The Left-Right Dichotomy in Contemporary Democratic Theory

Espersen, Peter (2019) The Left-Right Dichotomy in Contemporary Democratic Theory. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis examines the phenomenon of Left-Right in political discourse from the perspective of political theories of radical democracy, discourse and representation. Extant research conceives of Left/Right as spatial metaphors, exploring their meaning and/or function in democratic politics. This thesis focuses on how Left-Right structure political identification in modernity and on the implications this has for theories and practices of radical democracy.
The thesis argues that Left/Right structure political space and constitute public subjects who identify themselves and others in relation to that space. Through a critical discussion of Jürgen Habermas, it shows how such subjects are constituted as dispassionate individuals defined by their opinions, arguments and beliefs which acknowledge their partiality to others and the whole. Through a critical reading of Ernesto Laclau, the thesis also argues that radical democratic demands cannot be channelled through ‘the Left’, because doing so entails a confinement within the Left/Right space of politics, divesting subjects of political passion and commitment. This space co-opts disparate demands into participating in public debate as if they were not excluded, disabling them from laying claim to a radical equality that is not yet instantiated.

Overall, the thesis aims to make a contribution to theories of radical democracy by showing that proponents of Laclauian populism should focus more on other spaces to effect a radical antagonism with the public subject and a dislocation of its relation to the state. Only this way can it reinstitute the truly radical dimensions of democracy that Left/Right tame.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 21 Oct 2020 14:07
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2020 14:07


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