chapter  5
33 Pages

Back to citizenship, an agonistic conception

This chapter revisits Mouffe’s writings from the early 1990s and argues that, in her work, we find a novel conception of citizenship that could add to and reinvigorate citizenship discourse by addressing some of the challenges confronting it today. Of course, Mouffe in the early 1990s was speaking not of an agonistic but of a radical democratic citizenship. While the agonistic conception of citizenship, which we here bring forward, could certainly be interpreted in radical democratic terms, it is a theoretical and not a political conception – by contrast, the term ‘radical democratic’ signifies one particular and politicised interpretation of citizenship in tune with the political project of a radical and plural democracy. This difference between the two conceptions explains further that, by rereading Mouffe’s conception as agonistic, our intervention aims neither to problematise nor revise it; rather, the aim is, in the first instance, to establish a link between her early work on citizenship and her latest, theoretical, work on agonistic politics, and second, to show that this theoretical conception of citizenship, which has gone largely unnoticed in the literature, could prove particularly relevant today.