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Title page for ETD etd-03312010-131345

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Frederiksen, Jens
URN etd-03312010-131345
Title Radical Democracy or Symptomatic Closure: An Immanent Critique of Chantal Mouffe's Agonism
Degree PhD
Department Political Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
W. James Booth Committee Chair
Charles Scott Committee Member
Gregg Horowitz Committee Member
Jay Bernstein Committee Member
  • agonism
  • Liberalism
  • Mouffe
  • Chantal
  • democracy
  • radical
Date of Defense 2010-03-02
Availability unrestricted

In this project, I examine Chantal Mouffe’s agonistic pluralism as a model for radical democracy. In so doing, I focus upon Mouffe’s simultaneous emphasis on liberalism as a necessary condition for the possibility of radical democracy, and her appeal to antagonism as an ineradicable dimension of social life. By reading Mouffe against Mouffe, I demonstrate the disparity between her refusal to problematize the necessity of liberalism and her claim of taking seriously the contestability of political structures and norms. Mouffe’s continual recourse to a modified liberal ethic undermines the agonistic pluralism she espouses and by extension the radically democratic nature of her project. As Mouffe stipulates, taking seriously radical democracy implies resisting the circumscription of a domain not subject to democratic engagement. Notwithstanding this stipulation, Mouffe treats the conditionality of political engagement upon criteria, decisions, and limits as a sufficient condition for placing the liberal ethic beyond democratic engagement. Barring these observations, Mouffe’s project offers a critical vantage point for better understanding the challenges of radical democracy in terms of developing institutions, structures, and norms capable of sustaining the tension between politics and ethics.

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