Democracy promotion in a post-political world

Schmidt, J. 2013. Democracy promotion in a post-political world. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages

TitleDemocracy promotion in a post-political world
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsSchmidt, J.

This thesis is concerned with democracy promotion’s unexpected and often unheralded new role and trajectory. While having retreated from the limelight cast on democracy promotion in the early 1990s, the thesis argues that democracy promotion demonstrated considerable staying power in coming to work silently but vigorously across, and even through, other international policy areas. The thesis traces and conceptualises the trajectory of democracy promotion from an independent policy to its generalisation and resurfacing in conflict management, statebuilding and climate change policy discourses. In its methodological approach this study draws on critical realism and adopts a genealogical ethos for ordering and interpreting the textual and programmatic material. The trajectory and displacement of democracy promotion are analysed and conceptualised by inferring from the work of Michel Foucault and Hannah Arendt. In supplementing Foucault’s work on forms of governing, power and subjectivity with aspects of Arendt’s work on the human condition and politics, the thesis takes a different analytical approach than the common liberal framing. Rather than investigating democracy promotion as part of (neo)liberal governmentality it explores the discourse through the prism of the social. In doing so, the radically reworked meaning of democracy and its role for international policymaking can be captured. The rise of the social and its impact on the understanding of democracy and the modality of its promotion has been largely missed in existing literature and remains under-theorised.
This thesis argues that while once democracy promotion was concerned with elections and institutions in the formal political sphere of constituted power, democracy now has a new lease of life in a different sphere of problem-solving and governing: the sphere of the governance of the self. The sphere of self-governance unfolds not in terms of the autonomous human subject but rather emerges as a sphere permeated by relationships into which the human subject is embedded and through which it is enabled to govern itself.

PublisherUniversity of Westminster
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