Essay “Radical Democracy or Agonistic Politics” by Chantal Mouffe

Radical Democracy or Agonistic Politics

by Chantal Mouffe

What should we think of the current revival of the communist idea among a group of left intellectuals? Is the ‘communist hypothesis’ really necessary to envisage a politics of emancipation? Do we have to see the egalitarian ideal as so intrinsically linked to the horizon of communism that its future depends on bringing back such a disputed model? Or is it time to envisage things in a different way.

While agreeing with the necessity to challenge the widely accepted claim that the disastrous failure of the soviet model forces us to reject the entirety of the emancipatory project, I do believe that there are important lessons to be learned from this tragic experience and this calls for a serious rethinking of some central tenets of the communist project. It would indeed be too easy to simply declare that ‘really existing socialism’ represents a flawed realization of an ideal that remains to be truly implemented. To be sure, many of the reasons for which it went astray could be avoided and the current conditions might provide a more favorable ter- rain. But some of the problems that it encountered cannot be reduced to a simple question of application and they have to do with the way this ideal was concep- tualized. To remain faithful to the ideals that inspired the different communist movements, it is necessary to examine how they conceived their goal to understand why those ideals could become so disastrously misled… Read the full text in PDF format.

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