Democracy to Come: Politics as Relational Praxis.

Author:Quest, Linda
Position:Book review

Dallmayr, Fred. Democracy to Come: Politics as Relational Praxis. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. x + 190 pages. Hardcover, $32.95.

Fred Dallmayr, professor of philosophy and political science, gives us a systematic analytical comparison--worldwide and across time--of democracy in theory and practice. Democracy is paradoxical and thought-provoking. In theory, democracy is defined by equality. In practice, democracies have stumbled in every direction over relational praxis--namely, unity or estrangement embedded in mores and attitudes about 'us-others', 'we-they', 'good people-bad people-non-people.' Dallmayr looks backward into derailments and failures, all identifiable with habitual thoughts and feelings about ourselves and others, and looks to the future for open-ended, evolving democracy.

The book is homo anthropocene in scope, scientific in methodology, and trans-temporal and cross-national in bibliography. Dallmayr references 84 Western and non-Western distinguished theorists by name (including navigators and explorers who encountered others and wrote about it), plus unnamed Aztecs and associates of the Austrian School. The theorists are preponderantly from philosophy, political science, and law, with sociology, economics, history, and psychology also conspicuous.

Six categorical perspectives are extracted by Dallmayr from canonical studies of democracy:

  1. apophatic, rationalist--participatory, nondenominational, open to others

  2. utopian--aspirational, fictive

  3. deliberative--inspirational, justifying claims, focusing on morality and discussion

  4. empirical--useful

  5. descriptive--individual voter as foundational unit

  6. institutional--quantitative calculation, analytical precision.

The United States President Lincoln's 'rule of the people, by the people, and for the people' expresses apophatic democracy. Dallmayr does it homage in Chapter 6, as one of the most popular definitions of democracy, having inspired and continuing to inspire large numbers of people. Whatever the perspective on democracy taken by any analyst, artist, or humorist, the people seem nevertheless to be the issue. They abide at the core of democracy a venir. A venir, to come, is taken from Jacques Derrida whose fundamental point is that it is all imaginary anyhow.

What does the term a venir or to come mean? It means that it comes from ahead, that anything is possible, but not everything possible is necessary. Albeit all of the attitudes and behaviors we...

To continue reading