Political Theory 49 (1):28-53 (2021)

Radical democrats highlight dramatic moments of political action, which disrupt everyday habits of perception that sustain unequal social relations. In doing so, however, we sometimes neglect how social conditions—such as precarious employment, social dislocation, and everyday exposure to violence—undermine political agency or might be contested in uneventful ways. Despite their differences, two thinkers who have significantly influenced radical democratic theory have been similarly criticized for contributing to such a socially weightless picture of politics. However, attending to how they are each preoccupied by the social conditions of inequality and loneliness enables us to recognize two distinct aspects of democratic politics–emancipation and civility. Cultivating an interpretive flexibility to shift between these aspects of politics might enable radical democrats to more clearly picture how struggles for appearance are limited and shaped by the social conditions within which they are enacted.
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DOI 10.1177/0090591720920215
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