is there, an acquired dogma. Don’t touch, like a museum display. Elections have become an absurd comedy, shameful, in which the participation of the citizen is very weak, and governments represent the political commissionaires of economic power. There isn’t democracy, only the appearance of democracy. We live in a simulation. If we want real democracy, we will have to create it ourselves. José Saramago (2006)

In Seeing, the final installment of his magisterial urban trilogy, José Saramago offers an incisive dissection of our current political predicament. A few years after a strange episode of collective blindness, city administrators are preparing for a general election. The great day for the democratic festival is a miserably rainy Sunday, and once all the ballots are counted, it turns out that a large percentage of people have spoiled their votes. The city elites of the Party of the Left, the Party of the Middle, and the Party of the Right are disquieted, if not alarmed. Something must have gone wrong, these surmise, probably the bad weather . . . A week later, the elections are repeated. This time the weather is better, but the electoral outcome is even worse: 83 per cent of the citizens vote blank. What Saramago calls ‘the simple right not to follow any consensually established opinion’ deeply troubles the city government. One minister refers to it as a conspiracy against the democratic system itself. In its desperate attempt to understand what is going on, and to root out what must be an organised subversion against the sacrosanct democratic principle, the government declares ‘a state of emergency’, unleashing all manner of repressive tactics to uncover the masterminding source of the anti-democratic plot. But none can be found. In a final desperate attempt to make the city and its citizens come to their senses, the government decides to decamp to another place, leaving the residents to their own devices and anticipating a descent into anarchic catastrophe. However, nothing of the sort happens. Everyone goes about his or her daily life, and the city continues as normal.

In this allegory, first published in 2004, Saramago ruthlessly satirises the disaffection of a growing number of people with the instituted rituals of representative democracy. Thousands of passive rebels refuse to do what is expected of them. They reject the ballot box, and just go on with life as if nothing has happened. With chilling precision, Saramago diagnoses the deadlock of contemporary ‘democratic’ governance. We live in times both haunted and paradoxical. Instituted representational democracy is more widespread than ever; identitarian concerns and all manner of issues and problems are made visible and politicised; ‘participatory’ and ‘inclusive’ forms of governance are nurtured and fostered on a range of geographical scales; and lifestyle preferences, the unsustainable re-engineering of our climate, the sexual escapades of the former IMF chairman, the heroic resistances of indigenous peoples, fracking, the repression of gay people in Russia, the garbage left on the sidewalk, the plight of the whale, the governments’ austerity agendas to get the economy out of the doldrums – all these issues and an infinity of others are politicised in certain ways. That is, they are discussed, dissected, evaluated, raised as issues of public concern and debated at length in a variety of public and political arenas. Everything, so it seems, can be aired, made visible, discussed, and rendered contentious.

(in Seeds of Dystopia: Post-Politics and the Return of the Political, Japhy Wilson and Erik Swyngedouw, pp. 1-2)