Enemies, Adversaries & Unlikely Allies: Reimagining Agonal Democratic Theory Through a Classical Sociological Lens
Steiner, Philip Alexander
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Set against the backdrop of increasingly polarized and dysfunctional political discourse within western democratic nations, this dissertation aims to consider the ways in which critical sociology can contribute to, and potentially expand, emergent accounts of an alternative radical democratic politics premised on productive contest. While the mainstream of democratic theory remains dominated by notions of deliberation, compromise, and consensus; a challenge has emerged out of a small but important paradigm of social and political theory - one that conceptually re-prioritized the political ideal of agon. Rejecting notions of post-political compromise or consensus, contemporary scholars of agonal democracy propose perpetually open contest, legitimated struggles, and irresolvable tensions as the proper and desirable content of the political. Yet as richly as these varying accounts have mapped the political character of such agonal principles, very little attention has been paid to their implicit or explicit social dimensions. Through the creative adaptation of certain sociological perspectives of Max Weber, Ferdinand Tnnies, Georg Simmel, and Jrgen Habermas; this project attempts to rethink the social in the context of radical agonistic democracy. Taking up the work of Chantal Mouffe as an exemplar of this agonal paradigm, this project challenges the often-shallow accounts of the social, ultimately suggesting an alternative, though complimentary, theoretical vocabulary through which to explore the important, but consistently underexplored, social dimensions of a (re)turn to the political ideal of agon.