Democracy without citizens: Ademocracy and the dialectic of citizenship in Australia

Stream: Panel 83 - Public Policy & Social Justice: Theories of Citizenship and Migration & Refugee Policy
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 11.00 am – 12.30 pm


This paper explores Balibar’s dialectic of citizenship as a means of understanding possibilities for democratization or dedemocratisation in Australia. Balibar’s theory of democracy hinges on a dialectical approach to citizenship whereby rights and liberties must continually be won through struggle. Citizenship is an unstable condition emerging between an anarchic, emancipatory push for greater equality and liberty, and its institutionalisation in charters of rights, constitutions or bureaucratic conventions. Citizenship cannot be institutionalised because the moment of emancipation must continually be reaffirmed through struggle in changing cultural contexts. Democracy, in this sense, is not an institutional end but an open-ended process. Democracy either expands through successful struggles for universalizable equality and liberty or recedes through their failure. Beyond democratization or dedemocratisation, however, Balibar proposes a third possibility that he refers to as ‘ademocracy’. Ademocracy results when there is no longer a dialectic oriented around universalisable demands for equality and liberty. I consider the devaluing of civil liberties in the context of the war of terror, a historical hostility to republicanism, as well as the lack of memorialisation of struggles for the expansion of citizenship, as a cultural terrain conducive to the condition of ademocracy in Australia. The notion of ademocracy provides useful frames for thinking about what can happen to liberal democracy in the post-political age.


Robin Rodd (Presenter), James Cook University
Robin Rodd is a Latin Americanist who teaches anthropology at James Cook University in Townsville. His interests span the intersection of political theory and anthropology broadly, and include the anthropology of democracy and citizenship, political memory, democratisation theory, and the ways that everyday cultural practices legitimise or deligitmise political possibilities. He is currently reimagining theories of authoritarianism for the 21st century.