The Limits of Critical Democratic Theory Regarding Structural Transformations in Twenty-First Century Left Politics

In Critical Theory and the Political. Manchester, UK: Manchester University (forthcoming)
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This chapter proposes a critical examination of ideological tendencies at work in two main democratic theories currently at play within the critical theory tradition: the deliberative theory advanced famously by Habermas and his acolytes, and the partisan theory advanced by Mouffe and others influenced by Gramsci and Schmitt. Explaining why these theories appeal to distinctive social groups on the Left, divided mainly by education and economic status, it argues that neither theory accounts for the possibility of a Left democratic, party-based politics with broad appeal. Exhibiting tendencies that weaken party-based politics, each of these theories encourages populist forms of politics that obstruct democratic, emancipatory struggle. Their linkage being an essential condition for emancipatory struggle, I conclude that structural changes in capitalism, web-based communication, education, and working conditions offer limited opportunities to revitalize Left party politics with the popular support needed to reconnect working masses with party elites as both seek solutions to their precarity under global capitalism.

Author's Profile

David Ingram
Loyola University, Chicago


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