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radical democracy

  A postmodernist or post-structuralist rethinking of modern democratic theory influenced by Mouffe (1992), Trend (1995) and Lummis (1996). It takes a decentred, or unfixed perspective on citizenship (the capacity to \'be political\' in a democracy). Centrally, it challenges two fixed characterizations of the citizen. Rather than locating the citizen as one identity alongside and mutually exclusive to others (liberalism), or elevating it as the principal identity of the individual (communitarianism), radical democracy views citizenship as a potential moment of any identity when it becomes politicized or contested (Mouffe, 1993). Thus people can be acting on or embodying democratic principles of freedom, justice, or equality through their very \'being\' or \'doing\' a particular class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc. (see gender and geography; justice, geography and; performativity; sexuality, geography and; structuration theory; subject formation, geographies of).

Radical democracy obviously has consequences for political geography. Geographers\' interest in this body of thought can be seen as part of a broader theoretical turn that political geographers called for in the 1980s (e.g. Painter, 1995). Further, it insists that political geography cannot remain solely focused on the state as the prime location for politics (Brown, 1997). Deutsche (1997), for instance, places the access and control over urban public space at the very heart of democratic theory. How do different aspects of individuals\' identities enable or constrain their access to a public sphere allegedly open to everyone in a democracy? (See private and public spheres.)

Radical democracy also has implications for social and cultural geography, given its emphasis on social meanings of identities. Since it rejects essentialism, radical democracy implores a sensitivity to the openness and fluidity in people\'s multi-faceted identities. How are different facets of identity enabled or constrained geographically for people; how are places constituted on the basis of identity formation (Massey, 1995; Moss and Jones, 1995), for example? Most provocatively, radical democracy challenges the will to either fixate on a single aspect of identity at the expense of others (see identity politics; social movement) or assume a hierarchy of different oppressions (Mouffe, 1995).

Radical democracy, therefore, is appealing to geographers in a number of ways. It encourages us to see politics in new or hybrid locations (see hybridity). It gives us a more democratic sense of how identity and subjectivity are always mediated geographically. Finally, it provides an intellectual framework for practising political solidarity between and within places that is truly democratic. (MPB)

References Brown, M. 1997: RePlacing citizenship: AIDS activism and radical democracy. New York: Guilford. Deutsche, R. 1997: Evictions. Cambridge: MIT Press. Lummis, C. 1996: Radical democracy. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Massey, D. 1995: Thinking radical democracy spatially. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 13: 283-8. Moss, P. and Jones, J.P. 1995: Guest editorial: Democracy, identity, space. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 13: 253-8. Mouffe, C. 1992: Dimensions of radical democracy. London: Verso. Mouffe, C. 1993: The return of the political. London: Verso. Mouffe, C. 1995: Post-Marxism: democracy and identity. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 13: 259-65. Painter, J. 1995: Politics, geography, and political geography. London: Edward Arnold. Trend, D., ed., 1995: Radical democracy: identity, citizenship, and the state. London: Routledge.



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