|Title||The limits of contestation: towards a radical democratic theory of emergency politics|
The claim that the exception has become the norm dominates the discourse of emergency politics. Theories of emergency politics need not rely on norm/exception binary because it closes down possibilities for radical democratic political contestation. Attempts to define a situation as exceptional by powerful political elites are a claim that politics must be foreclosed until they decide that the exigency has been resolved and a ‘normal’ state of affairs has resumed. A theory which conceptualizes space for radical democratic contestation is essential because such contestation is crucial to preserving and enhancing liberal-democratic governance despite claims that they are facing an existential threat. This thesis lays the foundation for such a theory. First, it presents a criticism of the reliance of the norm/exception binary in the discourses of emergency politics. I argue that ‘normal’ and ‘exceptional’ are polemical concepts used to in the defense of particular articulations of hegemonic and political power not liberal-democracy as such. Second, I develop a radical democratic theory of emergency politics. This theory is based on an account of political contingency which conceives of the political realm as being unstable and continually evolving. Thus liberal-democratic regimes never exist in ‘normal’ states because they are constantly engaging with exigencies which that emanate from the political realm. Furthermore, this thesis contends that emergency politics should be inscribed within wider hegemonic practices. What I identify as a paradox of contestation at the heart of liberal-democratic regimes is the terrain on which emergency politics are contested. Liberal-democratic regimes can absorb situations sometimes defined as emergencies. The goal of this thesis is to demonstrate theoretically how liberal-democratic regimes can preserve the possibility of radical democratic politics in the face of claims on the part of powerful political elites that an emergency or exception exists, which must be met with unrestrained violence and by severely reducing the scope of legitimate political contestation.